image

Crime

’Golden State Killer’ suspect is on suicide watch and mumbling to himself in a psychiatric ward, police say

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, believed responsible for a series of brutal rapes and murders in California in the 1970s and ’80s, has said little since his arrest on Tuesday

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 4:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 5:24am

Joseph James DeAngelo — who is believed to be the “Golden State Killer”, one of California’s most elusive serial killers — is on suicide watch and talking to himself, the Sacramento County sheriff said on Friday.

Sheriff Scott Jones said that DeAngelo, 72, was in a psychiatric ward of the county jail and has said little since his arrest on Tuesday - but that he had appeared to be in a mood of “quiet reflection” and was mumbling to himself.

Genealogy websites led police to suspected ‘Golden State Killer’

Jones said that investigators are sifting through every item, receipt and piece of paper from DeAngelo’s home for any possible clues to tie him to more than 170 crimes that authorities believe he may have committed.

The Golden State Killer is the name given to the individual believed responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen people and rapes of 50 women from 1976 to 1986. Jones declined to discuss the DNA method used to identify DeAngelo as the suspect.

Also on Friday, GEDmarch, the genealogical website that police used to track DeAngelo down, said it had no idea its service had been used in the hunt.

It said in a statement on Friday it was never contacted by law enforcement officials or anyone else about the case or the DNA profile that was used.

How private is your DNA on ancestry websites? Questions emerge after ‘Golden State Killer’ arrest

Although major companies, such as 23andMe and Ancestry, require law enforcement agencies to get court orders to access their genetic data, GEDmatch - which pools DNA profiles from those sites - does not.

The site allows people to upload their genetic information, gleaned from companies such as Ancestry, so that it can be quickly compared with that of others who may have used another genealogy service.

GEDmatch said it has always informed users that its databases can be used for purposes other than genealogical research.

Lead investigator Paul Holes told the Mercury News that the free site was essential to the case. 

Privacy concerns are now being raised over investigators’ use of the site. But Steve Mercer of the Maryland public defender’s office said that there aren’t strong privacy laws to keep police from trolling such databases.

Mercer says that right now, people who submit DNA to be tested to find their ancestors can unwittingly become “genetic informants” on family members.