As a criminal defense attorney, it’s my job to be on top of advances in technology that can be used in the courtroom. The collection of DNA via various genetic test kits like Ancestry and 23andMe has given law enforcement a new pool of DNA samples that they would likely not have access to, but according to the USA Today, in at least eight states, investigators are able to search law enforcement databases to identify likely relatives of suspected criminals.
Ancestry and 23andMe both claim that they won’t give up information without a warrant, but it appears that Florida-based GEDmatch does not require a warrant to give out ones personal information. The site states in its terms and policy statement that “users participating in this site should expect that their information will be shared with other users.”
Criminal Cases Solved By Ancestry DNA
Did you know the Golden State Killer case was solved after DNA found was found at crime scenes that checked against genetic profiles matching Joseph James DeAngelo from genealogical websites? The same type of DNA testing also led to the arrest of Lonnie Franklin Jr. in the Los Angeles “Grim Sleeper” serial killings from 1985 to 2007. It was even used in discovering who was responsible for the killing of the ex-wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley after several decades of the case being cold.
One Florida man, John Hogan, used Ancestry to learn more about his family, but was shocked with investigators told him that by accessing his DNA on GEDmatch, they were able to determine the existence of a cousin he had never met who was the suspect in a 2001 murder case where 25-year-old Christine Franke was shot in the head on her way home. The killer left semen on her body that 17 years later ran as a close enough match to be a relative of Hogan’s based on his DNA in GEDmatch’s system.
What To Do If You Are A Suspect In An Ancestry DNA Case
If you or someone you know may be the suspect of a crime due to a DNA match found through an ancestry website, contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney is one of the first steps you should be taking. Russell Spatz has over four decades of experience and can help guide you through this unexpected type of situation. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200.
May, Ashley. “Took an Ancestry DNA Test? You Might Be a ‘Genetic Informant’ Unleashing Secrets about Your Relatives.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 1 May 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/nation-now/2018/04/27/ancestry-genealogy-dna-test-privacy-golden-state-killer/557263002/.
Perez, Nicole, and Andrea Torres. “Ancestry Customer Says He Is Glad His DNA on GEDmatch Led to Unknown Cousin’s Arrest for Murder.” WPLG, 15 Aug. 2019, https://www.local10.com/news/crime/ancestry-customer-says-he-is-glad-his-dna-on-gedmatch-led-to-unknown-cousin-s-arrest-for-murder.