Dateline: Unforgettable is reexamining the murder of Kathryn “Katie” Sepich, who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and strangled by Gabriel Avila as she tried to enter her home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Katie, a student at the New Mexico State University, was last seen alive in the early morning hours of August 31, 2003. She was attending a party, but after an argument with her boyfriend, she began to make her way home. Her roommate reported her missing later that day.
The cops found evidence that Katie had actually arrived at her home. Her shoe was found outside her bedroom window, and there were signs of a struggle.
Katie had left her key at the party, so the cops concluded she had intended to climb in the window but was attacked at the same time.
The 22-year-old student’s remains were found that same day at a landfill. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted.
The victim’s boyfriend, Joe Bischoff, remained the primary suspect for three years, but he was cleared after a major break in the case.
DNA evidence led to Gabriel Avila arrest for Katie Sepich murder
In 2006, Gabriel Avila was arrested on an unrelated burglary charge, and while in custody, he supplied a DNA sample. This sample matched with Katie’s killer.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
When confronted with the evidence, Avila made a full confession. He said he’d been driving his truck when he nearly ran her over. The killer said he followed her home to make sure she got there safely.
However, Avila said he snapped and attacked Katie as she reached her bedroom window. He pleaded to first-degree murder.
Gabriel Avil convicted of killing Katie Sepich in Las Cruces, NM
In May 2007, Avila was sentenced to 69 years for murder and rape. He was ordered to finish a 9-year sentence for aggravated robbery before commencing the new sentence. He will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years of the murder conviction.
At the sentencing, Katie’s father, David Sepich, urged the judge not to be lenient with the punishment. He argued, “We do not get another chance to see her [Katie] in this life, and it is only right that the person who did this to her not get a chance to experience freedom again in his life.”
The case led to New Mexico enacting “Katie’s Law,” which ensures that individuals arrested on suspicion of violent crime submit to a DNA test. This law has now been enacted in 31 other states.
Dateline: Unforgettable airs Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.