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How Suspect's Car Door Handle Hurt Him in Golden State Killer Case

Detectives retrieved pivotal DNA clue in Hobby Lobby parking lot
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2018 11:00 AM CDT
Joseph James DeAngelo stands in a Sacramento, Calif., jail court on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, as a judge weighed how much information to release about the arrest of the former police officer accused of being...   (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – After four decades of hunting for the Golden State Killer, a pivotal piece of evidence that may have sealed the case was DNA evidence secretly lifted from the suspect’s car door at a Hobby Lobby parking lot in Roseville, Calif., reports the Los Angeles Times. Newly released court documents paint a picture of how detectives linked alleged rapist and serial killer Joseph DeAngelo to rapes and murders in California by matching DNA found at the crime scenes to DNA taken from the suspect. DeAngelo, 72, is a former police officer suspected of committing at least a dozen murders and dozens of rapes in the 1970s and 80s. The 123 pages of court documents detail how detectives built their case by entering DNA found at one of the crime scenes into genealogy websites. From there they were able to identify relatives of the suspect. After they narrowed their list by age and location, they had their suspect.

The DNA from the suspect's car door was just one piece of a massive jigsaw puzzle that detectives assembled, CNN notes. The documents detail how detectives watched the suspect’s home in Citrus Heights, Calif., for three days. The day before DeAngelo's arrest on April 24, they sifted through a trash can outside his home in hopes of finding DNA samples, but only one piece of tissue had enough DNA for testing. According to the Washington Post, DNA from the tissue matched DNA from the 1980 rape and murder of Charlene Smith, a Ventura County interior decorator, and other homicides attributed to the Golden State Killer. Several victims have been attending court hearings on the case in Sacramento—one, who said she was raped by the suspect, told the Times that she is attending DeAngelo’s court appearances to "drill holes in the back of his head." (Read more Golden State Killer stories.)

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