SACRAMENTO, CA — The body count of victims murdered by the alleged Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, could continue to rise as authorities reinvestigate cold cases to see if DeAngelo can be linked to them.
DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former policeman, was arrested in April and is the suspect in a dozen murders, more than 45 rapes, and over 100 burglaries around the state of California during the 1970s and 1980s. And police have publicly said that there may be even more victims out there whose cases are still unsolved.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office has agreed to review the conviction of William Evins, who died in prison, in the killing of a 28-year-old woman in 1979. Annee Della Donna, who runs the pro bono organization Innocence Rights of Orange County, said she found similarities in the now-deceased Evins’ case with the Golden State Killer murders.
Following DeAngelo’s arrest, police across the country have been using the technology that links genetic profiles from crime scene DNA with family trees on a public genealogy website in an attempt to crack cold cases. At least five cold cases — some of which dated back 25 years — have been solved using the new approach. They include the 49-year-old disc jockey in Pennsylvania who was arrested for the 1992 murder of a Lancaster school teacher; the truck driver who was arrested for the 1987 murder of a young couple; and the man in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who confessed to the 1988 rape and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley.
Relatives of other victims, including the parents of 14-year-old Jenny Lin, who was stabbed to death at her California home in 1994, have asked police to use their technology in their cases. Experts have stated that they believe that the new DNA technology could help crack notorious cases, including the hunt for the Zodiac Killer. The technique has been hugely successful, but some companies are raising privacy concerns. Top genetic-testing companies recently announced that they have adopted a mutual set of guidelines to better protect the privacy of users who submit their DNA for testing.
Ancestry, 23andMe, Habit, Helix, and MyHeritage have all signed on to the policy drafted with the help of The Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit in support of “advancing responsible data practices in support of emerging technologies,” according to Gizmodo.
Privacy Best Practices for Consumer Genetic Testing Services explains scenarios in which users’ personally identifiable and anonymous genetic information might be shared with law enforcement and other third parties, and calls on businesses to require separate consent from users before sharing information. The guidelines also call for businesses to provide more information about the number of requests for data that they receive — and provide to — law enforcement.
DeAngelo was taken into custody after decades-old DNA from a crime scene matched DNA that had been submitted by a relative of his to a site used by geneologists called GEDmatch.
“I don’t think the average consumer has wrapped their head around the range of issues they should think about when they make a decision to share [DNA] data,” The Future of Privacy Forum CEO Jules Polonetsky told the Washington Post.
The number of requests that companies receive and comply with varies widely. Ancestry told Gizmodo that police made 34 valid law-enforcement requests in 2017, and that Ancestry provided information in 31 of those cases, while 23andMe reported that it has received five requests from law enforcement in 2018 and has not yet not shared information related to those requests.
For more on this case, watch The Golden State Killer Caught: People Magazine Investigates on Saturday, August 4 at 6/5c on Investigation Discovery!
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Main photo: Joseph DeAngelo [Sacramento Sheriff’s Office]