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Genealogy site credited with helping ID Golden State Killer suspect

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA – APRIL 25: A Sacramento County sheriff deputy stands guard in front of the home of accused rapist and killer Joseph James DeAngelo on April 24, 2018 in Citrus Heights, California.

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Law enforcement officials were finally able to track down the man they believe to be the Golden State Killer after linking DNA evidence collected from the murder scenes to genetic information stored on a consumer genealogical website, authorities said Thursday. From 1978 to 1986, the Golden State Killer murdered a dozen people and raped dozens more in attacks that stretched hundreds of miles from Sacramento to Southern California. But authorities knew little about the killer, beyond a string of DNA recorded in several of the cases.

After struggling for years to identify who the DNA came from, investigators got their big break came when they tapped genealogical databases commonly used by consumers to search for relatives and ancestors, authorities told the Los Angeles Times. Information available on the sites dramatically narrowed the scope of their search, law enforcement officials told the newspaper. After investigating several families listed in the databases, investigators were able to focus on a pool of about 100 men who fit the age profile of the killer, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A law enforcement official declined to identify the site used or provide details about exactly how the match was made. Popular DNA sites Ancestry.com, 23andme and MyHeritage all denied involvement in the investigation. The investigation eventually led authorities on Tuesday to arrest Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer living in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento.

Authorities say the Golden State Killer slipped in through backdoors and windows at night, raping at least 46 women in Northern California before turning to murder and moving down the coast.

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