Unusual investigation of genealogy sites has resulted in the arrest of the alleged “Golden State” killer


The large genealogy sites available on the net compile millions of documents. They helped the investigators who had been tracking the Golden State killer for years.

He had killed 12 people and raped fifty times between 1978 and 1986. Facts that earned him the nickname of the killer of the “Golden State” (the nickname of California). At 72, Joseph James DeAngelo has been apprehended in his suburb of Sacramento and may well be the wanted criminal. Six days ago he was not considered a suspect. A reported arrest in the Sacramento Bee concludes a meticulous police work, where DNA once again played a vital role.

A ruthless killer … And not found

A relief for the country and the inhabitants of the region, who have long been terrorized by this sadistic killer. The latter broke into the homes at night and inflicted terrible torture on his victims after having tied them up. There were sometimes hours with them, not hesitating to use in their refrigerator before returning to torture. He sometimes chose to kill them with a gun or a poker.

The case had become a cold case despite years of investigation and the promise of a $ 500,000 reward. The way he made his knots suggested that he could be a veteran of the Navy, but unfortunately it was the only real track.

An extraordinary investigation

Investigators used databases from sites such as Ancestry or Geneaology to compare genetic profiles similar to the killer’s. These platforms allow, for a modest cost, to go in search of its origins. This requires sending some saliva by mail. These sites have billions of archive documents and photos, partly uploaded by users. Ancestry.com alone has two million users and can view more than 70 million family trees.

They first used a DNA sample left by the latter on a crime scene and began this long comparative work. For months, they traced the genealogy of many families whose data were similar. An ant work that still led them to a distant relative and then, by pure deduction, to a certain Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer who served in the Navy.

The investigators therefore decided to discreetly recover his DNA on a can of soda he had thrown to compare it to the sample of the time … And everything corresponded. Scott Jones, Sheriff of Sacramento County did not hide his relief at the press conference following the arrest, where the man did not show any resistance.

“We started to monitor it, and we were able to recover a DNA sample. We were able to confirm what we already felt: we had our man “

This fascinating stalking still leaves ethical questions unanswered. In particular with regard to the exploitation of the private data coming from this type of sites to carry out a police or research work. Although the companies concerned have denied having taken part in the survey, it seems difficult to ascertain.


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