The Golden State Killer investigation and the nascent field of forensic genealogy


      • Putative genetic analysis steps taken to identify suspect in Golden State Killer investigation discussed.
      • Initial and limited use of citizen science community-led genetic databases for criminal investigations reviewed.
      • Limitations of the reliability of such tests to identify members of distant kinships are assessed in the light of previous suspect hits and misses.
      • The contrasts between investigative intelligence and normal forensic identification through DNA profiling are highlighted.


      The likely genetic analysis steps taken to identify suspect Joseph DeAngelo in the recently resolved Golden State Killer investigation are discussed. The consequences for the forensic genetics community of introducing much more detailed SNP analysis regimes, as used by the Golden State Killer investigators, are reviewed along with some of the limitations in accuracy and sensitivity that may be involved in such approaches.


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      1. Phoenix Canal Killer genealogical analysis:

      2. 25th ISHI discussions on Y-STR lineage analysis:

      3. Growth and development of GEDmatch:

      4. GSKI misdirection in 2017 using Y-STRs to an unrelated man in Oregon and subsequent success with a high density SNP set:

      5. The misidentification of Michael Usry Jr. in the Angie Dodge murder investigation:

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        • McGuire A.L.
        • Golan D.
        • Halperin E.
        • Erlich Y.
        Identifying personal genomes by surname inference.
        Science. 2013; 339: 321-324
      6. Initial development of genetic genealogy:

        • Henn B.M.
        • Hon L.
        • Macpherson J.M.
        • Eriksson N.
        • Saxonov S.
        • Pe’er I.
        • Mountain J.L.
        Cryptic distant relatives are common in both isolated and cosmopolitan genetic samples.
        PLoS One. 2012; 7: e34267
      7. ‘Cruwys news’, the blog of genetic genealogist Debbie Kennett: ‘Your Genetic Genealogist’ the blog of genetic genealogist CeCe Moore: ‘DNAeXplained’, the blog of genetic genealogist Roberta Estes:

      8. Identification of murder victim “Buckskin Girl”, Marcia King:

      9. Identification of murder suspect William Earl Talbott:

      10. Storage and use of a duplicate rape kit in the GSKI:

      11. Swedish police consider accessing Swedish DTC data:

      12. E. Bruenisholz, A. Ross, S. Prakash, C.P. Roux, M. Morelato, T. Raymond, S. Walsh, T. O’Maley, The Intelligent Use of Forensic Data, Researchgate PDF at:

      13. Genealogical analysis proposed for Zodiac Killer DNA: