Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has announced the creation of a cold case unit to investigate and work with victims involved in the state’s huge backlog of sexual assault cases.

Beshear said with the help of a nearly $3 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department, police will be able to finish testing thousands of rape kits that have sat dormant for years and work with sexual assault victims to pursue their cases.

“Those who had no one to speak for them or seek justice for so long, now will have a dedicated unit who work day after day on their cases,” he said. “It’s truly justice.”

Beshear introduced the members of the cold case team Tuesday in Frankfort. They include a police investigator, prosecutor and a victim’s advocate.

He said a shortage of funding and staff at the State Police Crime Lab contributed to the backlog of untested kits. The federal grant was announced last fall.

“Through this grant, every SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam) kit, every one in Kentucky will be tested, Beshear said. “Kentucky’s number of untested rape kits by the end of this year will be zero. No exceptions and no asterisks.”

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.