KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The arrest of a man Florida this week for a cold case rape is the latest in series made possible by a Kalamazoo County investigative program that tests rape kits.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, known as SAKI, is a U.S. Department of Justice-funded coordinated response that links law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, attorney general offices and county prosecutors to reach resolutions to sexual assault cases, especially ones with untested rape kits.
On Monday, sheriff’s deputies in southeastern Florida arrested 32-year-old Cameron Alvarez after SAKI identified him as a suspect in a case out of Kalamazoo County from 12 years ago.
“Often times, in criminal investigations, time is not our friend. What we have found is in some of these cases … we’re able to move forward on cases that are five years old, 10 years old, 12 years old,” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said, “when we weren’t able to move forward before.”
The state attorney general’s office said victims in these cases “may not have been treated fairly when (it) originally happened, which requires great care by a specialized team to be handled properly now.”
When it comes to the untested kits, “the DNA… does not deteriorate over time,” an AG spokesperson explained.
“Suspect DNA is not found in every kit but that does not mean that a sexual assault did not occur,” the spokesperson continued. “SAKI teams are trained to conduct comprehensive investigations whether or not suspect DNA is found in the testing of the kits.”
“The DNA is what the DNA is, and it doesn’t lie,” Getting explained. “If the DNA matches the suspect, then something happened that caused that DNA to be there.”
Since Kalamazoo County’s SAKI was formed in 2017, about 200 cases have been referred to the program. That helped prosecutors reach some convictions, including William Johnson, who raped at least three different women from 2001 to 2014; and Jamaal Vincent, who was sentenced for a 2009 rape and is awaiting trial for two others.
“These victims have suffered a terrible ordeal and the ongoing trauma that goes along with these kinds of cases. They have to have help to get them through this process,” Getting said.
Alvarez faces two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and his bond was denied. As of Wednesday, he was still awaiting extradition from Florida to Michigan.