Friday, April 27, 2018

The Golden State Killer: Caught with Genealogy Website DNA Data

72 year old former cop arrested in Golden State Killer case.
This past week a true monster was caught by California Police: The Golden State Killer. Committing over 50 rapes and 12 murders between the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the Golden State Killer eluded police for decades. Until this past week. 72 year old Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for these crimes after using DNA technology to produce  match to him. But what kind of DNA technology was used? An online genealogy database called GEDmatch. Apparently the investigators on the case had used some stored DNA from the crime scenes, and uploaded the DNA profile to the GEDmatch database. From this, they located distant relatives to the DNA sample, found a man that would fit the profile of the Golden State Killer within the family, and eventually made a match to DeAngelo which resulted in his arrest. How did they make this final match, you might ask? They used "abandoned DNA... [left] in a place that is a public domain" according to Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento, CA district attorney.

According to the GEDmatch policy, any DNA profile that is uploaded to the site can be viewed, searched and compared by any other GEDmatch members. They also state "we cannot guarantee that your information will never be accessed by unintended means". There are options to have your DNA set to private, public, and research, however the company states that if you require absolute guaranteed security to these settings it is best to either delete your data, or not to upload the sample at all.

I think that this specific use of a genealogy website is ground breaking in the Golden State Killer case which laid cold for decades. However, it also presents the ethical dilemma of the police access to public and unwarranted DNA profile information. I think this topic is very prevalent in today's society, especially with the current fad of using sites like GEDmatch, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA. I am curious to see how this evidence plays out in the courts for this case.


  1. This is very interesting because it is a great thing that they were able to arrest the Golden State Killer with groundbreaking technology that has not always been available and if it was not available he probably would have gotten away with countless murders. But it is also scary how easy our genetic information is to the world.

  2. I found this to be very interesting. I think it is great he was caught, but it is also kind of scary that any genetic information put on that website can viewed by others that easily. I wonder how many other unidentified killers or criminals can be found guilty using this way.

  3. It is so incredible that we can solve older crimes using the technology we have today. I often wonder, while watching crime shows, how many older cases could have been solved/solved correctly, if they had the forensics technology we do today.