Genealogy sites could be newest way police solve crimes

True Crime

Editor’s note: This story originally aired April 28, 2018 on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.


MYSTERY WIRE — The suspected Golden State Killer made his first court appearance in Sacramento Friday morning.  Joseph James Deangelo was arraigned on capital murder charges.

Investigators believe the 72-year-old retired mechanic may be behind ten additional murders, along with more than 50 sexual assaults over the years.

Deangelo was arrested earlier this week after investigators tracked him down using genealogy websites.

Now, genealogy sites and its DNA test capabilities to not only find long lost family, but it may also lead to catching criminals.

Here’s how it works: When a person takes an at-home DNA test…it could lead to more than just a long lost family member. 

DNA has fueled crime investigations for decades, but it continues to evolve more and more every day.

A local genetic expert weighed in on the future of crime solving at home and around the country.

Remember Paul Fronczak?

“I don’t know how old I am, or who I am, or what nationality, all those things you just take for granted,” said Paul John Fronczak.

Fronczak is the local man who made international news a few years ago.  The 8 News Now I-Team broke the story of his search to find his biological family. 

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“The FBI decided that because my ears matched the Fronczak baby that I was probably the Fronczak baby,” he said. 

The investigation started after Fronczak, and his parents used an at-home DNA kit to determine his genetic history.

Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore says the database for these tests is completely different these days. 

“What has changed is participation in genetic genealogy,” Moore said.  “So the growth of the databases is what’s making a huge difference.” 

That growth led Sacramento Police to the notorious Golden State serial killer this week.

Moore tells me investigators are now connecting with criminals with public genealogy sites.

“Law enforcement might be using your data to identify serial killers, or murderers, rapists, and any other of types of criminals,” Moore said. 

As the practice gains popularity, according to Moore, it might discourage some people from participating.  Moore also calls it an essential tool for any local agency.

“You very well may be able to get some important clues and hints that would lead you in the right direction,” Moore said. 

All while it helps communities find family connections.

“We have seen so many people enhance their circle of love and support with new family members they didn’t know about,” said Moore.

Moore stressed the information law enforcement used to crack the Golden State killer was not taken from a private commercial site, but from a public database.

She says if you don’t want police using your biological information, don’t submit your DNA online. 

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