Inspired by the success of California prosecutors with the technique, dozens of other law enforcement agencies soon began hiring genetic genealogists to apply it to decades-long murder and sexual assault cases. In rapid succession, police departments across the country made arrests in dozens of cases long considered to be insoluble, further fueling the excitement and encouraging agencies to create internal genetic genealogy units.
But as the technique has become increasingly common, genealogists, legal scholars, and some lawmakers have voiced concern that this revolutionary approach is violating the privacy of people who join DNA databases to learning about themselves, not to help the police arrest their relatives for violent crimes. . The fact that the approach remains largely unregulated, even as police have begun to apply the technique to increasingly minor crimes, such as theft, has only fueled criticism.
The crimes associated with the man who would become known as the Golden State Killer began in the mid-1970s, and in 1977, after a series of horrific rapes of women in their homes in Sacramento County, he was nicknamed the rapist from the east area. The community organized public forums to discuss cases that seemed to be occurring once a month.
“Fear in the community was like something I’ve never seen before,” Carol Daly, a former Sacramento sheriff’s detective, told the New York Times in 2018 after Mr. DeAngelo was arrested. “People were scared wherever they went.”
DeAngelo, who was working as a police officer at the time, soon went from rape to murder, killing a married couple, Brian and Katie Maggiore, while walking their dog in the city of Rancho Cordova in 1978.
But in 1986, the crime wave suddenly stopped, leading to decades of speculation. Had the murderer died? Had you moved to another state? It turns out that he settled in a quiet life in the Sacramento suburbs, working at a Save Mart grocery store in Roseville, where he was finally captured in 2018.
As part of the plea agreement, Mr. DeAngelo will avoid the death penalty, a decision that has produced mixed feelings among some victims and their families, who are eager to close this chapter but also want to see a man who terrorized so many forced to confront the accusations.