Earlier this week, former Metro Police Officer Arthur Lee Sewall Jr. was charged with murder and rape for the 1997 killing of a woman named Nadia Iverson. Iverson’s body had been found by a construction crew at an unoccupied apartment in May of that year. He was finally arrested on January 11th in Reno, where he had been living recently.
Sewall was named by prosecutors as a suspect the very same day that her body was discovered. However, although they had acquired a sample of his DNA in 1999, a positive identification of Sewall wasn’t made until February of 2017. The reason for that is because, due to a lack of funding, the rape kit collected from Iverson was not sent for processing until March of 2016.
In the meantime, Sewall spent a large percentage of those twenty years on probation for sex crimes committed while on duty prior to Iverson’s murder. In February of ’97 Officer Sewall had been caught on video attempting to force a woman to perform oral sex on him. Instead of being fully prosecuted for that crime, he was allowed to resign from the department and given a plea deal for two charges of oppression under the color of law.
He was then sentenced to probation, even though he was arrested in San Diego for soliciting a prostitute while awaiting sentencing. During that time on probation, he was caught in possession of a knife and gun by probation officers, failed to submit required reports, and also did not comply with a sex offender counseling program he had been ordered to complete.
Finally in 2004, he was sentenced to almost two years in prison for repeated probation violations. Even after being released from prison, he still didn’t comply the restrictions he was subject to as a convicted felon. At the time he was arrested in Reno, he had not registered his address change after moving from California and had to be tracked down by detectives. According to media reports (video embedded below), he then confessed to the murder of Iverson.
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The failure of police departments and city governments to fund the testing of rape kits across the country has left huge backlogs and prevented the arrest and conviction of rapists. As a result, many of those perpetrators have been able to continue victimizing women and committing other violent crimes for years and even decades in some cases. Others have been falsely convicted only to be exonerated once the testing was finally conducted.
In Southern Nevada alone 6,473 rape kits went untested, including approximately 5,600 connected to investigations within the LVMPD. It wasn’t until they received a $2.7 million grant from the New York State District Attorney’s Office that those kits began to get tested within the past couple of years.
Over 4,000 of those rape kits are still in the process of being tested or have not been sent out for testing to this day. Meanwhile, in recent times Metro has spent almost $300 million on a new headquarters complex, $42 million dollars on a new radio system that never worked properly (of which allegations of favoritism and kickbacks have been made), and another $26 million dollars to pay for the radio system that replaced it.
The City of Las Vegas also spent $185 million to build a new City Hall. That and the LVMPD’s HQ were both initiated in 2008. So somehow they managed to find the funding for those optional (and heavily criticized) expenditures during the worst recession in 70 years, but not for the (relatively) tiny fraction of cost that would be involved in the testing of the rape kits.
And that doesn’t even take into account the annual cost of payouts to victims of the misconduct and violence perpetrated by Las Vegas area police officers. In several recent years that money alone would have paid for all of the rape kits to be processed. That’s especially relevant when discussing a crime that was committed by one of those officers and then went unsolved for twenty years because there was no money for the rape kit to be processed.
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