How DNA and genetic genealogy helped catch one of the world’s most notorious murderers, the Golden State Killer

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. listens to victim impact statements at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse. Credit: Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. listens to victim impact statements at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse. Credit: Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle

The dramatic arrest in 2018 of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was all the more astounding because of how detectives said they caught the elusive Golden State Killer — by harnessing genetic technology already in use by millions of consumers to trace their family trees.

But the DNA-matching effort that caught one of America’s most notorious serial killers was more extensive than previously disclosed and involved covert searches of private DNA housed by two for-profit companies despite privacy policies, according to interviews and court discovery records accessed by The Times.

Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Even before these new revelations, the use of consumer databases to catch this serial killer sparked ethical debates as it unleashed a wave of efforts by other cold-case teams across the U.S. to use similar means to identify violent criminals. As a result, most major consumer genealogical database companies created barriers against law enforcement access, the U.S. Justice Department adopted interim restrictions for the use of such databases, and Maryland considered legislation to limit law enforcement’s use of them.

Related article:  Should we have laws to protect our genetic privacy? DNA testing companies don't think so

DeAngelo, 75, pleaded guilty before going to trial. He is serving 26 life sentences in a California prison. And the legality of investigative genealogy, still relatively new, has not faced serious legal challenges.

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Genetics Unzipped
Infographic: How dangerous COVID mutant strains develop

Infographic: How dangerous COVID mutant strains develop

Sometime in 2019, probably in China, SARS CoV-2 figured out a way to interact with a specific "spike" on the ...
Untitled

Philip Njemanze: Leading African anti-GMO activist claims Gates Foundation destroying Nigeria

Nigerian anti-GMO activist, physician, and inventor pushes anti-gay and anti-GMO ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend