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Genetic genealogy used to identify murder suspect

Police in California say that they used a technique known as genetic genealogy to link a 52-year-old Visalia man to a string of sexual assaults that took place in Tulare County between 1999 and 2002 and the rape and murder of a 22-year-old female college student in 1996. The man has been charged with eight felony accounts in connection with the sexual assaults and is being held without bail.

In a press briefing, the Visalia police chief praised detectives who continued to work on the case even after they retired. He told reporters that the man's DNA linked him to the crimes just before the 10-year statute of limitations was due to expire. However, he declined to reveal how detectives were able to obtain a sample of the man's DNA for comparison testing. Genetic genealogy is a process that uses genetic profiling to identify biological relatives of individuals who left traces of their DNA at crime scenes. The process was famously used to apprehend a man alleged to have committed more than a dozen murders in California between 1974 and 1986.

Prosecutors have yet to charge the man for the 1996 murder. The victim's body was found gagged and bound in her apartment by her father. Police say that their investigation into the man's alleged activities is ongoing and further victims could step forward.

The Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure apply to genetic material like DNA. When presented with facts like these, experienced criminal defense attorneys with experience in violent crime cases may scrutinize police reports to determine whether or not rights protected by the U.S. Constitution were violated. When police may have strayed beyond these boundaries to obtain DNA samples, attorneys could seek to have the evidence suppressed and the charges dismissed.

Source: NBC News, "California man arrested in string of sexual assaults now 'prime suspect' in 1996 murder", Minyvonne Burke, Oct. 5, 2019

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