Friday, March 2, 2007


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A 27-year-old man has been arrested in the 2003 slaying of New Mexico State University student Katie Sepich, and District Attorney Susana Martinez said he confessed to raping and murdering her.Gabriel Adrian Avila, a native of Mexico, will be charged with capital murder and rape, Martinez said. He already is serving a nine-year prison sentence for an unrelated case of aggravated burglary and intent to commit aggravated assault.Sepich, then 22, was sexually assaulted and strangled, and her partially burned body was found at an old Las Cruces city dump. The graduate student from Carlsbad was last seen leaving a party on Aug. 31, 2003. Friends told detectives she planned to walk the two blocks to her apartment. Target shooters discovered her body at the old Las Cruces city dump later that day.Martinez said at a news conference called Friday to announce the arrest that the case broke when investigators found a partial DNA match and got a court order for a DNA sample.

A DNA sample taken from Avila when he was arrested in the assault and burglary case was not tested until a few weeks ago, and immediately provided a partial match to DNA found on Sepich's body, authorities said.Investigators then got a search warrant for a new sample from Avila, and found on Monday that the samples matched. They subsequently questioned Avila and said he provided details of the murder scene. Avila told investigators he raped and killed Sepich outside her bedroom window early Aug. 31, 2003, authorities said. Authorities also have located the truck used to transport Sepich to the dump and a ring she was wearing when she was slain, Martinez said.The truck had been sold, and the new owner consented to its seizure. Investigators said the ring had been left in the truck.

Sepich's parents, Jayann and David, thanked law enforcement and others for keeping the case alive. "A lot of times someone is murdered and in three years, they're forgotten. Katie's never been forgotten," Jayann Sepich said.She said her daughter would have been 26 years old the day after Christmas. Avila's arrest is a "very fitting birthday present for our daughter," she said.A reward offered for information in the case expires Dec. 26. Martinez said no one will collect the reward.Under a 2006 law named for Katie Sepich, New Mexico will begin collecting DNA samples next year from people 18 and older who are arrested for some felonies. It expands a previous law that requires adult offenders to provide DNA samples when they're convicted.The crime for which Avila currently is jailed was committed in November 2003 _ less than three months after Sepich was slain.Had the requirements of the 2006 law been in effect when he was arrested, DNA would have been taken then "and this case could have been solved much sooner," Martinez said. The law requires adults to provide DNA samples when they're booked at jails or detention centers for any of a range of felonies, including murder, kidnapping, burglary and sex offenses.Jayann Sepich said she and her husband will work to have Katies Law passed in all 50 states as a tribute to their daughter.

No comments: