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serial killer caught with help from genealogy DNA database

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  • serial killer caught with help from genealogy DNA database

    I thought some of you might enjoy this story about how investigators used a genealogy DNA database to help catch a serial killer in California! It would be really interesting to know how exactly how they used the criminal evidence and databases but I am sure they cannot release that type of information.

    http://ocregister.ca.newsmemory.com/

  • #2
    Originally posted by Epiphyte View Post
    I thought some of you might enjoy this story about how investigators used a genealogy DNA database to help catch a serial killer in California! It would be really interesting to know how exactly how they used the criminal evidence and databases but I am sure they cannot release that type of information.

    http://ocregister.ca.newsmemory.com/
    I am very glad that he was caught, but the DNA services need to tighten up their legal stuff. He probably did not test, but his relatives did, so there is no direct legal issue. Just in case, clarification is needed.

    Comment


    • #3
      GEDmatch currently has this MOTD:
      ---
      April 27, 2108 We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the Golden State Killer. Although we were not approached by law enforcement or anyone else about this case or about the DNA, it has always been GEDmatch�s policy to inform users that the database could be used for other uses, as set forth in the Site Policy ( linked to the login page and https://www.gedmatch.com/policy.php). While the database was created for genealogical research, it is important that GEDmatch participants understand the possible uses of their DNA, including identification of relatives that have committed crimes or were victims of crimes. If you are concerned about non-genealogical uses of your DNA, you should not upload your DNA to the database and/or you should remove DNA that has already been uploaded.To delete your registration contact [email protected]

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      • #4
        The news stories are written by reporters who know very little or nothing about DNA.

        GEDmatch was used as the DNA database.

        The two missing pieces of information are:

        The name of the lab that sequenced the DNA and produced the raw data file uploaded to GEDmatch.

        The name of the professional genealogist that worked out the family tree.

        As we all know a DNA match does you no good without connecting it to a family tree.

        Another issue is probability of a false match for distant cousins.

        And there is a legal issue. Are law enforcement agencies allowed to search anywhere they want to without a court order?

        I can see new laws being created about LEA using DNA databases.

        Comment


        • #5
          Does anyone know the approximate size of the GEDmatch database?

          Someone was very creative to come up with the idea of using GEDmatch to try to catch a criminal.
          Last edited by Biblioteque; 27 April 2018, 04:07 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            The reporting of this case, and GEDmatch's part in solving it, is stimulating a great deal of discussion in at least the "Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques" Facebook group, for which the administrator is Blaine Bettinger. It is undoubtedly being discussed in other groups, as well.

            Some in the GGT&T group have said that they are deleting the kits in their accounts; some are making kits into research kits until they can ask the relatives if they are comfortable with situations such as this one; others are saying the equivalent of "I have nothing to hide, and am happy to be on there if it helps catch bad guys, even if it is a relative of mine." Yet others are warning of a slippery slope (or at least unforeseen consequences).

            A New York Times science reporter has even posted in that group (Heather Tal Murphy, self-identified). She is finding the comments fascinating, and has asked two questions:
            1. Wondering if recent developments spurred anyone to leave GEDmatch or make your account private. If so, interested in your thinking. You can also email me at [email protected].
            2. Why is GEDmatch special for those who use it?
            I suppose we may see a story in the NYT very soon about GEDmatch users' reactions.

            This use of DNA databases to catch a killer has an impact on all who have uploaded their relatives' files to GEDmatch, even if (as they should) they originally had the relatives' permission to upload. Such relatives may now be asking why they didn't know this kind of use of the database could happen; others will refuse to give permission.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Biblioteque View Post
              Does anyone know the approximate size of the GEDmatch database?
              900,000 according to an academic from Cornell University (see http://genealogyalacarte.ca/?p=23172 ). It's unclear whether the 900,000 are kits or individuals.

              This link was posted in the facebook group that KATM mentioned. (It's a closed group; you have to request to join it.)

