After a decades long manhunt, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department announced on Wednesday that they had finally apprehended the Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo. DeAngelo is allegedly responsible for as many as 50 rapes and 12 murders across Sacramento, Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from 1974 to 1986, and his crimes were only connected years later thanks to DNA evidence.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a press conference Wednesday that it was also DNA evidence that ultimately led to DeAngelo’s capture, using a discarded samples police were able to collect. At the time it was unclear how they were able to zero in on him as a suspect, however we now know that authorities were able to track DeAngelo by comparing his DNA to genetic profiles found on various genealogy websites.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi told the Sacramento Bee that Schubert’s office and crime lab used online family trees that appeared to match previously collected crime scene DNA samples, and that they were then able to follow clues to narrow down potential suspects.
It was only last week that they came across the possibility that DeAngelo was a suspect, when they discovered that he was in the right age range and had lived in the area where the attacks occurred around the same time period.
“I was at a dinner at Cristo Rey High School and Steve Grippi called me,” [Schubert] said. “And so I probably used a few words I wouldn’t put in a newspaper, but basically said, ‘You’d better not be lying to me.'”
The sample provided “overwhelming evidence that it was him,” Schubert said, but she decided they wanted a second sample, which sheriff’s officials recovered.
The results from testing that second sample came in while Schubert was in her office Monday night, she said.
“The second sample was astronomical evidence that it was him,” Schubert said, adding, “There were a whole lot of holy s— moments.”
The use of genealogy is already triggering privacy debates, as use of the same technology could be used by police or government for much more invasive purposes. But for now, victims and families of victims are likely just relieved that the nightmare is finally over. Now begins the process of determining where DeAngelo’s trial will be held, since his crime spree spanned much of California, and what crimes he will be held accountable for, since the statute of limitations may prevent prosecutors from charging him with decades-old sexual assault.
“I think we’re very interested in pursuing justice for the victims in these cases and pursue what we can file under the statute of limitations,” DA spokesman Scott Alonso said. “We want to see justice for these terrible crimes.”
(Via Sacremento Bee)