DENVER - The mother of a New Mexico murder victim says Colorado could prevent murders by collecting DNA samples from people arrested for felonies.
Jayann Sep-ich spoke to seven lawmakers Wednesday at the request of Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cor-tez. The Legislature might consider "Katie's Law" this year, Tipton said.
"DNA is truth. It exonerates the innocent and it finds the guilty, before they can rape and murder again and again," Sep-ich said.
Sepich's daughter, Katie, was a 22-year-old graduate student at New Mexico State University when she went missing on her way home from a friend's house Aug. 31, 2003. Police found her body the next day in the town dump. She had been raped and set on fire.
Katie Sepich had her attacker's skin and blood under all 10 of her fingernails, but police couldn't find a match in national DNA databases. So Jayann Sepich started pushing states to collect DNA every time they make a felony arrest, instead of waiting for a conviction.
New Mexico passed Katie's Law in 2006 and collected the DNA that led to its first match just more than an hour after the law took effect. The match led to a homicide conviction, Sepich said.
Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, has permission to introduce a late bill on Katie's Law. Tipton will look at the Senate bill to make sure he agrees with it before signing up as a sponsor, he said.
Thirteen states have passed versions of Katie's Law, and Sepich wants Colorado to be next.
"There are mothers out there who will not bury their daughters if this law passes," Sepich said.
She thinks it might cost $2 million to $4 million to implement the bill, but says it will save money later by making it easier to catch felons and keep innocent people from being convicted.
"This is one of the fundamental reasons we are here at the Legislature. It's to protect the citizenry - to be sure that justice prevails," Tipton said.
Although privacy advocates don't like the idea, Tipton said police already collect fingerprints and take pictures when they arrest people.
Sepich's family saw Katie's Law pay off when Gabriel Avilla was arrested in New Mexico in 2005. His DNA matched the samples taken from under Katie's fingernails, and he was sentenced to 69 years in prison without parole.
"The power that that justice gave me - the power of the healing ... I don't even have words to describe the healing," Sepich said.