AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Evidence in dozens of sexual assault cases has been destroyed and could leave many of them unsolved. Police in Aurora have admitted that what has happened cannot be undone.
“Well intentioned people in the property and evidence section made a mistake here, we have to fix this mistake,” said Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates.
Police have identified 48 sexual assault cases from 2009 to present in which DNA evidence was destroyed. In 18 of those cases DNA was ordered destroyed by a lead detective but no proper secondary evaluation was completed.
In 30 of the cases that are considered to be active, an injured officer assigned to light duty destroyed the DNA and did not follow protocol.
Oates said the mistakes were discovered when the detective in a particular case was in the process of trying to charge the suspect. That’s when he discovered the DNA evidence had been destroyed.
Oates said he and the District Attorney visited the victim in that case.
“Went to her house today to tell her essentially because of this destruction of evidence her case is not likely to ever be prosecuted which is obviously a very sad moment and a very painful moment,” said Oates.
Oates said another mistake involved three unsolved sex assaults all connected by DNA evidence. Two of the assaults occurred in Denver and another in Aurora but the suspect has never been found.
“Hopefully someday he will be identified and will be arrested. When he’s arrested there are problems now with prosecution for the victim in Aurora,” said Oates.
Oates said a panel of legal and law enforcement experts will be brought in to identify exactly what went wrong.
“I suspect that training was part of the problem here. I’ve looked back at our existing protocols and I see how they could be misinterpreted, how they could be written with better clarity. This is not one of those times where someone did this intentionally to destroy evidence and harm the rights of a victim… this is a tragic mistake,” said Oates.