In today’s briefing, forensic specialist Paul Holes and former Sacramento County DA Anne Marie Schubert talk about new forensic techniques to solve cold cases – including the use of familial DNA to track down the Golden State Killer.Read Transcript
Dan: [00:00:03] In police stations across the country, officers start their shifts in The Briefing Room.
Dave: [00:00:09] It’s a place where law enforcement can speak openly and candidly about safety, training, policy, crime trends, and more.
Dan: [00:00:17] We think it’s time to invite you in.
Dave: [00:00:19] So, pull up a chair.
Dan and Dave: [00:00:20] Welcome to The Briefing Room.[The Briefing Room theme playing]
Dave: [00:00:36] Welcome to The Briefing Room. Today, we’re talking about the forensic side of law enforcement, evidence and crime scene investigation. First, let me introduce the team. We have Yeardley Smith. Good day, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:00:49] Good day, Dav. [laughs]
Dave: [00:00:51] And of course, my twin brother, Dan.
Dan: [00:00:54] Hello, team.
Dave: [00:00:55] And I’m pleased to introduce our two guests. We have the former District Attorney of Sacramento County in California, Anne Marie Schubert.
Anne: [00:01:04] Thank you for having me. It’s a big introduction.
Dave: [00:01:07] And we have a familiar face, familiar voice. Back for more, Paul Holes.
Paul: [00:01:14] Hey.
Dave: [00:01:15] So, the connection here is Paul and Anne Marie have worked a case or two together in the past. One, quite notable. Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer case. But both have extensive knowledge of DNA and evidence. And today, they’re going to talk to us about how genealogy has been used by law enforcement to solve previously unsolvable crimes. So, I’m just going to let you guys take it from there.
Paul: [00:01:42] Sure. Obviously, that genealogy tool has been revolutionary. But going back, way back, I got involved in the East Area Rapist case, which is the previous moniker that the case was referred to up in Northern California. Now everybody knows it as a Golden State Killer case. I got involved with it in 1994. As I was working my way through becoming a DNA analyst, I was starting to dig into the physical evidence on the East Area Rapist case that was happening out at the Bay Area back in 1978, 1979-time frame, and I ran across three sex kits that have been kept that had DNA from the offender, and was able to do DNA work. Then in 2001, that ultimately led to linking these unsolved series of rapes up in Northern California by these East Area Rapistto
an unsolved series of homicides down in Southern California by an offender that they called the original Night Stalker. So, it showed that this guy, this rapist in Northern California and this killer down in Southern California were one and the same. And now, we know him as the Golden State Killer.
Dave: [00:02:52] And you guys were getting some pushback from Southern California jurisdictions basically saying, “I don’t think your guy is our guy.”
Paul: [00:02:59] With one agency, yes. I ran into that pushback, but that detective actually pointed me to Irvine PD, who then pointed me to Orange County Sheriff’s Lab. And independently, they’re doing DNA work. Ultimately, that collaboration between myself and this, Mary Hong down at the Orange County Sheriff’s Lab created this link. This is when I get a phone call from Anne Marie. She was telling me how passionate she was about the East Area Rapist case. We may have interacted before then.
Anne: [00:03:34] I think we did.
Paul: [00:03:35] Yeah, because we both have a passion for cold cases. You had started your career out of Contra Costa County.
Anne: [00:03:43] I’m a baby lawyer prosecutor in 1990 in Contra Costa County, and then I lasted a few years there. They had that contract system there.
Paul: [00:03:52] You know what? You started the same year I started with the sheriff’s office.
Anne: [00:03:55] Well, you know what’s funny is as you sit here and say, “I first looked at this Golden State Killer in 1994,” that’s when I did my very first DNA case as a trial attorney, as a prosecutor in a neighboring county, it was rape, a very serious rape case. And so, I started doing more and more DNA, started teaching cold case stuff, and then I went to my office and said, “We should start a cold case unit and we should solve the East Area Rapist.” This is around 2000. At the time, we had no idea if we could even prosecute. We didn’t know he was a killer. We thought he was a rapist and we didn’t think the statute of limitations would have let us move forward. But I didn’t really– I don’t want to say I didn’t care. I cared enough, because I knew the impact on Sacramento.
