SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on a decades-old serial killing and rape case in California (all times local):
A genealogical website that police used to track down a man they believe is the Golden State Killer says it had no idea its service was involved in the hunt for one of California’s most elusive serial killers.
GEDmatch said in a statement Friday on its website that it was never contacted by law enforcement or anyone else about the case or the DNA profile that was used.
The Florida-based company pools DNA profiles that people upload and share publicly.
GEDmatch says it has always informed users that its databases can be used for purposes other than genealogical research.
A lead investigator on the Golden State Killer case told the Mercury News that authorities used GEDmatch to find a relative of suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, who was arrested Tuesday.
One of the main investigators who helped capture a California serial rapist and killer who eluded law enforcement for four decades says his team used a public DNA matching website.
Lead investigator Paul Holes tells the Mercury News in San Jose, California, that one of his team’s biggest tools was GEDMatch, a Florida-based website that pools DNA profiles that people upload and share publicly.
GEDMatch is a free site where users who have DNA profiles from commercial companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe can expand their search for relatives.
Major companies, such as 23andMe and Ancestry, do not allow law enforcement to access their genetic data unless they get a court order.
Holes says officials did not need a court order to access GEDMatch’s large database of genetic blueprints.
Privacy concerns are being raised over investigators’ use of a genealogical website to find the California man they say is a serial killer and rapist.
Joseph DeAngelo was arrested Tuesday after investigators say they matched crime-scene DNA using genetic material stored by a distant relative on a website.
Authorities say it’s an innovative technique that broke open the long-cold case of the Golden State Killer, who slew at least a dozen people and raped 50 women from 1976 to 1986.
But Steve Mercer of the Maryland public defender’s office says it pinpoints a problem: There aren’t strong privacy laws to keep police from trolling such databases.
Mercer says right now, people who submit DNA to be tested to find their ancestors can unwittingly become “genetic informants” on family members.