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Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PEARCE. I thank the gentleman from Texas for yielding. I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) for his leadership on this.

I rise in strong support of H.R. 6014. Today, Katie Sepich, pictured here, tells us a lot. She is fun, loving, vibrant, outgoing. She was leader in her age group. She made things happen. Katie, beginning in January of 2002, was in her last year of grad school. During that year, in one of the last conversations with her daughter, Jayann Sepich--her mom--asked her the same question that many of us receive from our parents: What are you going to do when you graduate with your master's degree in business? The reply was the same one that many of us have given: I'm not sure, but I want to change the world.

That's what each one of us as parents aspires to develop in our children--it's what each one of us tries to train them for--and Katie was at the point of decision. She was on her way until her journey of life was brutally interrupted by someone who raped her and strangled her. Then he burned her body and left her body abandoned at a dumpsite.

Now, there was a full DNA sample under Katie's fingernails, attesting to Katie's character, but the uploaded DNA did not match anything in the government database. Meanwhile, Gabriel Avila was arrested 6 weeks after the murder; but because New Mexico and the Federal Government had no laws, no DNA sample was taken, and so no match was made. For 3 years, Mr. Avila walked free on the streets of America and on the streets of New Mexico after having committed this horrendous crime, but there was nothing to link them until New Mexico passed a statute very similar to this one that we are passing today.

It simply said that we are going to collect DNA samples when we have people who are under the suspicion of violent crimes. It is no different than my fingerprints, which are available to anyone who wants to look. They were taken by the U.S. Government when I entered into the United States Air Force. I understand the constitutional concerns, but I also understand the pain of families who have no answers. After New Mexico passed this law, Mr. Avila committed another violent crime. This time, by New Mexico law, they had to take his DNA sample, and immediately they matched that now-3-year-old crime that took Katie's life.

All this bill does is simply help provide funds to States to take these DNA samples. The U.S. Government will put them in the database and compare them. They're the 21st-century version of fingerprints.

One in six American women is a victim of rape or attempted rape, and 90 percent of the people who commit the crimes are repeat offenders like Mr. Avila; yet they walk free because we care more for the rights of perpetrators than of victims. This bill will not prevent violent crimes, but it will help stem the tide of the repeat offenders.

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Mr. PEARCE. Dave and Jayann Sepich, Katie's parents, have worked tirelessly, first to get the bill through New Mexico and then to get it to the attention of the Federal Government. The bill stands poised here on the floor of the House of Representatives today, asking that we as Americans and we as legislators take a stand on behalf of the families who have young daughters and young sons who want to change the world; and maybe, just maybe, we will do something right here.

Katie's legacy will live on no matter what we do here today, because of her parents and because of her sacrifice. I humbly suggest that we would want to pass this bill.

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