[00:04:34] I grew up in Sacramento. I grew up in the Arden area, which is one of the areas that he was hitting and he terrified– He changed Sacramento forever. And anybody that lived there will tell you their own story. And so, that’s when I cold call this dude named Paul Holes in Contra Costa County and I’m like, “Hey, can I talk to the lab director?” And they hooked me into Paul. And he’s like, “Well, that’s totally interesting, I’mlooking at this case too.” Thank God, they had kept these rape kits, because it wasn’t intentional, but the statute of limitations had long since passed, so they did not have the rape kits. It was just lucky that Contra Costa had kept them. And so, that’s where I would say our professional relationship began.
Yeardley: [00:05:16] How did you know, if Sacramento had not kept the rape kits, that it was the same offender as Contra Costa?
Paul: [00:05:23] Well, the East Area Rapist had such a unique MO and behavioral signatures that even the original investigators without DNA technology, without any fingerprints linking cases together. When this rapist would show up in a different jurisdiction and they would see the details, they go, “That’s our guy.” His MO was so unique. And to this day, his MO is so unique. So, that wasn’t hard to link the cases without DNA. It’s just that when the Golden State Killer goes down to Southern California and actually escalates to homicide, we don’t have victims alive who are able to say, “This is what he was telling us, this is what he did.” Some of the unique characteristics of his attacks on couples, like, stacking the dishes on the men’s backs and stuff. Well, he didn’t do in these homicide cases. He didn’t need to, because he knew he was going to be killing them.
Anne: [00:06:19] But long before the forensic link was made between the rapes and the murders, the law enforcement community, I think many of them believed it was the same person. Like the box in our office was the rapes in Sacramento, the rapes in the Bay Area, and then these murders in Southern California. I’m like, “Why are they got this in here?” That’s because they had the foresight of believing this was the same person, but they didn’t have the forensic link at that time.
Paul: [00:06:43] That’s true. There was one. The very first attack down in Southern California was a classic East Area Rapist style attack, and it went sideways on DeAngelo. But in essence, one of the original investigators out of the Contra Costa County Task Force, when I contacted him, he said, “Yeah, we always thought he went down to Santa Barbara.” And so, there had been that thought. But even in Southern California, some of these agencies, they were squabbling over if their cases, their homicide cases were linked or not.It’s a different case. Orange County, Santa Barbara, were just constantly debating that.
Dave: [00:07:22] Jurisdiction means a lot to law enforcement agencies and the courts. Jurisdiction doesn’t mean shit to a suspect. They’re just like, “I’m going to commit crime or wherever I go. The fact that it’s a different jurisdiction actually is probably going to help me, because they don’t tend to be very communicative.” So, that’s why it’s complex. We’re not talking about a neighboring city. He went hundreds of miles south to a different region of the state. To get that link together back then is incredibly fortuitous. Nowadays, it’d probably be a lot more simple because every horrible murder, it has a Twitter article linked to it. Back then, the dissemination of information wasn’t nearly what it is today.
Paul: [00:08:07] It was teletype, oftentimes, and then there may be bulletins that have been put out. We see this in these old case files in terms of an agency will push out a teletype that has some details about their crime saying, “Hey, looking to see if anybody else has something similar.” But it’s not very robust. But as Anne Marie and I, our relationship with East Area Rapist, we spent some time. In fact, I audited that cold case class. Remember that?
Anne: [00:08:35] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:08:36] So, Anne Marie, you taught a cold case class?
Anne: [00:08:39] Well, myself and a group. It was a really cool class. What the purpose of the class was bring together, like, 25 students. But to come to the class, you submitted an unsolved murder. And then we spent the week going through them in a very specialized format. Paul will remember it well. We had them presented in a certain way. Some very famous cases were presented to it. And then we had experts that helped. I was the DA. But we had a pathologist, we have a DNA criminalist. Many of these people are our friends now. So, it was not just, “Let’s help them find new leads,” but it was also training, especially departments that maybe they don’t see a murder in 10 years.
[00:09:19] So, you’d be in this class, and they’d present the case, and then the pathologist would get up and say, “Okay, here’s the cause of death. Here’s the manner of death.” The DNA person would get up, Jill Spriggs, our friend, would say, “Okay, here’s how you read this lab report. Here’s what more you can do.” And so, it was great to give them new leads or ideas, but it was an incredible training experience, because they’d walk away with seeing 15 murders in a week that they may not see in their whole career.
Paul: [00:09:46] I still have that binder to this day, the cold case investigation class binder.
Anne: [00:09:51] We need to start that class again.
Yeardley: [00:09:53] That sounds like a phenomenal class. I would take the class, if I was allowed, or at least, I like to sit in the back.
