Katie's Law could make DNA easy to obtain

Thursday, January 17th 2008, 10:05 pm
By: News 9

By Stacey Cameron

Lawmakers are trying to expand the nation-wide DNA criminal database. They are working on a new law that allows police to easily obtain DNA.

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft said the law was inspired by the tragic death of a New Mexico woman.

"It's called Katie's Law," Wesselhoft said. "What it will do is not only benefit Oklahoma, but every state through the United States."

In 2003, Katie Sepich, 22, was brutally raped, killed and set on fire near her home in the New Mexico desert. Three months later her killer, Gabriel Avila, was arrested but later released on an unrelated burglary charge. Because Avila wasn't convicted of that crime, police couldn't collect DNA evidence, and Katie's killer went free for the next four years.

"If we had had this kind of law during that period of time, we could have convicted that person," Wesselhoft said.

Not wanting DNA evidence to slip away, Wesselhoft wrote a bill and gave it Katie's name.

Under its language, anyone arrested for a felony in Oklahoma would be required to give police a sample of their DNA, whether or not they were convicted of the crime.

"They'll have to be swabbed inside their mouth, it just takes a minute, and that DNA is put into a data base," Wesselhoft said. "And then if they've committed crimes somewhere else, it connects them."

Senator Johnathon Nichols is introducing similar legislation on the Senate side of the capitol.

11 other states, including Katie Sepich's home state of New Mexico, have already passed laws similar to Representative Wesselhoft's bill.