Commercial genealogy websites helped crack the 44-year-old case of the infamous Golden State Killer, The New York Times reported.
Investigators tracked down suspect Joseph DeAngelo, who was arrested Tuesday, in a painstaking process using DNA from one of the crime scenes from years ago — comparing it to genetic profiles available online through various websites that cater to individuals that submit DNA samples to learn more about their family backgrounds, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office and crime lab explored online family trees that appeared to have matches to DNA samples from a rape crime spree in the area — and followed clues to individuals in the family trees to determine whether they were potential suspects.
Last week, they closed in on DeAngelo.
"We found a person that was the right age and lived in this area — and that was Mr. DeAngelo," Grippi said, per The New York Times.
Investigators then set up surveillance on DeAngelo and got his DNA from something he discarded, according to Schubert, the news outlets reported.
The test result confirmed the match to more than 10 murders in California, the Times reported. Schubert's office then obtained a second sample — and came back with the same positive result, matching the full DNA profile, the outlets reported.
"He was totally off the radar till just a week ago, and it was a lead they got, somehow they got information and through checking family or descendants — it was pretty complicated the way they did it — they were able to get him on the radar," Ray Biondi, 81, who was the lieutenant in charge of the homicide bureau of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department during the crime spree, told the Times.
The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, is believed to have committed more than 50 rapes and 12 murders.
"It's crazy — they were looking for this guy for 40 years and he was right here under our noses," Ashley Piorun, who lives five houses down from DeAngelo, told the Times. "We were shellshocked to find out."
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