Your DNA could be used in a criminal investigation without you even knowing it.
Police and private companies are now using genealogy websites to track down killers and rapists.
The Golden State killer in California was tracked down through his ancestors. Very few states have rules against using such information. Similar investigative techniques would be perfectly legal in Missouri and Kansas, too. It’s unclear how widely those techniques are currently being used or if it’s a glimpse into the future.
Parabon Labs is a private company that works with police departments. They currently have technology that allows them to take a miniscule sample of DNA and create a “mug shot.” The program is called Snapshot.
“We only need one nanogram of DNA. It’s 1/30th of what you would get from taking a sip of a bottle of water and swabbing that bottle,” said Dr. Ellen Greytak with Parabon Labs.
Snapshots help investigators focus and investigation by providing an image of what the suspect looks like. DNA doesn’t reveal age. So, all suspects are imagined at 25 years old unless investigators have other information.
Snapshots are already being used by local departments. One DNA composite was so accurate, the suspect simply turned himself in when his image was released.
Parabon Labs says they will also offer genealogy services similar to what was used in the Golden State Killer case. Their technology can make a match with a sixth-degree relative and possibly someone who is a ninth-degree relative.
One of the first know applications of familial DNA in an investigation was in Kansas in 2005. Police zeroed in on Dennis Rader, a serial killer known as BTK, through a floppy disk he sent from a church computer. But, they needed physical proof to connect him to the case.
Investigators seized his daughter’s pap smear from her a college campus student clinic. That pap smear showed a familial DNA link between Kerri Rawson and evidence from crime scenes.
Police then arrested Rader.
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