August 8, 2012
Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza Presented With 2012 “Katie’s Hero” Award
Parents of murder victim Katie Sepich, along with Elizabeth Smart, recognize Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza for her work on HB3238 to require DNA upon felony arrest.
The parents of murder victim Katie Sepich were joined by abduction survivor Elizabeth Smart in presenting Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza with the national “Katie’s Hero Award” today. The Katie’s Hero Award is an honor bestowed by DNA Saves the Sepich’s non-profit advocacy group. The award is given to individuals for leadership in solving and preventing crime by supporting legislation to expand the use of forensic DNA technology. City Clerk Mendoza, who in 2011 was serving as an Illinois State Representative, was selected for her strong support and lead sponsor of HB3238 to require DNA upon felony arrest in Illinois, to ensure law enforcement is not unwittingly releasing repeat offenders back into the community.
Jayann Sepich, co-founder and president of DNA Saves, introduced the award and 2012 recipients at a Forensic DNA Luncheon event held concurrently during the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators.
In presenting the award, Ms. Sepich said, “The enactment of HB3238 will have a profound and lasting impact on public safety in Illinois. Clerk Mendoza’s leadership on this issue will result in getting many rapists and other violent criminals off the streets, and will prevent additional Illinois residents from being needlessly victimized.”
"For several years I worked tirelessly to pass this critical, life-saving legislation. After meeting with Jayann Sepich and hearing her family’s heart breaking story, it only reinforced my determination to ensure this legislation was enacted in Illinois," said Clerk Mendoza. "Throughout my 11 year career in the House, this is the legislation I am most proud of, the one I know will save countless lives. I am honored to receive the Katie’s Hero Award and will continue to speak out and advocate for the collection of DNA upon felony arrests."
The keynote speaker at the luncheon was Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at knife point from her own bedroom at the age of 14. For nine months she was the captive of Brian David Mitchell until she was finally rescued. In 2010, Mitchell was convicted of Smart’s abduction and was sentenced to life in prison. Ms. Smart addressed the crowd of 100 legislators and their guests, representing twenty-six states. She stated, “Arrestee DNA legislation is needed in every state to make our communities safer places to live.”
DNA Saves is a non-profit association organized to educate policy makers and the public about the value of forensic DNA. The association was formed by Jayann and David Sepich in late 2008, marking the five year anniversary of the senseless murder of their daughter, Katie. DNA Saves is committed to working with every state to pass laws allowing DNA to be taken upon arrest, and to provide meaningful funding for DNA programs.
Had a DNA sample been taken from Katie's murderer, Gabriel Avilla, upon arrest for an unrelated crime, the Sepichs would have discovered who killed their daughter only three months after her death. Instead, Avilla remained free to victimize more unsuspecting daughters, while the Sepichs waited for answers. The Sepichs hope that by advocating for better DNA testing laws they can prevent another mother and father from asking "why?"