SANTA FE (KRQE) – Santa Fe police are making a big push to solve hundreds of unsolved crimes. Just recently the department reopened more than 300 cold cases thanks in big part to Katie Sepich and the law she inspired.
“We came across these and these old cases and we said maybe we should go get these checked,” said Santa Fe Police Lieutenant Andrea Dobyns.
Dobyns says the department has a freezer full of evidence. In July, police sent thousands of pieces of hair, blood and clothing samples to the state crime lab to try and finally crack some of the cases.
Just recently they sent even more DNA samples.
“Our violent crimes unit took it upon themselves to start going through these old cases just to see what we can come up with,” said Dobyns.
Dobyns says the big push to solve the cold cases is the success of Katie’s Law. The law requires DNA samples to be taken from anyone arrested for a serious crime.
“We know a lot of offenders commit more than one crime, so there is a good probability we will be able to solve some of these old cases,” said Dobyns.
The law’s named after Katie Sepich, a former New Mexico State University student who was raped and murdered in 2003.
“Its been 11 years since Katie was murdered, but it still hurts,” said Katie’s mom Jayann Sepich.
Since 2011, Katie’s Law has helped police connect nearly 500 people to crimes.
One of those people is 51-year-old Gilbert Romero. Santa Fe police arrested Romero earlier this year for raping a teenage girl back in 1992.
“It’s important because these victims deserve justice and basically this is showing criminals you do the crime and it is going to catch up to you,” said Dobyns.
Police say a new technology called “touch DNA” is also helping them connect DNA samples to criminals.
It lets them test miniscule traces of DNA, something that was impossible to do a couple of years ago.
This week Governor Susana Martinez announced there’s been an 88 percent increase in DNA matches since 2011 because of Katie’s Law.