August 24, 2019
Major Win for Texas Law Enforcement
Austin, Texas—Yesterday, Friday, August 23, 2019, Governor Greg Abbott held a ceremonial bill signing for Senator Brandon Creighton’s bill, HB 1399, the Krystal Jean Baker Act. This bill was the top priority for Texas law enforcement during the recent legislative session 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.
“Violent crimes against women and children are rarely isolated, and unfortunately, offenders strike many times before being apprehended by law enforcement, and now that this bill is law, Texas law enforcement has a valuable tool to crack cold cases, and remove violent criminals off the street,” said Senator Creighton. “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.”
The bill is named for Krystal Jean Baker, 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.