Inside 'Golden State Killer' suspect's life in jail

De Angelo and a sketch of the Original Night Stalker

A search of California's forensic data bank came up blank. In the wake of public outrage over the amount of personal information collected by Facebook and Google, genealogy sites have more or less stayed under the privacy concerns radar, until now. He returns to court May 14. From there, they spent months narrowing down his family tree to land upon him as the suspect. And the approach is fraught with ethical questions.

The Visalia suspect used sophisticated "pry tools" to gain entrance to locked homes, just as DeAngelo is alleged to have used in the other crimes, Salazar said.

Founded in 2011, the site is run by genealogical enthusiasts and is funded by donations and sales of more sophisticated search features. Two of the largest, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, said Thursday that they weren't involved in the case. But GEDmatch's data is not encrypted and is stored in plain text.

Anyone anxious about such practices potentially violating contract law or violating privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment - the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" - will probably point to the following news nugget: police did this and got it wrong already.

In the meanwhile, people might be thinking twice about exploring genetic testing, though the terms and conditions of these sites do vary.

But the secondary uses of the information - as in the case of the Golden State Killer - has seen little discussion in the face of rapidly increasing sales of ancestral DNA tests.

That's when Steve Rhods, a Ventura County district attorney's office investigator, discovered a second rape kit in the coroner's office from the slaying of Lyman and Charlene Smith in Ventura in 1980.

Even as Mr. Holes pursued the novel method of online genealogy, there was still one problem: numerous known DNA samples of the suspect had degraded over the years.

"It turned out to be a gold mine", Mr. Holes said of the sample. "We are talking third, fourth and fifth cousins and more distant than that, but it is a starting point", he said. "How could you just go out and kill somebody and go back and go to work?" He declined to say what, if anything, investigators had found.

"He violated the trust of the people", Willick said.

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"We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the Golden State Killer".

Investigators reached out to others in DeAngelo's life in the 1970s and 1980s.

Retired FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt said he and others have speculated that the serial killer had police or military training because of the sophistication of the crimes and the suspect's ability to elude capture.

DeAngelo, a former police officer, probably would have known about the new method, experts said.

"I think that was part of his act", Holes added. But they would have had to check a box online certifying that the DNA was their own or belonged to someone for whom they were legal guardians, or that they had "obtained authorization" to upload the sample.

DeAngelo made his first court appearance since he was arrested. He appeared drowsy and expressionless throughout the brief hearing. DeAngelo is suspected of being the sadistic attacker who killed 13 people and raped almost 50 women during the 1970s and '80s. "It was clear from our investigation he committed a theft and there's no room in law enforcement for someone that steals". "He was going to show police that he was smarter than any of them and that it was a mistake to fire him". "We don't know, but that was something that we would look for when we were evaluating potential suspects".

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. "If you are concerned about non-genealogical uses of your DNA, you should not upload your DNA to the database and/or you should remove your DNA that has already been uploaded".

In an email to The Outline, Steven Joffe, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, the process of getting informed consent from every possible party could also undermine a person's sense that they are entitled to the company's services. "The privacy of everyone I'm related to is affected", Tien said.

Scientists are also using the onslaught of DNA information that's becoming available online to better track and understand genetic diseases, as the Atlantic reported a year ago.

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