How DNA Profiling & Genealogy Caught a Killer

Capture of the Golden State Killer — Joseph James DeAngelo, Jr.

Tara Rose

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Photo by Ye Jinghan on Unsplash

If you’re a true crime junkie, you’ve heard the news. The Visalia Ransacker, The Original Nightstalker, the East Area Rapist — a messy package all rolled up into one, the Golden State Killer — a moniker that deceased author Michelle McNamara coined for a serial killer whose reign of terror spanned decades, has been caught! The Golden State Killer can be attributed to twelve murders, forty-five rapes and the ransacking of more than one hundred homes in the state of California from 1974 to 1986. For years, this brutal rapist and murderer went about his life without authorities being able to put a name to a face. Now, the spotlight is on Joseph James DeAngelo, Jr — his DNA having been matched to a slew of rapes and murders attributed to the Golden State Killer.

How did one of the most infamous serial killer’s get caught? Amongst other things, the slow molasses of DNA technology and monetary funds finally caught up with him and the brilliant criminologists in Contra Costa County were finally able to produce a DNA match.

What exactly is DNA profiling? Here is a brief history for all you buffs out there; as well as a layman’s guide. Michelle McNamara wrote extensively on the subject for I’ll Be Gone in the Dark as she believed that figuring out the DNA profile was the key. She was right.

Considered to be the father of DNA profiling and genetic fingerprinting, Alec Jeffreys changed the forensic science and criminal justice landscape forever in 1984 when he discovered a way to differentiate between individuals DNA. What a eureka moment in the world of crime solving!

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

In the early 1990’s, in Orange County, California, the crime lab began incorporating DNA testing into their investigations. Unfortunately, the process of utilizing this new technology was extremely slow. It would take roughly four weeks for a criminalist to work one case!

The DNA Identification Act of 1994 established the FBI’s authority to maintain a national database which we know today as…

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Tara Rose

Life-long learner, reader of all things. Writing about what interests me and sharing it with you. https://taramrose.medium.com/subscribe