Jan 13, 2022
A sexual assault suspect connected to at least two crimes was arrested and will be extradited to Utah following a test of a 2008 backlogged rape kit. The suspect was found “hiding” in Scotland, according to a local FOX 13 report.
The original case from 2008 was reportedly not referred to the Utah County Attorney’s Office. As a result, the sexual assault kit was never tested, and the file was eventually closed by the lead detective over a decade ago.
But the DNA rape kit was finally submitted for testing in 2017 as part of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI). The following year, a DNA profile of the suspect was linked between a Utah sex crime and another sexual assault case in Ohio. In both instances, the suspect was identified as Nicholas Rossi.
“That’s why the Sex Assault Kit Initiative, which is funded by the federal government, Department of Justice, is so valuable because it allows jurisdictions to have evidence of sexual assault to enter into a database,” David Leavitt, current Utah County Attorney, told the local FOX 13 affiliate.
Authorities worked with one of the sexual assault survivors allegedly victimized by Rossi in Utah. Through an investigation launched by multiple investigators from various states and agencies, officials eventually discovered that Rossi was a suspect in multiple sexual assault cases – in Utah as well as around the U.S.
When charges were filed against the sexual assault suspect, investigators reportedly discovered that he had fled the country in an effort to avoid legal action in Ohio. FOX 13 also reported that both investigators as well as state legislators were at one point under the assumption that Rossi had died.
“One of the problems that we have with tracking defendants, particularly sex perpetrators is that they skip from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” Leavitt told FOX 13.
But authorities later located Rossi living abroad under an assumed name.
“He was found hiding in Scotland in a hospital with COVID,” Leavitt told local CBS 2 KUTV. “Before he could escape the hospital, we apprehended him.”
Rossi was taken into custody and law enforcement officials are currently in the process of arranging his extradition back to Utah.
“Our office is grateful for the significant interagency collaboration of law enforcement to bring this suspect to justice. We credit Utah’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant funded through the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance as playing a significant role in testing backlogged kits and ultimately identifying the suspect,” Utah County Attorney Leavitt told FOX 13.
Authorities believe Rossi may have committed additional sexual assaults in Utah and around the country. Anyone with information related to a sex crime involving Rossi is encouraged to contact one of the following agencies:
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) is a Utah-based program funded by a grant from the Department of Justice. SAKI tests backlogged sexual assault kits and matches that data with other DNA hits across the world.
According to the official SAKI website, the initiative has produced the following results (as of September 30, 2020, in Utah):
Sexual assault survivors may contact SAKI directly via 801-893-1145.
RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) notes that a sexual assault forensic exam or “rape kit” may be utilized by survivors to “preserve possible DNA evidence and receive important medical care.” DNA rape kits are often performed at hospitals or other medical facilities.
For additional information on sexual assault DNA kits, visit our blog: Is a Rape Kit Necessary After a Sexual Assault?
As we noted in a post last year, the national rape kit backlog is a systemic issue facing police departments and crime labs across the country. The HBO Documentary “I Am Evidence” together with the EndTheBacklog.org movement have helped produce testing programs like the aforementioned SAKI in Utah.
But as EndTheBacklog.org notes, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits currently exist. Ensuring nationwide testing is imperative, as each kit “represents a lost opportunity to bring healing and justice to a survivor of sexual violence and safety to a community.”
While undergoing a rape kit could provide critical evidence that helps embolden a survivor’s claim, it is not mandatory when filing a civil lawsuit in pursuit of financial compensation against a perpetrator.
Startup companies such as Leda Health are working to make at-home DNA collection kits available to sexual assault survivors.
DLG was founded by former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. Dordulian and his dedicated team of sexual assault lawyers have been helping survivors obtain justice for more than 25 years.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.