July 01, 2020 Feature

Investigative Genetic Genealogy and the Future of Genetic Privacy

By Natalie Ram

In April 2018, police arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, alleging that he is the elusive Golden State Killer, who is believed to have committed more than a dozen murders and fifty sexual assaults throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The break in the case came from searching a familiar source—DNA—in an unfamiliar place—a free, online genealogical DNA database called GEDmatch. By comparing a DNA profile extracted from decades’-old crime scene evidence to the DNA profiles searchable through GEDmatch, investigators identified a distant cousin of the putative Golden State Killer. Through sleuthing in that extended family tree, investigators eventually homed in on DeAngelo.1

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