Man charged for assault on Utah teen after rape kit from 2014 is finally tested

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a trial three years in the making, and a recent development is now giving hope to survivors of sexual assault across the state.

Richard Simon Garcia will be in court this week facing charges in the rape of a 14-year-old girl in Davis County.

The state is just now linking the abuse to Garcia after a rape kit the victim took in 2014 was finally tested, allowing the case to move forward.

Lawmakers say that case is a perfect example of why a soon-to-be law is so vital for the state. Some rape kits have been sitting on shelves for decades untested, but a bill passed unanimously will require the testing of all rape kits going forward as well as a portion of those backlogged kits.

“Survivors need to know that their government cares for them and is going to protect them so they're not a victim: they can survive,” said Rep. Angela Romero, House Minority Assistant Whip and a Democrat representing Salt Lake City.

That's where House Bill 200 comes into play, requiring that all sexual assault kits be tested to obtain DNA profiles.

“It's just the right thing to do, it's justice for that victim,” Romero said.

Justice some victims never got.

“Had this legislation been in place, my rape kit wouldn't have fallen through the cracks, and it would have been processed and I'd have some answers,” said Alyson Ainscough.

Ten years ago, Alyson was raped and immediately took the invasive exam to complete a rape kt.

“There's potentially evidence sitting on a self somewhere that could provide me some answers and allow me to seek some closure,” Ainscough said.

Since 2014, out of 1,700 kits in Salt Lake County, 814 were tested and 133 of those resulted in a hit on someone's DNA, leading to 17 open investigations and two cases filed.

“We're not just numbers: We're actually people who are out there living our lives,” Ainscough said.

One of those cases filed involved Richard Garcia for the rape of a 14-year-old girl who was out long boarding in Davis County in August of 2014, but it took nearly three years for her kit to be tested. A probable cause statement says as soon as the kit was submitted "a profile matching the defendant's DNA profile was identified."

Now Garcia, who is already a convicted sex offender incarcerated in the Utah State Prison, will be in court March 20 to answer charges in this case.

Advocates for HB 200 say it's perfect example of why kits need to be tested and not fall through the cracks.

“It’s a huge relief knowing what happened in my case won't happen to future victims of sexual assault,” Ainscough said.

Each kit costs an average of $1,100 to test. This bill sets aside $1.2 million to make sure all kits from 2015 moving forward get tested. Advocates say the move will not only grant justice for victims, but it can also prevent innocent people from being convicted of a crime they didn't commit.