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DNA from genealogy sites led to break in Golden State Killer case, DA says

SACRAMENTO – The man suspected of being the Golden State Killer was arrested after investigators compared DNA collected from crime scenes to genetic information on genealogy websites, according to a spokeswoman with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

The DNA matched a relative of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, investigators said. From there, investigators zeroed in on DeAngelo, who lived on a quiet street in Citrus Heights.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said Wednesday that detectives were ultimately able to match the DNA with a sample he “discarded,” but Jones would not go into detail about what that sample was.

The Sacramento Bee was the first media outlet to report that the DNA from genealogy websites was used to track down DeAngelo, confirming the information with the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office.

Chief Deputy DA Steve Grippi told the newspaper that investigators used DNA obtained from one of the crime scenes and compared it to genetic profiles available online through genealogical websites in which people submit samples in an effort to learn more about their ancestors.

Many such websites exist, and it was not immediately clear which sites or how many were utilized.

It took investigators a long period of time to piece together the clues, as they first matched samples collected from the Golden State Killer's crimes to DNA from various online family trees, Grippi told the Bee. From there, they narrowed it down, following clues to individuals to see if it led to any potential suspects in the decades-old case.

The meticulous investigation finally appeared to pay off last Thursday, when they identified DeAngelo as a possible suspect, Grippi said. DeAngelo fell into the right age range and had resided in the areas where the crimes took place, Grippi told the Bee.

After DNA results from original crime scene samples positively matched DeAngelo, authorities gathered a second one to bolster their case. By Monday evening, after the results came back, officials were preparing to make an arrest, according to the Bee.

In a brief emailed statement, Grippi confirmed the Bee's reporting to a number of outlets, but declined to provide further details.

"We can confirm that what Sam Stanton from the Bee reported today is accurate. It's an ongoing investigation.  We have given you as much information as we can at this time.  No further information on this subject will be provided," Grippi said in the statement sent out by the DA's office.

DeAngelo was arrested outside his home on Tuesday afternoon, but it wasn't formally announced until the following day. KTXL first reported the arrest on Tuesday night of the man believed to be the serial rapist and murder known over the years as the Golden State Killer, East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, Visalia Ransacker and Diamond Knot Killer.

DeAngelo is alleged to have slain 12 people and committed at least 50 rapes in 10 counties across Northern and Southern California between 1976 and 1986.

Some of the crimes occurred while DeAngelo worked as an officer in the Auburn Police Department. He was fired from that job in 1979 after shoplifting from a Sacramento drugstore, according to authorities.

DeAngelo has been charged in connection with several killings and rapes in several counties, including Sacramento, Orange and Ventura.

He is expected to make his first court appearance in Sacramento Friday.