An Antioch resident charged with raping and murdering 37-year-old UCSF dental student Randhir Kaur in 2015 could have been detained earlier if the rape kit that implicated him in a separate sexual assault case — which occurred nearly eight years prior to Kaur’s murder — had been tested in a timely manner, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday.
Keith Kenard Asberry Jr., 33, is currently being held and charged for Kaur’s rape and murder. In March 2015, Kaur was raped and shot in her apartment on Kains Avenue, near San Pablo Avenue. Asberry will enter a plea March 28 for charges of rape, robbery and murder, according to Alameda County court records. He has previously been charged with sexual assault and felony, and his DNA has been in the national database since he was convicted of a felony gun crime in 2005, according to the SF Chronicle article.
A 2016 SF Chronicle investigation revealed that the Berkeley Police Department did not test the rape kit from the sexual assault of a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old in Berkeley in 2008 until six years later. Had the kit been tested in a timely manner, Berkeley police could have matched Asberry’s DNA to that of the 2008 assailant.
The evidence that implicated Asberry in the 2008 sexual assault case was discovered in 2014 after Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley partnered with the nonprofit organization Natasha’s Justice Project to begin eliminating the rape kit backlog in Alameda County.
After implementing a statewide audit in 2011, Texas uncovered more than 20,000 untested kits, according to End the Backlog, an initiative focused on alleviating the rape kit backlog. According to End The Backlog, there are 13,615 untested kits accounted for in California as of press time.
The number of untested rape kits nationwide is unclear, as most jurisdictions do not have systems to track them. According to End The Backlog, the problem can begin when kits are collected into evidence but DNA analysis is not requested by detectives or prosecutors, so the kits are never submitted to a public or private crime lab for testing. Rape kit testing can also be delayed within the crime labs.
There is currently no federal law that mandates the accounting for or testing of rape kits. Several states, however, including California, have recently made local reforms.
In 2016, California implemented a law that required law enforcement agencies to report information regarding the status and location of rape kit evidence to the Department of Justice within 120 days of the collection of the kit.
California Assemblymember David Chiu and State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, have co-authored two bills concerning the backlog. The first, AB 3118, mandates an audit throughout California to account for the number of sexual assault evidence kits, while AB 41 appropriates $2 million from the Department of Justice in order to impose a new state-mandated local program. The new program would amend existing rape kit testing laws by putting a higher level of service on law enforcement agencies to ensure that the testing of the kits, as they move from law enforcement to crime labs, happens quickly.
These new bills were submitted in February and are currently pending approval by the state legislature.