Pictured: Jayann and Katie Sepich
→ Jayann Sepich was born and raised in New Mexico. She and her husband, Dave, own and operate a janitorial supply operation as well as a commercial cleaning company with offices in New Mexico and Texas. Jayann and Dave have three children. Their eldest, Katie, was born in Dallas the day after Christmas in 1980. She was bright-eyed and feisty, and spoke in complete sentences before her first birthday. It was evident early on that she was fearless, and earned the nickname “Kamikaze Katie.” Katie was an avid learner who competed in academic championships on a state and national level. She earned her Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing in 2003 and was enrolled in New Mexico State University’s graduate school of business to pursue her MBA.
On Saturday, August 30, 2003, after spending an evening with friends, Katie decided to walk the six or seven blocks home. The next morning her partially clothed, burned body was found by target shooters at an abandoned city dumpsite. She was 22 years old. Over one thousand people attended Katie’s funeral at St. Edward’s Church in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
In the aftermath of that horrific experience, Jayann learned more than she ever wanted to know about our criminal justice system, and the laws that affect our lives. Jayann became a tireless advocate who has made it her mission to see legislation passed in all 50 states to mandate taking DNA upon felony arrest. Katie’s Law passed in New Mexico in 2006 and thus far the state has had 49 matches that solved criminal cases. A total of fifteen states now have similar legislation.
In December of 2006, Gabrial Avila gave a DNA sample as a result of a burglary conviction. That sample matched the DNA found on Katie’s body. He was convicted of Katie’s rape and murder and sentenced in May of 2007 to 69 years without possibility of parole. Ironically, Avila was arrested for aggravated burglary only three months after killing Katie. Had Katie’s Law been in effect at that time, the DNA match would have come then, rather than three years later, after his conviction and incarceration.
POLICE MUGSHOT: Gabriel Avila
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico honored Jayann as an Outstanding New Mexico Woman of 2007, and she was inducted into the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame. She was also honored by Redbook Magazine in October 2007 with their Strength and Spirit Award. Jayann says that she is an ordinary woman placed in an extraordinary circumstance. She believes that through DNA testing of arrestees, lives will be saved and crimes prevented, and families spared the pain of burying one much loved.