Joseph James DeAngelo / Golden State Killer Press Conference

(Photo credit: Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/TNS/Sipa USA)

Genealogy Websites Led Investigators To Golden State Killer

Megan Goldsby
April 27, 2018 - 6:33 am

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS Radio) - Genealogy websites helped lead investigators to make an arrest in the decades old case of the Golden State Killer. KCBS Radio’s Megan Goldsby reports the first leads sent investigators to a relative of Joseph James DeAngelo. 

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office confirms investigators used DNA from a 1980 double murder to check with information available on various genealogy sites online. 

"What they found was a potential match with someone who had uploaded their information to one of these sites and they found a family tree." Sam Stanton, Senior riter at the Sacramento Bee says. "They started going through the family tree and eliminating people who couldn't be the suspect. Women For instance or people of a certain age. The more they progress, the closer they got to Joseph James DeAngelo."

Websites like 23andMe and Ancestry.com say it is their policy to resist law enforcement inquiries, in order to protect customer privacy. But there's nothing to stop investigators from signing up themselves.

Discoveries like this are probably going to get more common says Dr. David Magnus, Director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics because it's just getting so cheap to sequence entire genomes.

"It's just really important for people to understand going in that when the more information you share, the more genetics information is disclosed in different kinds of sources." Dr. Magnus said "Even in ways that on their surface, will cause to be identified. The more likely it is, that there is going to have potential uses to identify them. In a lot of different ways including in this case, for forensic purposes."