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Biotechnology

Another arrest shows why no one can hide from the genetic detectives

For the second time this year, investigators used a public DNA database to solve a cold case and find a murderer.

The bust: A 55-year-old truck driver, William Talbott, was arrested today in Washington State after being fingered in a 30-year-old double murder.

How they found him: According to Buzzfeed, investigators located Talbott’s family members after uploading old crime-scene DNA to GEDMatch, a crowdsourced database that genealogists use to compare DNA and build family trees.

That’s the same database used in April to locate the Golden State Killer.

Nowhere to hide: DNA databases are now so large that nearly everyone has a relative who has joined one.

More to come: Expect more big cases to break soon. A Virginia-based company called Parabon Nanolabs, which helped with the Washington murders, says it has DNA from 100 crime scenes and expects half the cases to be solved using relative matching. In May, after the Golden State Killer news was released, the company began touting “genetic genealogy services for law enforcement.” 

 

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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