Over nearly two decades, a serial killer has shot and strangled at least 11 people, often dumping their battered bodies in Los Angeles-area alleyways, says the Los Angeles Times. Most were black women or girls, the youngest just 14. Police 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; detectives have few other clues.
Police 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. The hope is that one of those family members might lead detectives to the killer. This strategy, pioneered in Britain, is poised to become an important crime-fighting tool in the United States. The Los Angeles case will mark the first major use of California’s newly approved familial searching policy, the nation’s most far-reaching. The idea of scrutinizing families based exclusively on their possible genetic relationship to an unknown suspect makes privacy advocates and legal experts nervous. They argue that it effectively expands criminal databases to include every offender’s relatives, a potentially unconstitutional intrusion.