              Comment


              • #8
                This is what Ancestry has on their website (privacy > transparency report):

                "Ancestry requires valid legal process in order to produce information about our members."

                "Ancestry received 34 valid law enforcement requests for user information in 2017. We provided information in response to 31 of those 34 requests.
                All the requests were related to investigations involving credit card misuse and identity theft.
                We refused numerous inquiries on the basis that the requestor failed to obtain the appropriate legal process.
                We received no requests for information related to genetic information of any Ancestry member, and we did not disclose any such information to law enforcement."

                They also have specific instructions for law enforcement, for example how to request member information in an emergency situation.

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                • #9
                  Who really has any issue with this? If I have genetic relatives who have committed serious crimes or cousins whose remains have been unidentified, I'm more than happy to provide my DNA to help solve the mystery.

                  I had actually been thinking of this kind of use for a few years. I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one thinking of this. I hope to read more stories like this.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't understand the panic. The report made it clear that they only used Gedmatch to arrive at clues to the perp's identity--confirmation had to be done by direct sampling of the suspect. It's not like they're going to try to convict the guy based on a Gedmatch profile. In court, this use of DNA will be subject to the same lab and chain of custody protocols that have been used since the technology was invented.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Who is to Blame

                      Originally posted by Epiphyte View Post
                      I thought some of you might enjoy this story about how investigators used a genealogy DNA database to help catch a serial killer in California! It would be really interesting to know how exactly how they used the criminal evidence and databases but I am sure they cannot release that type of information.
                      If the killer hadn't done the crime law enforcement wouldn't have been searching for him. If he hadn't left enough DNA at the crime scenes to provide autosomal results a match would not have been found. If some of his relatives hadn't uploaded their autosomal DNA to GEDmatch a match would not have been found. I think we have no one to blame other than the killer.

                      I wonder how the families of his victims feel. Are they blaming GEDmatch?

                      As long as GEDmatch is there my autosomal results will be there!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Moi aussi! And I think many others agree with us.
                        Last edited by Biblioteque; 28 April 2018, 09:42 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          From my reading about this case, Gedmatch database first led them to a very sick man whose daughter was not informed that they were taking a dna sample from him. His dna proved him not to be the rapist/killer. The daughter subsequently cooperated & used her genealogical knowledge & public tree to help them find a better suspect who did match.

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                          • #14
                            This thread is now firmly in the realm of speculation. I believe several different stories may have been conflated, and some important facts and legal procedures have been omitted. Please check your sources with all the care you would use for your own genealogy.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I understand the panic...

                              because the fear of results being misinterpreted by law-enforcement. No one wants to see innocents in prison, criminals roaming free, or bodies unidentified from war or other disasters. The benign uses of DNA will not stop an enterprising civil liberties attorney from getting their name on a landmark case.

                              We know that law-enforcement does not always get it right, so the possibility that someone will suffer from such a mistake is unacceptable. Those of us who are trying to expand our DNA Projects and voluntarily use FTDNA, Ancestry, GEDMatch and YSearch have to face that possibility.

                              Just like with the European GDPR, the optimism that this will not have a chilling effect on encouraging DNA testing, or that it will not cause a corporate "default" to hide previously public records, seems misplaced. All of the rights of "voluntary association" that our Constitution permits are not universally part of other cultures, and worst, the ripple effects of untested case law might put genetic genealogy in the position of the car industry when California passed laws that caused national auto standards to change, for bad or good: it is safer for corporations to err on the side of the lemmings than to risk lawsuits on likely unenforceable regulations with no precedence.

                              I would refer you to:
                              Matthew Shaer, "The False Promise of DNA Testing,", The Atlantic (June 16, 2016), (unpaged online) (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...-doubt/480747/ : accessed Jan 26 2017)
                              Last edited by clintonslayton76; 29 April 2018, 05:32 PM. Reason: addition

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