When Veronica was raped more than 13 years ago, she says neither the police nor the hospital staff believed her story that a longtime friend attacked her while his mother was in the next room. "I was treated like a female crying wolf," said Veronica, who says the man raped her while she was unconscious. She believes he drugged her drink. The AP reports she was surprised, earlier this year, when she got a call from the initial investigating officer, John Somerindyke, who apologized for how she was treated and for something that Veronica didn't yet know: Her rape kit was among 333 kits that Fayetteville police had thrown away. Years after the kits were discarded, Fayetteville police began working with a crisis group to call the victims and tell them what happened.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, which was founded by actress Mariska Hargitay and works to end the backlogs, says Fayetteville police may stand alone in the effort to contact survivors about trashed rape kits. The kits, about the size of a shoebox, had been collected in Fayetteville between 1995 and 2008. Police began throwing them away in 1999 to make space in the evidence room. Somerindyke, now a lieutenant, discovered the kits were missing in February 2015 when he reviewed unsolved rape cases. Of the 333 destroyed kits, 52 belonged to women whose cases had resulted in arrests, leaving 281 survivors with unsolved cases and no rape kits as evidence. Police reopened Veronica's case, but without the rape kit, the DA declined to prosecute. However, the man whom she identified as her rapist is now behind bars on a murder charge. Here, more on the department's effort.