Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Genetic Genealogy Gets Golden State Killer Arrest

California police have arrested a suspected serial rapist and killer after matching DNA from long-ago crime scenes to a profile in a genetic genealogy company's database, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, raped some 50 women and killed about a dozen people in the 1970s and 1980s, the Associated Press says, adding that the last murder occurred more than 30 years ago. But with more recently developed genetic techniques, authorities have arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, in connection with the murders of Katie and Brian Maggiore in a town outside Sacramento in 1978, according to the Bee. It adds that he is expected to face charges in 12 additional murder cases throughout California.

DeAngelo was linked to the crimes when authorities searched through a genealogy company for a match to crime scene DNA, the New York Times adds. While they did not find an outright match, they did uncover a relative of the suspect. With that, police homed in on DeAngelo and collected "abandoned" DNA from for confirmation. That DNA, the Times says, matched samples from multiple murders.

Such familial DNA searching has been used in other cases, including in the Grim Sleeper serial killer case and the sexual assault and strangulation of Karen Klaas, the former wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley.

However, the approach is not without its critics. As the AP notes, critics point out that it involves searching innocent people. In Newsday in 2017, the Legal Aid Society's Allison Lewis called it "genetic stop-and-frisk" and said it assumes "criminality runs in the family."

Genetic testing services 23andMe and Ancestry.com tell the AP that they only cooperate with police when there's a court order and both say they were not involved in this case. It adds that police declined to name the company.

The Scan

Billion-Dollar Diversity Initiative

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is now accepting applications for its new $1.5 billion initiative to boost the diversity of the scientific workforce.

Biotech Co-Founder Arrested

A co-founder of a Los Angeles-based biotech company has been arrested in connection with a murder-for-hire scheme, according to Endpoint News.

Return of the Tasmanian Tiger

The Washington Post reports that a team in Australia is working to bring the thylacine back from extinction.

Nature Papers on Genome of Individual From Pompeii, CircRNA Study Best Practices, More

In Nature this week: first sequenced genome of a person from Pompeii, best practice guidelines for circRNA studies, and more.