FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — The man accused in a string of sexual assaults known as the Ramsey Street Rapes will face a judge on Tuesday. DNA testing and genetic genealogy led police to charge Darold Wayne Bowden in the case.
One woman is pushing to change DNA collection laws our state. She’s changed legislation in North Carolina before and she’s determined to do it again.
“Anytime I hear of a rape that could’ve been prevented with DNA legislation, it makes me more determined to see these laws passed,” said Jayann Sepich.
Sepich watched CBS 17’s series on the Ramsey Street Rapes from her home in New Mexico. It ignited her passion for justice that’s rooted in pain. Labor Day weekend 2003, Jayann’s daughter Katie was brutally raped and murdered while away at college.
“The only clues we had to who might’ve done that were from the skin and blood that was under her fingernails. She fought so hard for her life, and from the skin and blood, a DNA profile was extracted.” Sepich said.
Three years went by before a man already in jail had his DNA run through a database and checked against other crimes. A match linked him to the murder of Katie Sepich.
“I made the off-hand comment to the detective in charge of her case that the man that killed her was such a monster that he would be arrested for something else and we would swab his cheek and we would be able to identify him. And that’s when I learned that in most states, at that time, it was illegal to take DNA at the time of arrest.” Sepich said.
That’s when Sepich started DNA Saves, which is a group committed to working with states to pass laws allowing DNA to be taken upon arrest for felonies.
They’ve worked with victim’s advocate Elizabeth Smart and even Gov. Roy Cooper when he was North Carolina’s attorney general.
President Barack Obama even enacted Katie’s Law in 2010. It is a federal law that provides funding for enhanced DNA collection for felony arrests.
Now Sepich once again wants to change laws in North Carolina by making it mandatory to collect DNA for all felony arrests.
“That’s one of the reasons why that Ramsey Street rapes is so very important to take note of,” Sepich said. “I believe that if the law had been in effect and implemented, there may have been several of those young women who would not have been raped.”
Sepich is already in contact with Rep. Billy Richardson. The two are planning to propose a new bill.
“The science has gotten so good we can almost treat. In fact, I think it’s a more reliable identifier than a fingerprint. So, I think what we need to do is just like we do with fingerprints. Any time there’s an arrest made on a serious crime, a person (is) fingerprinted, I think that their DNA sample ought to be taken, as well, and put in the databank.” Richardson said.
“I believe time is of the essence because there are women who will be saved from being raped, or perhaps even murdered if we have this legislation in place,” Sepich said.
Right now, 17 states currently collect DNA upon all felony arrests. Sepich wants to make North Carolina the 18th. She said it’s all about fulfilling her daughter’s dream of wanting to change the world.
“I’m a very spiritual person and I believe that Katie is working with me. She was the type of young woman who wouldn’t let anything stand in her way of getting what she wanted, and I believe that she still doing that.” Sepich said.
Groups like the ACLU are against this type of testing, saying that it violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizures. But Sepich believes her group’s efforts are getting criminals off the streets.
In the state of New York, which collects DNA for all felonies and convicted misdeameanors, the DNA database has helped prosecutors obtain nearly 3,000 convictions.