- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The expansion of a DNA testing law named for a slain New Mexico college student has helped authorities connect hundreds of suspects arrested on felony charges to other unsolved crimes in the past five years, Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday.

The 2011 revision of Katie’s Law requires adults arrested on any felony charge to provide a DNA sample that authorities enter into a database, and that proponents say can help investigators linked suspects to other crimes.

A previous version of the statute that first became state law in 2006 only required DNA samples from suspects arrested for violent felonies such as murder, kidnapping, robbery, burglary and sex offenses.

Since 2011, authorities have linked 746 New Mexico suspects to 764 other cases, including more than a dozen homicide and 40 sex crime investigations, Martinez said in a statement. Only 407 suspects would have been connected to 420 other cases if the expansion of the law were not in place.

The decade-old law is named for Kathryn Sepich, a New Mexico State University student whose killer was identified with DNA evidence after he was convicted of another crime. Sepich, who was from Carlsbad, was 22 when she was killed in 2003.

A former Dona Ana County district attorney, Martinez prosecuted the case and pushed for the legislation - which has been opposed in the Legislature by the state public defender’s‘ office.

The defense attorneys have argued DNA samples shouldn’t be taken until a person is convicted of a felony, saying the law is a “slippery slope” to treading on someone’s right to being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Versions of laws mandating that suspects provide DNA samples exist in more than 30 states, but the parameters of the laws vary.

More than a dozen states takes DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, like New Mexico does, while more states with such laws limit suspect DNA collection to violent crimes, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Martinez plans to announce Wednesday afternoon in Carlsbad that her administration’s analysis has found that the revamp of the law has led to an 83 percent increase in matching DNA samples among cases.

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