Doña Ana County



The DNA of Juan Nieto, a suspect in a Wisconsin crime and a person of interest in the 2003 murder of Kathryn Jaye ‘Katie’ Sepich, has come back as a negative match.

Earlier today, a DNA laboratory in Tennessee returned the samples, which were submitted for testing late last year by the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department.

Acting on a tip received after the broadcast of ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ - which featured the Sepich case - last November, the FBI and police in Atlanta arrested Nieto on Dec. 6, 2004. Nieto was extradited to Green Bay, where he was a suspect in the rape and attempted murder of a young woman.

Green Bay Police questioned Nieto about his whereabouts on the Labor Day Weekend of 2003, when Sepich was raped and murdered near Las Cruces. Green Bay also provided the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department with a sample of Nieto’s DNA.

Using a DNA profile furnished by Third Judicial District Attorney Susana Martinez, the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department had already narrowed the scope of the investigation into Sepich’s murder. The similarity of the Green Bay crime to Sepich’s murder led local investigators to label Nieto a “person of interest” in the Sepich case.
Based on the negative DNA match, Nieto is no longer considered a likely suspect in the Sepich murder.

Using DNA on file from the Sepich crime, investigators still believe that the suspect is most likely a Hispanic male. There is a more remote possibility that the suspect may be Native American.

The DNA profile helps narrow the investigation, although it does not point to any specific suspect. The Third Judicial District Attorney's Office has spent more than $30,000 on DNA testing related to the Sepich case to date, assisting the investigators as they continue to pursue leads.

Sepich, 22, of Carlsbad, a graduate student of business administration at NMSU, attended a party Saturday night, Aug. 30, 2003, in the Las Cruces neighborhood of Veterans’ Park. She left the party sometime after midnight. Investigators believe she walked home and was abducted as she tried to gain entrance to her home through a bedroom window.

At about 11 a.m. the next morning, target shooters reported the discovery of a body in the desert near the old city dump east of Las Cruces. Upon identification of the body, Sheriff’s investigators contacted people who knew Sepich, including her roommates, and traced her activities back to the party. The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator’s autopsy report determined the cause of death was strangulation. Sepich also was sexually assaulted.

To date, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department has interviewed more than 80 people about the case, with support from the Las Cruces and New Mexico State University police departments. DNA samples have been taken from all those interviewed.

The case remains open and active. Crimestoppers is offering a $52,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any person or persons who may have been involved in Sepich’s death. The Sepich family donated $50,000 of the reward fund.

Anyone with any information about the case is urged to contact Crimestoppers at (505) 526-8000. All callers have the option to remain anonymous. Any caller who provides information that leads to arrest(s) will be eligible to collect the reward.


Neither the Doña Ana County Sheriff nor his investigators will accept calls or interview requests regarding this case. All calls must be directed to the Doña Ana County Public Information Office at (505) 647-7229.