Fox Finalizes Membership for Sexual-assault Evidence Task Force
Work has begun to determine number of unsubmitted kits in Montana
Attorney General Tim Fox has appointed the final two members of the Sexual Assault Evidence Task Force, which he formed last month to examine the issue of unsubmitted sexual-assault evidence kits in Montana.
Alanna Sherstad will serve as the college campus representative on the task force. Alanna is director of the VOICE Center at Montana State University in Bozeman. Sherstad has served as director of the Center for seven years where students, faculty and staff can come receive support and resources for cases of sexual assault and relationship violence.
Debbie Mulcahy will serve as the certified sexual-assault nurse examiner (SANE) representative on the task force. Debbie is a registered nurse at Kalispell Regional Medical Center and has worked as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner since 2003. She also instructs other Montana nurses to become SANE nurses.
“Alanna and Debbie bring much-needed perspectives to this task force,” Fox said. “We have brought together a group of talented, experienced individuals from across the state who care about this issue deeply and are committed to ensuring victims of sexual assault receive the justice they deserve.”
In the course of its investigation into an allegation of sexual assault, a law enforcement agency can request that a victim be examined for physical evidence of the assault. When the investigating agency or prosecutor has determined that the evidence should be submitted to the state crime laboratory for processing, that evidence is processed by the laboratory free of charge.
Last week, the Attorney General’s Office sent a request to every county sheriff and city police chief in Montana asking for a census of unsubmitted kits in their possession. The requested information includes total number of kits, the date of each kit, and general reasons why each kit was not submitted to the crime lab for testing. Other preliminary work has been initiated as well, including research into how other jurisdictions have approached unsubmitted kits and potential funding sources for any needed testing.
The task force consists of:
• Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion (representing the Attorney General’s Office)
• Rep. Kim Dudik (D-Missoula)
• Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)
• Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Mary Barry (representing county prosecutors)
• Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman (representing county sheriffs)
• Great Falls Chief of Police David Bowen (representing police chiefs)
• Robin Turner, Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (representing victim advocates)
• Alanna Sherstad, VOICE Center at MSU Bozeman (college campus representative)
• Debbie Mulcahy, RN, Kalispell Regional Medical Center (certified sexual-assault nurse examiner representative)
Dr. Phil Kinsey and the Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Division are providing forensic laboratory expertise and consultation support to the task force.