He Just Took a DNA Test Turns Out He's 100% Related To That Suspect

They were all the rage when they first came out, but as time has gone on the allure has fizzled some. That's right- DNA tests. It's kind of fun to see where your roots lie and to discover new family members and many of the platforms have upgraded to show DNA health data as well. Really what that boils down to is metabolism or allergy related information in most cases. What is more interesting is the number of cold cases that have been closed due to voluntary DNA submissions. 

For example, the police in Fayetteville, N.C., had been trying to identify a serial rapist who was active between 2006 and 2008. It wasn't until 2018 that the police were able to identify and arrest a suspect. The serial rapist, nicknamed the "Ramsey Street Rapist", attacked his victims would be alone or in a small controllable group. He was also relatively careful not to show any markings or clear features and would wear hoodies and long non-form fitting clothing to conceal his features. Police followed protocol and uploaded the suspect's DNA into a national law enforcement database and  generated an image based on victim descriptions. Ultimately, the police were unable to identify him and the case went cold; that was until they decided to try genetic genealogy testing. It is great that the police tried genealogy testing because genealogy testing is what ultimately led to the arrest of Darold Bowden in connection with six cold-case rape investigations. Fayetteville police partnered with a company that offers a free service that checked for relatives of the unknown rapist, and used that to narrow down the pool of candidates and find a person of interest. To be clear, this company's service is free for everyone and if you do not want your DNA profile to be public you can take it down at any time.

This is not the only case where genetic genealogy testing was used to solve a cold case- the Golden State Killer was caught the same way. Joseph James DeAngelo, who authorities suspect is the so-called Golden State Killer responsible for at least a dozen murders, was arraigned in Sacramento, Calif., in 2018. Of course, the trail was caught in the same way- the DNA from crime scenes was uploaded to a public genetic genealogy service and a pool of relatives/close matches was generated. Then, the list was narrowed down to include only men who lived in the California area during the murders. From there all the police needed to do was get a positive DNA match.

Solving cold cases is great and all, but this begs the question- is this method to finding suspects legal? The answer is that there is a lot of grey area. There is no need for warrants or subpoenas for public resources, so if you do not want your DNA to be used in this way, do not submit samples. As of right now, there are no laws against the police working this way, but potentially the laws will change as technology, availability, and uses change.