Police have used genealogy to make an arrest in a murder case

May 03, 2018

ON APRIL 24th police in California announced the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo. Mr DeAngelo stands accused of eight counts of murder. On April 27th some intriguing details emerged of what had prompted the arrest. The starting-point was genetic material recovered from the crime scenes. Though this directly matched no DNA held in a police database, analysis of it led investigators all the way back to the 1800s, to Mr DeAngelo’s great-great-great grandparents. The trail they followed allegedly links Mr DeAngelo to crimes committed around Sacramento in the 1970s and 1980s by an unknown man who acquired the nickname of the Golden State Killer, and who murdered at least 12 people and raped more than 50.

That a link to distant ancestors could lead to an arrest is testament to the power of modern genomics. Investigators first uploaded Mr DeAngelo’s genetic profile to a website called GEDmatch. This allows anyone to use his or her own genetic profile to search for family connections. GEDmatch’s...

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