ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — All that Jayann Sepich has left of her vibrant daughter Katie are some pictures and memories.
"She just was kind of like the sunshine in every day, and we miss her so much," Sepich said over the phone.
In 2003 Katie was raped and murdered. Her body was set on fire and left in a dump in Las Cruces. Katie was 22-years-old.
Her killer left behind evidence, but more than three years passed between Katie's murder and her killer's arrest.
In that time, Jayann Sepich pushed New Mexico
lawmakers to pass Katie's Law. It's a law that made DNA testing of felony arrestees legal, and a law that identified Gabriel Avila as Katie's killer in late 2006.
"The wonderful thing about arrestee DNA is that it solves crimes," Sepich said. "That brings a lot of peace and a lot of healing, and it prevents crimes, which of course means that there are families that never have to go through this."
In the almost decade since Sepich's oldest child was murdered, she's become a tireless advocate for arrestee DNA testing.
"Once we became aware that DNA was not being used just like fingerprints, we couldn't believe it," Sepich said.
For four years now, Sepich has lobbied politicians in Washington, D.C., to pass a national version of Katie's Law. Sepich could hardly believe it when word came down on Friday that
Katie's Law had passed both the U.S. House and Senate.
"We are so elated to see this pass," Sepich said. "We believe it's a true miracle to have 100 senators and two-thirds of the House of Representatives say this is what we want to do. We are just so thrilled and happy."
The national version of
New Mexico's Katie's Law is waiting on the president's signature. Sepich says it's an amazing way to end the year, and a wonderful birthday gift for Katie, who would have turned 32-years-old the day after Christmas.
Sepich says her work is not over. The federal version of Katie's Law does not require states to implement arrestee DNA testing, but it does provide incentives for states to collect DNA from people arrested or charged with serious crimes.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.