Austin, May 23 – Today, Senator Brandon Creighton, as Chief Sponsor, and the Texas Senate passed House Bill 1399, the Krystal Jean Baker Act. This bill is a top priority for Texas law enforcement to solve cold cases and bring justice for victims of violent crimes. The bill allows for law enforcement to collect DNA samples of individuals arrested for violent felonies (murder, rape, assault) and will securely store the identifying markers in a database. The collection upon arrest allows law enforcement to link prior, unsolved offences to a current offender.
“Texas once lead the nation in DNA innovation to solve serious crimes, but we have fallen behind, leaving thousands of victims waiting for justice,” said Creighton. “With the passage of HB 1399, Texas law enforcement will have a valuable tool to crack cold cases, and get violent offenders off the street.”
Krystal Jean Baker was a 16 year old girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled to death in 1996. DNA evidence was collected at the time, but the case remained unsolved until Kevin Smith was arrested in Louisiana on a drug charge in 2010. His DNA was sampled at the time of arrest, and he eventually pled guilty to Krystal Jean’s murder.
Currently 18 states have this policy, including all four states that border Texas. When New Mexico, a state with a population smaller than the City of Austin adopted this policy, over 1500 cold cases were solved. Former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez’s testimony and advocacy for this important policy was critical to the bill’s success in the Texas Legislature.
“I want to thank Representative Reggie Smith for his leadership, Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Swope Lieck, Assistant District Attorney Eric Carcerano, Sheriff Brian Hawthorne, the Sheriff’s Association and other law enforcement who have brought attention to this important issue,” said Creighton. “Violent crimes against women and children are rarely isolated, so in addition to bringing justice for victims, this bill will prevent crimes and save lives.”
HB 1399 was amended in the Senate, so the bill awaits final passage in the House, and will then be sent to the Governor. It has previously passed in the Texas House of Representatives on a 77 to 68 vote on April 24.