ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A graduate student murdered at New Mexico State University in 2003 shocked the community. Many were also left wondering, “who could have killed Katie Sepich?”

Nearly 16 years after the crime, Katie’s mom Jayann Sepich, started a nationwide campaign to get a law named after her daughter passed in all 50 states. “I know what it feels like to bury my daughter. I know what that’s like and you never get over it,” said Jayann Sepich.

Sixteen years ago Jayann and her husband Dave dreamed of a simple life, so they built their dream home in Carlsbad. “First and foremost I was a wife and mother and I think maybe I would have been a grandmother, who knows,” said Jayann Sepich. “That was where we were going to bring grandkids, we built it kind of as our grandbaby trap.”

Katie Sepich

Their oldest daughter Katie, not yet married and finishing up her graduate degree at New Mexico State University, already knew what her kids would call Jayann. “Katie always said when I was a grandmother I was going to be called Tayta.” Jayann said that’s what Katie called her grandmother when she was a kid. Those are the memories the Sepich family holds on to. 

It was Labor Day Weekend 2003 when the Sepich family received a call that would turn their life upside down. Katie’s friends said they could not find her. With only a little information, Dave hopped in his truck and made the three-hour drive from the family’s home in Carlsbad to Las Cruces.

Former Dona Ana County Detective Joe Reynaud told Dave that his daughter was raped, strangled and her body set on fire. “We were afraid because of the brutality of the homicide – it showed the killer did not care,” Reynaud said.

Katie’s body was thrown in an old landfill in Las Cruces and deputies had no idea who had killed her. They started to piece together what may have happened. The attacker’s skin and blood were later found under Katie’s fingernails. The DNA was entered into a national database of criminals, but there was no hit.

Three years later, DNA linked a man to the murder. Jayann Sepich prayed for justice not knowing that crucial DNA would later blow the case wide open.

The Series, A Mother’s Love, Part 2 continues Wednesday. To learn more about the Sepich family’s fight, go to

(Video Courtesy: DNA Saves; ‘Coed Nightmares’ )

Transcripts of interview with Gabriel Avila and Las Cruces Police
The Prosecutor: Susana Martinez extended interview
10 New Mexico cases that used Katie’s Law
Extended Interviews with Jayann and Dave Sepich