Sunday, 29 July 2018

Part 5 of the Golden State Killer

This is the fifth and final post on the Golden State Killer. This series of posts is dedicated to the memory of Michelle McNamara and to all of the victims of the Golden State Killer.

As you are no doubt aware, a suspect has been apprehended in the case. The arrest came too late for Michelle McNamara, who suffered an untimely death before she could learn of the news. Her book I'll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer was published posthumously. Before her death, however, through her tireless search for the killer, she kept the case in the public eye, and I believe she deserves much credit for this. It's also noteworthy that she speculated in her book that the Golden State Killer may have been a former police officer because of his seeming familiarity with law enforcement methods and his ability to elude capture for so many decades. The individual who was finally arrested this year was in fact a former police officer.

Michelle McNamara also speculated in her book that genealogical database searches would eventually lead to the arrest of the Golden State Killer. Although advances in DNA testing in the early 21st century enabled criminologists to determine that the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker were one and the same, there was no existing match in the massive FBI national DNA database, and therefore no arrest until 2018. It was through the use of an online genealogical website that law enforcement officials were able to identify a relative of the man who would subsequently be arrested as the Golden State Killer. For the steps taken to identify the suspected killer, please see the related Washington Post article.

The question now turns to the legal, ethical, and privacy-related concerns of such forensic use of genealogical databases. The debate on this subject is only just beginning. For a related article, please click here.

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