“Melissa’s Law” aims to end backlog of untested rape kits in Ore - KPTV - FOX 12

“Melissa’s Law” aims to end backlog of untested rape kits in Oregon

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Rape survivor Brenda Tracy and Mary Bittler, mother of rape and murder victim Melissa Bittler. Rape survivor Brenda Tracy and Mary Bittler, mother of rape and murder victim Melissa Bittler.
SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

A new bill in Salem could end the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in Oregon.

It’s called “Melissa’s Law,” and it’s named for Melissa Bittler, a 14-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Portland in 2001 by repeat offender Ladon Stephens.

Tuesday morning, her parents were among those who testified in favor of the bill, formally known as SB 1571, at a public hearing held before the Oregon Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Mary Bittler said Stephens had raped three other women years before attacking her daughter, but two of those rape kits were never tested.

“She was a young, vibrant girl with a future ahead of her,” Mary Bittler testified tearfully.  “The anger that goes through you wondering if those two other rape kits had been tested, would a serial rapist have been caught?  Would he have been in jail at that time?  And would he have been unable to murder your daughter?”

“Melissa’s Law” would require Oregon State Police to lead the charge on developing rules and policies for testing.  It would also mandate that new kits be submitted for processing within 14 days of being picked up from a hospital, and that the majority of backlogged kits be tested and added to a DNA database by July 2018.

Several rape survivors also testified at Tuesday’s hearing in support of the bill, calling it an important step forward.

“Melissa Bittler’s case is the worst case scenario of what happens when we don’t test rape kits and we don’t take these crimes seriously,” rape survivor Brenda Tracy said.  “Last year, when I came forward with my story, I found out that my rape kit was not tested and it was destroyed because the statute of limitations was up. …if there are people in our state who are courageous enough to go to the hospital to get this kit done, the least we can do it process this evidence.  That’s the very least we owe them.”

Fellow rape survivor Danielle Tudor agrees.  She also testified Tuesday and told Fox 12 she’s also working to eradicate the statute of limitations on sexual assault in Oregon.

She was just 17 and home alone in 1979 when a stranger broke into her family’s home in southeast Portland and raped her.

“He started beating me, hitting me, telling me he was going to kill me, he yanked the phone out of the wall,” Tudor told Fox 12.  “What I didn’t know at the time is that he had already committed several raped in our neighborhood.”

Her attacked was later identified as the so-called “Jogger Rapist” Richard Gillmore, who would later admit to attacking nine women, but due to the statute of limitations, would only be convicted and jailed for one crime.

He remains behind bars today, but Tudor isn’t sure her rape kit was ever tested.

She said it was a composite sketch police made based on her description of Gillmore that helped link him to other cases.

“Unfortunately, for so many rape victims the untested rape kits belong to, this is the only justice they will get,” she said.  “And that justice simply is making sure that the next person who comes along doesn’t suffer the same thing.”

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