Former policeman Joseph James DeAngelo was charged this week with capital murder in the killing of Katie and Brian Maggiore. Otherwise known as the “Golden State Killer” or “Original Night Stalker,” authorities believe that DeAngelo is responsible for the murders of 12 people and raped around 50 women from Sacramento to Orange County, according to CNN. While the general public does not have all the facts regarding how, after 40 years, law enforcement came to arrest the suspect, we do know that DNA played a significant role.
In 1980, Bruce Harrington’s brother Keith and sister-in-law Patrice were slain by the Golden State Killer. At the time, DNA testing was not widely utilized or embraced by elected officials and rights groups, the article reports. Bruce Harrington went on a mission to make it easier for law enforcement to collect DNA and expand the collection database. Opponents questioned the constitutionality of allowing the state to conduct DNA test on suspects without evidence pointing to guilt. When DeAngelo was finally arrested, thanks to DNA, Harrington’s message to all against expanded the database was, “You were wrong.”
Prop. 69 or the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act,” was passed in 2004. The bill gives the state broader powers to collect and use of criminal offender DNA samples and palm print impressions. It allows law enforcement to collect samples from people who are arrested for felonies and in some situations misdemeanors. It turns out that the Golden State Killer cold cases were some of the reasons for Prop. 69.
“That case was a strong incentive to work on developing the California state database, which now has about 2 million profiles,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “All the time, we had this case in mind — eventually hoping to solve this case.”
DNA up until recently was a dead end for investigators until Paul Holes, a DNA expert, came up with a novel idea, The Washington Post reports. Holes used DNA from one crime scene and managed to match it to the killers great-great-great grandparents. Holes’ team made over 20 family trees containing thousands of relatives. One branch led investigators to a disgraced ex-cop living in the suburbs of Sacramento.
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