Anne and Paul: [00:09:59] Yeah.
Anne: [00:09:59] It was like watching a movie. You didn’t want to leave to go the bathroom.
Yeardley: [00:10:01] I bet not. So, Anne Marie, you shared a real passion with Paul for cold cases. In fact, you started the cold case.
Anne: [00:10:09] Unit in our office. Right.
Yeardley: [00:10:11] And so, you met 20 so years ago. Anne Marie, you had studied DNA. You had more than a cursory knowledge of how DNA would operate, yes?
Anne: [00:10:22] I was assigned my first DNA case in 1994. It was a kidnap rape of a teenage girl. And so, I had to do a big hearing. It’s called an admissibility hearing. You have to prove to the judge that the science behind this DNA is reliable. It’s generally accepted and reliable. I wasn’t a science person in school, but I was forced to learn population genetics, which is statistics. It’s like bore the crap everbody. [Yeardley laughs] And then having a bunch of people from UC systems’ talk about how it’s applied to medicine. And so, that was in the mid-1990s. That was the early days, right?
Paul: [00:10:58] Yeah. Well, when Anne Marie is learning this and having to get DNA admitted as evidence, this is when DNA was not just readily accepted in the courts. This was new technology. And so, it was very, very contentious, where at times you would see experts within the field that are national level experts being brought in to a small county trial just in order to either get the courts to admit it or to try to prevent the courts from getting it in. And so, it was really a battleground.
Anne: [00:11:35] It was the days of O. J. It’s the same time period of the O. J. trials of all those DNA people testify. Actually, one of the defense attorneys that was one of O. J.’s defense lawyers on the DNA was from Sacramento and I’ve done many cases with him. All of this around the mid-1990s is when that case happened and then it all started coming to light like, “What is this stuff?”
Paul: [00:11:54] Ultimately, DNA became very accepted. The technology itself wasn’t being combated. It was how unique is this DNA profile, the statistics that were being testified to. But circling back around to Golden State Killer, we had his DNA. We just didn’t know who he was. In 2001, the type of DNA profile that had made the link between the East Area Rapist original Night Stalker series was amenable to being uploaded into the FBI’s CODIS system. So, in 2001, the Golden State Killer’s DNA is now searching up at the national level to try to find this guy. Fast forward, to roughly 2010, I decided, “I’m going to investigate this case.” I really latched on to a guy I thought was him.
Anne: [00:12:44] Yeah, got a lot of calls for Paul.[laughter]
Anne: [00:12:46] “No, I got the guy. This is it.”
Paul: [00:12:48] Yeah, Anne Marie and I are on the phone, and I was like, “Hey, I’ve got a guy.” That’s when she told me about Ken Clark. She says, “Hey, the [unintelligible] Sheriff Homicide guy is also very interested in this case.” Pretty soon, there was a discussion about who else is working the case that we don’t know about. That’s when with Ken and Anne Marie and myself, we got this idea. It’s like, we need to get everybody in the same room. Anne Marie was critical with that thought process.
Anne: [00:13:19] I was just pushy. That’s actually what it was.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:13:22] Pushy work.
Paul: [00:13:24] So, around that 2010, 2011-time frame, that’s when, across the state, we all converged on Santa Barbara. This was how this, I call it a task force, but nobody was 100% dedicated to this series. In many ways, I think we refer to it as a working group, but for the first time, we were sharing information. We uploaded all the case files up into a very secure FBI based centralized location, where now I am seeing reports out of Sacramento I had never seen. I’m seeing Southern California, at least, parts of those case files that I had never seen. It was awesome. But the frustrating part was is that, well, the one thing that I was confident would solve the case was the DNA, and it’s been up in CODIS at this point for over a decade, it hasn’t hit.
[00:14:12] In 2012, we’re all in this room down in Santa Barbara and we’re brainstorming. I believe one of the other investigators brought up, “Well, what about this Y-STR technology?” There’s a genetic genealogist. Her name was Colleen Fitzpatrick. So, I say, “Okay, I’m the science guy. Let me look into it.” This was utilizing this male chromosome that’s passed down on the father side of any family, and Anne was like, “Oh, wow, we could actually utilize this type of genealogy to determine our killer’s last name,” because the surname is preserved in our culture. And so, I start doing a full deep dive on this form of genealogy in 2012 and it led me down so many rabbit holes.
