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Baltimore County announces $300,000 Hackerman Foundation grant to support cold case sexual assault investigations

TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Monday announced that the Hackerman Foundation has awarded $300,000 in grant funding to Baltimore County and the Baltimore County Police Department to support cold case sexual assault investigations and improve current and future investigations.

This new funding will support key recommendations from the Baltimore County Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force’s recently released final report to make improvements in several areas of sexual assault investigations.

“We commit to doing everything we can to seek justice for survivors of sexual assault. This grant provides critical support for investigators as they work to secure justice and closure for victims who have been waiting years, or even longer,” said County Executive Olszewski. “I am grateful to the Hackerman Foundation for their generous support, which will help implement the recommendations made by our Task Force and provide resources to analyze cases, identify offenders, and make our communities safer.”

“Upon approval of this funding, the Baltimore County Police Department will be provided with the resources to implement several recommendations made by the Baltimore County Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “Our victims deserve a complete and thorough investigation in every case. This funding will support this initiative.”

The advancement of technology has led to substantial value in evaluating old cases for testing or renewed testing. The grant funding will support critical areas of need for cold cases, including:

  • Testing of GBMC slides. In the 1970s, GBMC emergency room physician Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker recognized the value of evidence from sexual assault survivors and preserved evidence on microscope slides. Dr. Breitenecker continued this collection practice into the early 1990s when the standardized SAFE exam emerged. These slides are maintained at GBMC and previous testing have proven viable for DNA testing which have led to the conviction of several offenders for decades-old crimes. This new funding will support testing of slides in order to attempt to further identify DNA and FBI profiles.
  • Applying modern DNA analysis procedures on cases that have been entered into the FBI CODIS.
  • Funding to test SAFE Kits from prior to April 30, 2018 to expand efforts to test every eligible kit.
  • Staffing, travel, and training for Special Victims staff personnel skilled in the area of investigations to manage increased workload and expedite processing of cases.
  • Technology and other department equipment.

In February, Olszewski formed the Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force to examine current investigation and prosecution policies. Earlier this month, the Task Force issued their final recommendations, including to increase capacity to test SAFE kits, establish cold case investigations, develop and implement a comprehensive training plan, and to seek funding sources to assist in these endeavors.

Maryland State Delegate Shelly Hettleman, representing District 11 in Baltimore County, has been a dedicated advocate for several legislative initiatives to positively impact sexual assault investigations. Delegate Hettleman, aware of funding limitations, was critical in orchestrating discussions with the Hackerman Foundation regarding this project.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know that their stories will be taken seriously and that their rapists will be held accountable. We’ve made real progress at the state level to make sure there will be thorough, consistent investigations of sexual assault, and I’m heartened to see the County making progress as well. Even decades old trauma needs closure, and with this support from the Hackerman Foundation, Baltimore County will be able to help some survivors get closure.”

The Hackerman Foundation was established in honor and memory of Nancy Hackerman’s father, Willard Hackerman. Mr. Hackerman was the CEO and longtime President of Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. Mr. Hackerman and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman, were generous supporters of many universities and hospitals throughout Maryland, as well as national institutions. They also established scholarship funds for local students. The Hackerman Foundation was established in order to continue in their legacy of generous giving.

The grant will go before the Baltimore County Council on November 4, 2019.

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