How The Search For The Golden State Killer Revolutionised DNA Profiling

DNA profiling wasn’t widely used by police until the late 80s. Before then, there weren’t even databases that could cross-link crimes and people who’ve been convicted.

Professor Dennis McNevin is a genealogy expert who has helped police catch some of the world’s most infamous serial killers. Genealogy is the study of family histories and lineages.

In this episode of Crime Insiders Forensics, Dennis explains how DNA databases are used to solve crimes, starting with the US detective who found the Golden State Killer:

Before DNA testing, it was extremely difficult for investigators to attribute and link crimes.

Across the state of California in the 70s and 80s, there were believed to be three criminals at large. They were nicknamed the East Area Rapist, the Visalia Ransacker, and the Original Night Stalker (Not to be confused with The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez).

It wasn’t until 2001 that DNA matching confirmed these three criminals were the same person, who was later coined The Golden State Killer.

The Golden State Killer committed at least 13 murders, 51 rapes, and 120 burglaries across California between 1974 and 1986.

“Just because the police knew that they were dealing with the same person doesn’t mean that they knew who that person was,” Dennis says.

So, how did they find him? Dennis explains how family tree websites, such as GEDmatch, played a role:

Delve into more episodes like these by downloading the free LiSTNR app, the home of crime podcasts.