Congress approves Katie's Law

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A federal bill that supports a New Mexico law is now in the hands of President Barack Obama after Congress approved it.

Katie's Law was enacted and named in honor Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University who was 22 years old when she was raped and murdered in 2003.

She had the DNA of her killer under her fingernails, but there was no DNA match in the database. Because New Mexico, at the time, did not collect DNA from those arrested for felonies, her killer, Gabriel Avila, wasn't identified when he was arrested that same year for unrelated crimes.

It wasn't until Avila was convicted three years later that his DNA was collected and he was linked to Katie's murder.

In 2006, New Mexico enacted Katie's Law, a law that allowed the state to collect DNA from anyone arrested for a felony crime.

Now Congress has approved a federal law that would provide incentives for states trying to pass their own versions of Katie's Law.

Katie's mother, Jayann Sepich, will never forget what her daughter told her just a week before she was raped and murdered.

"I asked her what she was going to do when she got her masters in business administration, and she said, 'Oh mom, I don't have a clue.' She said, 'But I just feel like I'm going to be famous and I know I'm going to change the world,'" Sepich told ABC-7. 

Jayann Sepich said Katie has changed the world through Katie's Law.

"We would've never known who killed our daughter had it not been for DNA. If we had arresting DNA we would've known three years sooner because Gabriel Avila was arrested for an unrelated crime three months after he murdered our daughter," she said.

Jayann Sepich said New Mexico has found nearly 400 matches using the arresting DNA database.

"What that means to us and our family is there are other families that will never experience what we've been through," she said.

Twenty-five states have approved some version of Katie's Law.

New Mexico has one of the toughest versions; police collect DNA from anyone arrested for a felony charge.

Jayann Sepich said she's confident the president will sign the federal bill into action so the entire country can catch criminals and solve cold cases.

"This was the 10th Christmas we spent without Katie, and also her birthday was the day after Christmas. She would've been 32 on December 26, so we feel like this was a wonderful birthday present for Katie," Jayann Sepich said.

The U.S. Supreme Court will also decide on the constitutionality of the law in a case out of Maryland.

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