Genealogy websites identify rape suspect who eluded police for 40 years

Enlarge / Mug shot of Joseph James DeAngelo. (credit: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department)

For over four decades, a suspect in more than 50 extremely sadistic rapes and 12 murders eluded police in Northern California. On Tuesday, he was arrested after investigators tracked him down using online genealogical databases that contained genetic information from a relative, news organizations reported Thursday.

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The identification of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo as the East Area Rapist began with the recovery years ago of DNA from a crime scene. Over the years, investigators compared the DNA to profiles on one or more undisclosed genealogy databases. Eventually, investigators found one or more distant relatives of DeAngelo’s and traced their DNA to him. The Sacramento Bee, citing the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office, reported here that the crucial lead came from “various websites that cater to individuals wanting to know more about their family backgrounds by accepting DNA samples from them.”

The New York Times, meanwhile, said here that the match came from a commercial online genealogy database. The NYT continued:

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