The DNA technique that caught the Golden State Killer is more powerful than we thought

This April, police solved down a decades-old mystery — the identity of the Golden State Killer — with a previously unused DNA technique. Searching for a sample match in existing databases turned up nothing, but a search through a public DNA database located 10 to 15 possible distant relatives, which let police narrow down a suspect list and ultimately gave them the lead they needed.

It was a new technique at the time, but after the high-profile success, that technique has proved to be one of the most powerful new tools in forensics. In the months since, groups like Parabon Labs and the DNA Doe Project have identified at least 19 different cold case samples through this method, called familial DNA testing of public databases, providing…

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