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Cold-case sex crime investigation under fire from feds

A federal audit could jeopardize investigators' efforts to crack cold cases in the Kansas City area. Officials report that the review of a cold-case sex crime investigation program has revealed misuse of federal grant money. As a result, the federal government could request that certain funds be repaid, and future investigation could be put at risk.

Kansas City representatives say the debate about the sex crime investigation program stems from the definition of a "cold case." Although prosecutors assert that the contract defines that term as a case for which no significant leads remain, auditors say the funds should only be used for cases that occurred before the advent of DNA technology. Prosecutors and officers used a significant portion of the grant to seek convictions for cases that occurred in the recent past, instead of pursuing older allegations.

Auditors say that the program was designed to provide additional resources for cold-case sexual assault cases in which DNA evidence was not available for analysis. However, Kansas City officials apparently used the funds for cases in which DNA testing could have been conducted, but officers failed to do so. Cold-case DNA information has been a positive contributor to the resolution of many outstanding sex crimes, according to local authorities.

The grants are important to those who may have committed past sex crimes because the program has identified scores of potential serial rapists. Further, those already in custody have been identified as rapists in some cases. Kansas City authorities say they plan to officially appeal the audit's conclusions. It is not clear whether the audit will have a bearing on any current investigations for cold-case sex crimes.

Criminal defendants who are facing new sex crimes charges in connection with cold-case files may have special needs in criminal court. A criminal defense attorney in Kansas City may be able to provide additional information for these defendants. It is important to remember that an arrest for a cold-case sex crime does not mean that the defendant is automatically considered guilty.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Audit imperils program that prosecutes ‘cold case’ sex offenders" Mark Morris & Christine Vendel, Mar. 27, 2014

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