Beshear vows to continue cracking cold cases after latest arrest
PADUCAH — Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear called the backlog at state crime labs a “national shame,” but vowed to continue working with authorities to crack cold cases, like the arrest of a Louisville man accused of sexually assaulting a girl in McCracken County 13 years ago.
Jason Todd Langston, 45, appeared before a McCracken County judge Thursday morning for his arraignment on first degree rape, first degree sodomy and other charges.
Investigators say Langston sexually assaulted a girl in McCracken County in 2005. He was finally arrested on Tuesday at his home in Louisville after DNA evidence from the victim’s Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kit connected him to the crime, according to a news release from Beshear’s office.
Detective Sarah Martin with the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department said when she first heard a suspect was identified, she was “excited to know that someone would get justice after all this time.”
“It was very emotional when we made contact with (the victim) and told her we had a DNA hit and we’re moving forward with charges. She was happy, but at the same time very emotional,” recalled Martin.
During a news conference Thursday morning announcing the arrest, Beshear talked about the backlog at Kentucky State Police crime labs.
“At the end of the day, this backlog was a national shame, and it’s a shame it happened here in Kentucky,” said Beshear. “But how we respond, righting this wrong and showing that we will always fight to pursue justice is something that our citizens can be very proud of.”
Beshear said Kentucky recognized the backlog problem about three years ago.
“We had a rape kit backlog of over 3,100 untested kits statewide,” said Beshear.
McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter explained the backlog further.
“Whenever you look at a minute number of people who are qualified to conduct these tests, along with a limited number of locations in which the test can be completed — take Kentucky for example: 120 counties, most of which have a minimum of two different law enforcement entities within that county – so quickly, you’re looking at several hundred agencies that are funneling various pieces of evidence to one or two locations,” said Carter.
To address the backlog, Beshear’s office said in 2016, the attorney general provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers to fund upgrades at KSP crime labs. Beshear provided an additional $1 million to help investigators and prosecutors, his office says.
At the news conference, Beshear said his cold case unit will continue to follow up on every Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, hit in the backlog.
“In this commonwealth, we never give up on justice,” he said.
Carter said a good working relationship with other agencies made Langston’s arrest possible.
“A lot of times when crimes are committed by individuals and they are not immediately apprehended, I believe there is a sense of relief in terms of them feeling that they maybe got away with something,” said Carter. “So, I think this just is giving proof that law enforcement has, more times than not, a greater determination to apprehend the assailant than the assailant has to get away.”
Langston is being held at the McCracken County Jail on a $70,000 cash bond.