Anne: [00:15:01] Well, I got lucky, and I got elected to be the DA in Sacramento, and I came in 2015. And so, I think what I was very fortunate about was then I got to help say, “Okay, we’re putting more people on this.” And then Paul knows these folks very well. Two people from my office that became part of the little small team that really solved the case, Kirk Campbell, who’s our homicide guy, and Monica Czajkowski, who’s our analyst, and they became part of this little dream team. And Paul really gets the credit for the idea. Him and Steve Kramer about the actual type of genealogy that was used to solve the case.
Yeardley: [00:15:34] And Steve Kramer was your guy at the FBI?
Paul: [00:15:37] So, Steve Kramer, he’s an interesting person from his career standpoint, because he’s a lawyer. At the time that I first met him, and there was a phone call. He called me out of the blue, and it was after our very last task force meeting, which was up in Sacramento, and Kirk and Monica were there. I had given a briefing to the group on a hit I had on this Y-STRs to this old man that– [crosstalk]
Anne: [00:16:03] Rudy.
Paul: [00:16:04] Rudy, [chuckles] who was up in Oregon, Portland, and was saying, “Hey, it’s not the killer, but I think he’s possibly related.” But Kramer had heard, he wasn’t at the meeting, but he had heard about me pursuing the genealogy. So, he calls me out of the blue and says, “Hey, I hear what you’re doing with DNA. I believe in that. How can I help?” This was such a huge moment for me because now I had somebody that was fully embracing what I was trying to pursue. We just are very similar and complementary persons. So, it really worked out well.
[00:16:42] Right at that time frame, I was just at wit’s end. Okay, I’m excited about this Y-STR thing, but I know it’s not going to be the guy. That may not pan out, but we got to pursue it. But I had also had another case. It was a 2002 homicide that I had actually gone out on. It was an Asian woman who had been killed and buried underneath her own home and kitty litter had been put on top of her body.
Dave: [00:17:02] You got your hands in every big-[laughter]
Dave: [00:17:05] -notorious case. You mentioned the kitty litter. I’m like, “I know what he’s talking about.”
Paul: [00:17:09] [laughs]
Yeardley: [00:17:09] You do?
Dave: [00:17:10] Oh, yeah.
Dan: [00:17:10] Bear Brook.
Yeardley: [00:17:11] Oh. Yes. Oh, my God.
Paul: [00:17:14] The interconnections, and I’ll briefly explain it, but that case, unbeknownst to me in 2002 was ultimately what led to utilizing genealogy to solve the Golden State Killer case because the live-in boyfriend, the homicide suspect of kitty litter case, looking at his past and we couldn’t identify him. He had 20 different names. We didn’t know who he was, but his criminal history had been linked together through fingerprints and stuff over the years. But in 1986, he had abandoned a little girl, six-year-old girl down in Santa Cruz. He was charged with that. She was alive, had been sexually abused, and he had made a statement that he was her father, and mom had died in a car accident in Texas. The assigned homicide investigator on that case was like, “Oh, that’s bullshit.” We got his DNA, compared it to Lisa’s, like, a paternity test. He’s not her father.
Yeardley: [00:18:11] So, Lisa is the little girl?
Paul: [00:18:12] Lisa is the little girl that he abandoned. At least, that’s the name that she went by. Now, we’re convinced, she is an abducted child from somewhere. Myself and then my homicide investigative friend, Roxane Gruenheid, we spent 15 years using traditional methods and missing persons indexes and everything else to try to figure out who Lisa was, and we couldn’t. Then in February of 2017, Roxane calls me and says, “Hey, come over to my office.” And so, I go over to her office, which was across town, and Peter Headley, a detective from San Bernardino was on the conference line. And so, Roxane’s like, “Peter, tell him.” And Peter goes, “We’ve identified Lisa.” She’s this girl, her name is Dawn, and she’s from New Hampshire. And her mom is still missing, but it was like, “Okay, so, how did you identify her?” And he goes, “Well, I used a website called dnaadoption.com. There’s a genealogist there by the name of Barbara Rae-Venter. He was saying there’s something about SNPs and centimorgans, and I don’t understand it all.”[laughter]
Paul: [00:19:24] Yeah, but it worked. As I’m listening to this, I’m going, “I wonder if that can be used to identify an unknown offender.” So, I drive scream across town to my office, and I immediately called this Barbara Rae-Venter, and I asked that question, “Would this be able to identify an unknown offender?” And her response was, “I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.” So, I ended up sending her some information. I didn’t tell her what case I was working. I just said, “Hey, this case is a major case. We had some type of genealogy testing that had previously been done.” So, I sent her that information. And she made a comment of, “Well, it’s too bad you don’t have SNPs. And a SNP, S-N-P stands for single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Anne: [00:20:11] Say it three times.[laughter]
Dave: [00:20:14] A common spelling.
