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Tracing A Crime Suspect Through A Relative

Publication Date: 
November 25, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Maura Dolan and Jason Felch

Professor Henry T. "Hank" Greely is quoted in a Los Angeles Times article that weighs the pros and cons of familial DNA testing to trace a potential crime suspect:

Over nearly two decades, a serial killer has shot and strangled at least 11 people, often dumping their battered bodies in alleyways of Inglewood and Los Angeles.

Most were black women or girls, the youngest just 14. The latest was found last year, shrouded in a garbage bag.

Police have determined through DNA and other evidence that the killings were the work of a single person. But the DNA does not match any of the millions of genetic profiles of convicted criminals in law enforcement databases, and detectives have few other clues.

Now Los Angeles Police Department investigators want to search the state's DNA database again -- not for exact matches but for any profiles similar enough to belong to a parent or sibling.


"There is kind of a queasiness about having the sins of your father come back to haunt you," said Stanford University law professor Hank Greely, who supports familial searching despite those concerns. "It feels like we're holding people responsible for the crimes of their family."