The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office had announced on Thursday that a genealogical website was used without specifying which database. Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi told the Sacramento Bee the same day that, prior to the big find, officials were plugging the Golden State Killer's DNA, collected from one of the crime scenes, into several genealogy websites to find potential relatives that could help narrow their search.
Paul Holes, a retired investigator with the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office, confirmed to the Sacramento Bee on Friday that GEDmatch was the winning match that led to DeAngelo.
DeAngelo became the primary suspect after police noted that he lived in some of the areas where the crimes took place and fit the the killer's age range.
GEDmatch, a third-party database, allows people to upload their genetic information from Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA and 23andMe to the site in hopes of finding long-lost relatives. The site contains the DNA of some 800,000 people. This wasn't the first time investigators had tried to use genealogy websites to track the killer — AP reported Friday afternoon that similar websites in 2017 led police to a suspect they ultimately concluded was not their man.
In response to the reveal, GEDmatch co-founder Curtis Roger released a statement on Friday confirming that the site had been used by officials to track down the killer, who is also known as the East Area Rapist and the Visalia Ransacker.
"We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the Golden State Killer," Roger said. "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."
"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," he added.
The statement went on to tell its users that "if you require absolute security, please do not upload your data to GEDmatch. If you have already uploaded it, please delete it."
"While the results presented on this site are intended solely for genealogical research, we are unable to guarantee that users will not find other uses."
Rogers also told the Associated Press that the search "was done without our knowledge."
"It's been overwhelming," he stressed.
DeAngelo, who is a veteran of the US Navy and former officer with the Auburn Police Department, was arrested Tuesday and has been charged with eight murders that spanned from 1974 to 1986. Additional charges are expected, since the Golden State Killer wreaked havoc in several California counties.
According to reports, two of the murders and the majority of the sex assaults took place during the three years DeAngelo served as a police officer in the state.
DeAngelo was wheeled into court on Friday to enter a plea, though he did not do so. Another court hearing has been scheduled for May 14, USA Today reported. The 72-year-old is being held in the psychiatric ward of the Sacramento County Jail.