Katie Sepich, a 22-year-old graduate student at New Mexico State University, was brutally raped, strangled to death, set on fire and abandoned at a dumpsite near her home in August of 2003. Although no strong suspects emerged, skin and blood under her fingernails produced a full DNA profile, which was uploaded to CODIS. In December of 2006, the New Mexico DNA database finally matched the unknown profile to Gabriel Avilla who had been convicted for several other crimes. If New Mexico had required a DNA sample for Avilla’s felony arrest in November of 2003, investigators might have solved Katie’s murder sooner and caught Avilla before he was able to roam the streets for three years. In January of 2006, “Katie’s Law,” which requires DNA for most felony arrests to be included in the database, was passed by the New Mexico state legislature. Now, Katie’s parents, Dave and Jayann Sepich, dedicate themselves to passing similar legislation nationwide.
Message from Katie’s family
Katie’s favorite word was “zest”. She loved the sound of it, loved what it meant. And Katie lived her life with zest. She used to say, “Wake up every day expecting something wonderful to happen.” She looked forward to each new day.
Then the day came when she was taken from us. At 2:15pm on August 31st, 2003, the phone rang and our lives were shattered with just six words, “Have you talked to Katie today”? It was Katie’s roommate, Tracy. No one had seen Katie since the night before. We learned later that day that target shooters had found her body in an old city dump. She had been brutally raped, strangled and her body set on fire. Luckily, the fire didn’t destroy the blood and skin under her fingernails—the blood and skin she had scratched from her murderer as she fought for her life. And it was the DNA found in that blood and skin that finally caught the man that killed her—and stopped him from killing again. Unfortunately we had to wait until he was convicted of a crime to find him. We could have had him three years sooner if DNA arrestee testing had been legal.
This law has the power to prevent the horror and excruciating pain our family has lived through. This law will not only solve crime, it will prevent rapes and murders from happening. It may save the life of someone you love. Help us pass this law in your state today. Help us save lives.
Dave, Jayann, AJ and Caraline Sepich