Julie Weil takes her story to lawmakers asking for funds to test backlogged rape kits

Rape victim helps push funds for rape kit testing


It's January 2003 in a Miami courtroom.


Michael Siebert, dubbed the "daycare rapist" has finally been arrested.  He's now, facing a judge.


"I did not commit these crimes," Siebert tells the courtroom.


But, his trail of DNA tells a much different story.


Julie Weil, a Jupiter mother of two, was one of his victims. "He beat me," Weil said. "He tortured me."


Click here to watch the entire story of Weil's torture and triumph.


She and her two kids were abducted; driven deep into the everglades and abused for hours on a October day in 2002. Weil's children three and 8-months at the time, were forced  to watch.


"He raped me four times that day," Weil said. "Four times to think you were gonna die, or to be so horrified by what's going into your children's minds that you want to die.  It was completely devastating."


But Siebert was about to pay for his crimes because forensics turned up a tiny piece of his DNA on Weil's shirt.


"I can only speak as a victim and say that capturing my rapist gave me my life back," Weil said. DNA was the key to me being able to go outside of my house. Now I have an identity on this person.  It saved my life."


Most of us probably assume that when a crime occurs, like a rape, evidence is gathered and then automatically tested for DNA -- but that's not always the case.  


DNA testing is costly and time consuming. Plus, if investigators or prosecutors don't think it's a strong case, DNA testing may never occur.


The Contact 5 Investigators have learned this can be especially true with rape cases. According to the federal government, as many as 400-thousand rape kits have never been processed.


Victim advocates call it the 'rape kit backlog.' Just this year in Houston, Texas, where more than 6-thousand backlogged rape kits were discovered, the mayor ordered them all tested.

Click here to find rape victim resources and safety tips.

With 300 of the kits tested so far, 16 rapists have been found in CODIS, the national DNA database that tracks criminals.


"I think any hit is significant to a case," Catherine Cothran with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said. "We could have one case go into CODIS and if it hits, it can be significantespecially to a victim."


Cothran has been cracking forensic cases for PBSO for 10 years. "It's emotional but it's very rewarding," she said. "It's an unbelievable feeling knowing that you were able to help that detective's investigation and the victim of course."

Armed with test tubes and brushes, Cothran combs evidence, searching for 16 genetic markers that make up a suspect's unique DNA.  


"It would be nice if every profile was just all sixteen genetic markers," Cothran said. "I can't make a very conclusive result if I only obtained one marker."


This typically means only solid cases, with victim cooperation get pushed for DNA testing.


Cothran said they could run them all but, the results may never go anywhere.


"I may write a report, but it may never be prosecuted," she said.  "So where do you kind of stop the process? It has to aid in the investigation."


At the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, the Contact 5 Investigators found there are 60 rape kits that are not in line for testing.


St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office  found 92, Martin County Sheriff's Office counted 51 and Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office has five sitting on shelves in storage.


Click here to see the number of rape kits in South Florida.


To our south in Broward County, officials couldn't say which of their rape kits haven't been tested. But, they were able to tell us they have close to 3,000 sitting in their evidence room.


Click here to read Broward County's response.


Compare that to Miami Dade, where Siebert brutalized Julie Weil. It pushes rape kit through to testing, no matter the strength of a case.


Because Miami Dade tested the rape kits from every one of Siebert's victims, his DNA trail lit up when he was picked up for another crime.


"For me, that's an argument to test everything," Weil said.


Michael Siebert will stay in jail forever. He was sentenced to seven life terms.


Weil has taken her story to Capitol Hill. Her testimony helped push forward a bill that became law and now, pushes money to agencies facing rape kit backlogs.

Click here to find rape victim resources and safety tips.

"It seems like a lot of work and seems like a lot of money, but when you consider what you are doing to prevent future harm and to get justice for a family, it's invaluable," Weil says.

Some states like Texas and Illinois require police departments to keep track of the number of untested rape kits in evidence rooms. Florida does not have a similar law.

The local agencies the Contact 5 Investigators worked with were cooperative. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office gave us access to their DNA experts.

The City of  West Palm Beach Police Department refused to provide us with the number of rape kits in their evidence room and also would not tell us the number of kits that are sitting untested.

Investigative Producer Lynn Walsh contributed to this story.

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