Paul: [00:20:15] I was familiar with theory of what a SNP was because in forensic conferences, they had explored using these SNPs as a way for identification, for use in crime samples.
Yeardley: [00:20:27] Can you say what it is? Like, what is a SNP?
Paul: [00:20:30] So, you think about DNA, DNA is, like, you’ve got a bunch of building blocks, like a layer of bricks, and you have four different colors of bricks. Each of those bricks is a nucleotide. You’ve got billions of nucleotides in your entire genome. But there’s certain points, certain bricks in your DNA that have a tendency to be different from person to person. It’s a single point. The way the SNPs are used for human identification purposes and ultimately, genealogy, is that when you start looking at hundreds of thousands of these single points and they’re inherited, you can start to see where people have segments of their DNA that are related to each other, because they’ve got the same single point changes.
Anne: [00:21:22] So, like in traditional DNA, what Paul and I did for years, they were looking at 25 places on the chromosome. The SNPs look at 700,000 to a million. So, that’s why the tool is so powerful is that that’s why you’re able to build out those family trees because you’re getting so far out in the genome and casting a much, much wider net for potential relatives.
Paul: [00:21:46] What it does is as, let’s say, you have a child, half DNA from mom, half DNA from dad. Well, during the process of creating the sperm and the egg to make that child, there is a little bit of shuffling of the genome that occurs. The DNA fragments and then reconvenes, and then that’s what gets passed on to your child. Well, that fragmentation is the critical step, because through the generations, as you have grandkids and great grandkids and stuff, the DNA gets more and more fragmented. After six, seven generations, if you could go back in time and– I might be related to Abraham Lincoln on paper, I’m not.
Yeardley: [00:22:29] [laughs]
Paul: [00:22:29] But if you were to test his DNA and my DNA, so many generations have passed, the amount of DNA that we share would be on the order of where it might not show that we’re related at all, even though we truly are. But that is part of the power of this is that it does differentiate through time. But when you share more and more of these fragments of DNA, that means you are closer in relatedness. So, of course, if you upload your sample in one of these genealogy databases and you go out and commit a crime, there would be 100% match. If your brother is in the DNA database, you roughly are going to have about a 50% match. But as you go through these generations, you get out to your cousins and your second cousins, not even just generations, but out wider, you share less and less DNA. But the amount of DNA that you share with these relatives tells us when we do that type of search, well, that’s on the order of a third cousin.
Yeardley: [00:23:32] Based on these SNPs.
Paul: [00:23:33] Based on the SNPs, we can see how much DNA you share, how big the fragments are. The bigger the fragments, the more DNA that you share, the closer you are related. So, when Barbara said, “Too bad you don’t have SNPs.” She stopped communicating and I thought, “Here’s a genealogist that doesn’t want to work with law enforcement.” But I start doing a deep dive on how SNPs are being used in the genealogy world. It was funny because Steve Kramer was really excited about the Y-STR. So, he’s really focusing in on the Y-STR stuff. Then as I’m learning SNPs, I’m going, “Holy smokes, this is powerful.”
Dave: [00:24:24] To extract a SNP, how much more involved is that process than the traditional law enforcement way that we determine someone’s DNA?
Paul: [00:24:35] Well, it’s a completely different technology. I wouldn’t say it’s any more or less involved. It utilizes a different technology than what the forensic law enforcement-based labs use entirely.
Anne: [00:24:47] And it’s private labs. As far as I know, we don’t have a public, like, a police agency lab or county lab. So, we send it to private labs. We know, now, since that time, you can talk about miniscule amounts of DNA that are now solving these cases. I mean, miniscule.
Dave: [00:25:04] That’s what’s frustrating. I go back to my work on child abuse, the number of rape or sexual assault kids that I’ve seen handled had involved in a case, unsolved murders that we’ve had where we’ve got either minimal DNA that is not enough to compare, or name a major contributor to, or no DNA at all. I remember asking our lab in my state, “Are you driving the Geo Prizm of DNA technology or [Yeardley laughs] are you in a Maserati?” Because then it’ll help me set my expectations on, “When I submit this, what are the chances anything comes back?” Because I’ve really got deflated by the number of times that we would submit something and I’d be like, “Oh, there’s got to be DNA on here,” and they’re like, “Nothing.” No fucking way.
