A Free Genealogy Website Caught A Suspected Serial Killer
Genealogy websites are great for providing you with about 20 minutes of conversation material with your dad, and that's about it. Most people don't give a crap that you're 3.5 percent Macedonian. Well, OK, there's one other thing these sites are good for: catching depraved serial killers.
The so-called "Golden State Killer" murdered 13 people and sexually assaulted 50 girls and women between 1976 and 1986, before apparently deciding to quit while he was ahead. The police had a DNA profile of the killer on file, but there were no matches among the millions of people in the FBI's national database, and there was no way to compare it against everyone in the entire country. It looked like a lost cause ... until this year. Someone in the police department checked the killer's DNA profile against those in GEDmatch, a free genealogy service people upload DNA samples to, hoping to find out they're fourth cousins with someone who once met Frank Sinatra's barber or something.
The GSK wasn't a member of the site, but someone in his family was. The match flagged up, and police were soon focused on 72-year-old veteran and former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, who, it turns out, had spent the '60s and '70s living within a few miles of the GSK's kill zone. Once the facts stacked up, all the police needed to do was compare DeAngelo's DNA to the original sample taken from a GSK crime scene, which they got by swabbing his car door while it was parked outside a shopping mall, and from a tissue he had thrown away.
Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesDeAngelo, seen here regretting not wiping his nose on his sleeve and/or all those murders.