How the Golden State Killer’s DNA and advances in technology led to his capture

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Monday’s guilty pleas from Joseph DeAngelo would not have been possible if not for advances in DNA technology.

For decades, law enforcement could not identify the man who killed 13 people and committed more than 50 rapes across California through the 1970s and 80s.

But they had collected his DNA and kept some of it for decades.

That DNA never matched anyone in the FBI’s national database of convicts, offenders and arrestees.

It wasn’t until investigators came up with the idea to track their suspect through his family tree that they finally caught up with DeAngelo in 2018.

Police used crime scene DNA to search through genealogy sites, which have gained popularity in recent years, to track down the suspect’s relatives and ancestors.

That soon led them to DeAngelo.

From there, it was only a matter of time before they could confirm their suspicions.

“They did a surveillance and they waited for him to discard something into the public domain,” said Dr. Ruth Ballard, a forensic DNA consultant and Sacramento State professor. “Once they did that, they could then take that item — whether it was a cigarette butt or beer can he drank from or whatever — take it back to the lab and try to generate a profile from that.”

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