DNA that cracked 'Golden State Killer' case came from genealogy websites

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- According to officials, DNA from ancestry websites led to the arrest of the suspected "Golden State Killer," Joseph James DeAngelo. Officers surveilled DeAngelo for several days prior to his arrest.

VIDEO: What we know about suspected 'Golden State Killer'

EMBED More News Videos

After almost four decades of searching, the manhunt for one of California's most notorious criminals is over.

DeAngelo is accused of 45 rapes and 15 murders.

Authorities have said the DNA tied former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, to most of the 12 killings he is accused of committing between 1976 and 1986 as part of the Golden State Killer case.

Sacramento County District Attorney's officials confirmed the reports and told ABC7 News that their investigation is ongoing and they will not be giving further information on the DNA at this time.

Ancestry websites 23andMe and Ancestry.com released statements on the findings, saying mainly that they do not know if their services aided in the arrest of DeAngelo.

TIMELINE: A look back at the Golden State Killer's crime spree that lasted a decade

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said investigators surreptitiously obtained his DNA last week from discarded material that ended up matching DNA at crime scenes.

Full statement from 23andMe:

We have not received inquiries regarding this case. Broadly speaking it's our policy to resist any law enforcement inquiries with all legal and practical means at our disposal. We have had a handful of inquiries over the years, and have never given customer information to law enforcement officials.

We don't know how California police identified this person, but it wasn't through our database. We didn't work with law enforcement on this case, they didn't contact us.

Full statement from Ancestry.com:

Ancestry advocates for its members' privacy and will not share any information with law enforcement unless compelled to by valid legal process, such as a court order or search warrant. Additionally, we publish law enforcement requests in our transparency report annually. It's important to note that in all of 2015, 2016, and 2017 we received no valid legal requests for genetic information.

Police received thousands of tips over the years, but DeAngelo's name had not been on the radar of law enforcement before last week, Schubert said.

In other developments Thursday, police in Visalia said DeAngelo is a suspect in the 1975 killing of community college teacher Claude Snelling in the farming community about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Fresno.

If the link is confirmed, it would boost the number of victims to 13 in the serial killing case.

Visalia police Chief Jason Salazar said Snelling's death and the region's burglaries weren't part of the tally of crimes authorities released Wednesday in the serial killing case because investigators lacked DNA evidence on those crimes.

Salazar said fingerprints and shoe tracks will be eyed for matches to DeAngelo. Detectives are also looking to see if any items taken during the Visalia burglaries are uncovered during the investigation.

In addition, DeAngelo matches the description of Snelling's killer, Salazar said, and the attacker used sophisticated pry tools to gain entrance to locked homes, just as authorities say DeAngelo did in other crimes.

Farrel Ward, 75, served on the Exeter Police Department with DeAngelo. Ward called him a "black sheep," saying he was quiet and didn't fit in with other officers.

Ward said it's possible that DeAngelo helped with a search in a killing he's now suspected of committing. Ward doesn't recall DeAngelo directly working on the case but said it's possible he joined the hunt for the killer.

Ward said he thought DeAngelo was overqualified for the small-town job because he graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in criminal justice.

"He knew everything about everything, but he didn't have common sense about him," Ward said

Investigators searched DeAngelo's home on Thursday, looking for class rings, earrings, dishes and other items that were taken from crime scenes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.