Jefferson City, MO (STL.News) Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced yesterday that he has appointed the honorable Judge M. Keithley Williams, a former trial judge in Jasper County and treatment court administrator in the City of St. Louis, to lead the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. Made possible by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Judge Williams will work with law enforcement agencies to clear out the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, bring peace of mind to victims, and assist law enforcement in bringing those responsible to justice.
“Reporting a sexual assault is incredibly difficult, a decision that takes a tremendous amount of bravery. We firmly believe that victims should have the peace of mind of knowing that when they come forward to report such a heinous crime they will be taken seriously and their sexual assault kit will be examined. Tragically, thousands of sexual assault kits remain untested in Missouri, therefore offenders go undetected and unpunished,” said Schmitt. “The citizens of this state will be well served by Judge Williams, who has over 40 years of experience working with law enforcement, as she spearheads this important statewide project. Her experience as a trial judge and treatment court administrator make her more than qualified to lead this charge. Law enforcement work thanklessly every day to prevent and investigate crime, and I look forward to working together to augment their efforts to examine these untested kits and work toward justice for victims of sexual assault.”
“This is a vital initiative that I am honored to lead,” said Judge Williams. “Within six months, we will complete a detailed inventory of sexual assault kits with police departments and hospitals in Missouri. We will then tackle forensic DNA testing and the development of an electronic tracking system required by law. Working together with law enforcement, health care professionals, victim advocates and concerned citizens, we will seek justice for all those who have been victimized.”
Jennifer Carter Dochler, Public Policy Director at the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, added, “We’re looking forward to continuing a partnership with the Attorney General’s Office to address untested kits and build a strong infrastructure for sexual assault response across Missouri. The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant and hiring of Judge Williams will help build upon the 2018 legislation, and the other successes we’ve had with a variety of committed partners.”
Sergeant Andy Muscato, Supervisor of the Special Victims Unit for the Columbia Police Department, stated, “Sexual assault and rape are serious, heinous criminal offenses. Survivors of sexual assault deserve the most current trauma-informed approach to ensure victim safety and offender accountability. Columbia Police Department officers and detectives work tirelessly every day to bring those who commit these violent crimes to justice. The Columbia Police Department looks forward to working with Judge Williams in this initiative.”
Amy Fite, Christian County Prosecutor, also added, “Sexual assault is a deeply personal and violent crime. Delay in disclosure of sexual offenses is common. Meaning frequently investigations and prosecutions proceed with evidence other than forensic evidence. With proper evidence we must prosecute these crimes vigorously, to ensure these offenders are off the street. For the cases where there is the possibility of forensic evidence exists, I applaud Attorney General Schmitt’s effort to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits so we can help bring justice to victims and families.”
Attorney General Schmitt said that he also communicated with various law enforcement agencies in counties across the state announcing the initiative and asking for their cooperation.
There are currently thousands of untested rape kits waiting to be examined in the state of Missouri. The first step of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is to begin the process of logging untested sexual assault kits.