For decades, investigators had the DNA of the Golden State Killer suspect, but they couldn’t track him until genealogy lent a hand.
Investigators plugged in DNA from one of the crime scenes to genealogy websites used to find relatives and learn more about their background. From there, officials followed family trees to try to narrow down a suspect.
That led to Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer who is charged in a series of rapes and murders that terrorized California communities in the 1970s and ’80s.
The process investigators used to identify DeAngelo was first reported by The Sacramento Bee. Chief Deputy Steve Grippi confirmed the use of a genealogy website to USA TODAY but declined to elaborate further on what website was used.
“We have given you as much information as we can at this time. No further information on this subject will be provided,” Grippi said.
More:Who is Joseph James DeAngelo, the accused Golden State Killer?
The Sacramento Bee reported that investigators narrowed down potential suspects on genealogy websites, and DeAngelo became their primary target. He lived in the areas where the crimes happened and fit the right age range.
Investigators obtained discarded DNA that matched DeAngelo and other samples taken from decades-old crime scenes.
Officers watched the suspect for six days and arrested him outside his home.
“He was very surprised,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said. “It happened almost instantaneously.”.
Ancestry.Com, one of the more popular websites used to track family history and reconnect with relatives, said it was unaware of the investigation.
DeAngelo, a Navy veteran, was charged in eight murders. Investigators are working to try to link him to the other crimes, including 12 murders, 45 rapes and the ransacking of more than 100 homes.
The crime spree ended in 1986. It isn’t clear why.