Joyful Heart in the News

The story behind the first rape kit

Nov. 21, 2015
Jessica Ravitz


Louis Vitullo was a Chicago police sergeant who became the chief microanalyst in the city's crime lab. He worked on high-profile cases, like Richard Speck's mass murder of eight student nurses in 1966. In the black and white photo she had on her wall, he was inspecting Speck's knife.

But Vitullo's biggest career legacy is this: He was credited with developing the nation's first rape kit, the standardized tool to gather forensic evidence after sexual assaults. In the beginning, in fact, the cardboard box that held instructions and items like swabs, slides and a small comb was known as the "Vitullo Evidence Collection Kit."

First used in Illinois and then across the country, rape kits haven't had his name attached to them in decades. But they are making headlines as hundreds of thousands of them are being discovered backlogged, untested and, in some cases, destroyed.


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