Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said the arrest of Grim Sleeper serial murder suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. "will change the way policing is done in the United States." And ABC Nightline correspondent David Write declared Monday night that "for the first time ever in this country the DNA sample that first led police led to his doorstop wasn't his" own.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown appeared on the program and hailed the pioneering use of "familial DNA" in the case to catch the suspect through a match between his brother's genetic code and evidence in the 11-murder case. However, there was another high-profile serial murder suspect arrested based on familial DNA: Wichita, Kansas' "BTK Killer."
Only California and Colorado allow searches of state felon databases for familial DNA matches, but BTK was taken down when authorities already suspected him and wanted genetic evidence to prove their case: They zeroed in on his sister in 2005. NPR:
The team learned that Rader's daughter had recently been in the hospital for a pap smear. Under a judge's order, the hospital gave investigators a sample of the daughter's DNA. In 24 hours, the results came back. It was a familial match. That's all police needed to pick up Dennis Rader.
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In San Francisco Tuesday the federal Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals is hearing the ACLU's challenge of the state law, passed by voters in 2004 as Prop. 69, that requires convicted felons to submit to DNA testing for the California database.
Brown says the law has already led to the arrests of several violent criminals, including murderers.
"California is at the forefront of solving crimes through new and innovative uses of DNA technology, and I intend to do everything in my power to defend the state's ability to reduce crime by collecting DNA from those arrested for felonies," Brown said. "So far, DNA collected from arrestees has led to the identification of suspects in more than 970 rapes, murders and other very serious crimes."
California might be at the forefront, but Kansas appeared to be one of the first states to use familial DNA against a high-profile serial-murder suspect. BTK Killer Dennis Rader, by the way, was convicted of committing 10 murders and condemned to 10 life sentences.