ALBUQUERQUE, N.M (KRQE) – Over the years, New Mexico’s had issues when it comes to sexual assault test kits — from a backlog due to lack of funding for testing, to a state audit that found some kits weren’t even submitted for testing.
“Sometimes there’d be a deliberate decision not to test the kits,” said Stephan Marshall, Director of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.
This year, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 475, requiring all agencies to submit the kits, even if they think it’s a weak case. DNA that qualifies will also be entered into the national database, CODIS, to possibly link the DNA to other crimes.
“We still have a few agencies [that] we’re still trying to get on board and send all their kits in,” Marshall said.
Marshall presented the issue to the NMLEA Board at their meeting on Tuesday. He said the new law also states that by Oct.1, 2017 every agency had to develop and implement a policy on the kits.
“The current policy regarding those sexual assault kits is under review and being updated. We hope within the next 90 days it will be finalized,” said Andrew Padilla, Deputy Chief for Santa Fe Police.
Padilla said his department has always submitted kits and says they’re complying with the law.
The Albuquerque Police Department said it’s in the same situation. APD said there is currently a policy in place to test all kits, but it’s working on changes to comply with the new law.
It’s also a law that hits close to home for victims of sexual assault and their families.
“It’s the law, number one, and number two, we owe it to the victim,” Jayann Sepich said.
Sepich the mother of Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student raped and murdered in 2003. Her mother knows full well the power of DNA.
“If we had not had DNA evidence in my daughter’s rape and murder, we would have never identified the man that killed her,” Sepich said.
The DNA of her daughter’s killer was collected for another crime years later, and when entered into the database, it matched the DNA found on Katie Sepich’s body.
“It’s very important that DNA evidence be tested and submitted because it’s very possible that it could match to other rapes that have been reported,” Sepich said.
Marshall told the board he presented the issue in hopes that board members will start reaching out to agencies to make sure they’re obeying the new law.