Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. Listens to victim influence statements in ~ the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento county Courthouse.
The dramatic arrest in 2018 that Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. Was every the much more astounding due to the fact that of how detectives claimed they caught the elusive golden State Killer — by harnessing genetic modern technology already in use by millions of consumers to map their family members trees.

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But the DNA-matching initiative that captured one the America’s most infamous serial killers was an ext extensive than formerly disclosed and involved covert searches of exclusive DNA housed by two for-profit companies in spite of privacy policies, according to interviews and also court exploration records accessed by The Times.

The revelations are most likely to heighten debate around genetic privacy and the self-policing models of trial and error companies, and law enforcement access.


The original version of events omitted not only the authorized of personal databases but also the accessibility to sensitive information the companies had told users law enforcement might see only if “required” or presented with a “lawful request.”

One prosecutor described the public expertise of DeAngelo’s arrest as a “false impression,” according to a letter the prosecutor wrote to the FBI.

Investigators and prosecutors said the examination relied on hereditary information world voluntarily do public, despite with small reason to doubt it can incriminate members of their families in crimes. The actual examination was wider and more invasive, performed without a warrant, and also appeared to hurt the privacy plan of at the very least one DNA company.


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When DeAngelo to be arrested, prosecutors would certainly say only that they had used family tree searches to find relatives of the killer and, indigenous there, figured out DeAngelo. Quickly after, a detective confirmed the investigative team had uploaded semen indigenous a rape kit to develop a new DNA profile the was climate uploaded to GEDmatch, one open-source platform commonly used by members of the general public to map their heritage.

What prosecutors did not disclose is that hereditary material from the rape kit was first sent come FamilyTreeDNA, which created a DNA file and allowed law enforcement to collection up a fake account to find for equivalent customers. Once that developed only distant leads, a civilian geneticist working v investigators uploaded the forensic file to MyHeritage. It was the MyHeritage find that determined the close loved one who helped break the case.


Both companies denied involvement in ~ the time.

But in late 2019, FamilyTreeDNA’s chief executive acknowledged providing the FBI access in 2017 without understanding the case being investigated. He stated he go not think it violated the company’s regards to service, i m sorry warned the it “may be required” to release an individual information in solution to a “lawful inquiry by public authorities.”

Those terms to be later readjusted to alert customers that regulation enforcement had accessibility to the database.


Photos of Katie Maggiore and Brian Maggiore room projected onto a screen as Katie’s brothers Ken blacksmith speaks in front of Joseph James DeAngelo during the third day that victim affect statements in ~ the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento ar Courthouse.
(Santiago Mejia / mountain Francisco Chronicle)
MyHeritage’s privacy policy at the time proclaimed that personal information “would only be exit if forced by law.” A corporate executive said the policy “did no explicitly” address such unmatched police access. “It is possible that the civilian geneticist assumed she was no violating our terms of service,” claimed Aaron Godfrey, vice chairman of marketing.

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Nevertheless, the find was not sanctioned, and MyHeritage has due to the fact that revised its plans to do it clear that “such investigations are prohibited,” Godfrey said.

Not disclosing the private consumer data were supplied in the examination “perpetuates a cheat impression of every the methods implemented to determine Joseph DeAngelo,” Cheryl Temple, chief assistant ar attorney because that Ventura County, wrote in a January 2019 letter to the FBI. Also DeAngelo’s defense lawyers stood come be kept in the dark around how he to be identified, she wrote.

In one interview last week, Temple claimed she to be confident the the case against DeAngelo — that pleaded guilty to 26 counts of murder and also kidnapping and also admitted to violent crimes against 61 other human being — was taken on ethically and also properly. The worry she raised with the FBI dealt rather with the require for transparency heading right into trial.

“I have actually no worry whatsoever about the legality of anything the was excellent in the case,” temple said. “I nothing think everyone has any kind of question whatsoever about how the case was solved.”