[00:25:54] I just watched The First 48 and they got DNA [Yeardley laughs] off a raindrop that landed on a trash can that was out on the street. I’m like, “And we can’t find shit on a baseball bat that’s covered in blood?”
Paul: [00:26:08] There’s so many variables that would impact that because of grant monies that have been provided over the years, many labs had pretty close to the most modern equipment for that type of testing. It’s oftentimes, “Well, how good is the analyst?” This is a very human based aspect. How diligent did the analyst really pursue the evidence? Crime labs can get so backed up. Even California state labs, they implemented a policy. You can only submit three samples, three items of evidence. And so, you have to guess, which ones are going to be the most likely ones. And from my perspective, it’s so frustrating, because sometimes you will find the evidence that will solve a case in the least expected place.
Dave: [00:26:54] Exactly. And that policy exists in my state and used to frustrate the hell out of me. So, you just confirmed something for me, because I was going to have a question. But I’ve always said to people, they say, “My family is dealing with this, and a detective was assigned to our case, and this, this and this isn’t happening. But I’ve listened to your podcast and I know that this is a type of case where you were written a search warrant for this.” And I go like, “Any industry, any job, any customer service position, you are at the mercy of the assigned detective on your case. It translates to the lab analyst. You are at the mercy of the diligence and competence of whoever is assigned to that case.” That’s horrible to think, but it’s reality.
[00:27:45] Not everybody has the same competency in a job. So, people would ask me, “Hey, my house got burglarized, and this agency,” that’s in my jurisdiction, “this detective got assigned to it.” And I’d be like, “Oh, you’re in luck. That guy’s totally squared away. He’s going to work his ass off,” or you’d be like, “[laughs] You’re fucked.”
Yeardley: [00:28:06] [laughs]
Paul: [00:28:07] Well, and this is where when I get involved with a case and I run across a situation to where the lab comes back and no DNA found or whatever, I don’t want their report. I want that analyst notes, because that’s where I will see what they really did or whether or not they were any good.
Anne: [00:28:25] It’s a huge deal, because you’re just relying on them with this lab report. Most people don’t understand the details of how much DNA do you have left, what was extracted, blah, blah, blah. That’s why Paul is good at what he did, because it’s always in the lab notes. I’ll give you an example. We had a case, rape, murder, no more DNA left from the rape kit from the victim. And then I’m like, “Well, why don’t you guys look at the envelope?” So, the envelope that the little swabs are put in, they found a full DNA profile. That’s the thing is you have to constantly pick at those notes. It’s not that they don’t want to do good work. It’s just you have to push and push and push on thinking outside the box on where that might be.
Dave: [00:29:06] So, I have a follow up question to that is, I was working in murder that Dan and Detective George, now Lieutenant George. We were all working on this murder and were heavily invested in this. We were the first three at the scene, like, dealing with this. I remember going to a meeting with this analyst and her supervisor.
Dan: [00:29:27] I was there.
Dave: [00:29:28] Yeah, Dan was there. It was after I sent this snarky email [Yeardley laughs] that I was like asking, “Are you working with the Geo Prizm or the Maserati of DNA technology?”[laughter]
Dave: [00:29:40] Here’s my frustration. I don’t understand. Here’s a chance for forensics to really be the star of this case. “Can you walk me through how you are telling me that the suspect’s shoe you found no DNA in a well-worn boot that was never rained on or anything?” And they’re like, “Yeah, there’s no DNA in there.” I’m like, “Okay. So, walk me through how you collected the DNA.” They’re like, “Well, we swabbed the shoe.” And I’m like, “Show me where. What did you swab? Did you swab the bottom of the shoe? I wouldn’t expect to find their DNA there either.” And they’re like, “Oh, no. We swabbed a little bit on the tongue where your front of your lower ankle would brush up against. And then we swabbed a little bit in the heel cup.” And I go, “Just spitballing here. But what if you guys took the actual footbed, the soul out of the shoe, the insole, and just took a swab, and went from the toes back and forth, side to side, all the way to the heel cup? What if?” And they go, “Well, that’s not how we swab shoes.” And I go, “But entertain me here. This is an unsolved murder. Can you guys just do this just for shits and giggles for me?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’ll fucking do it.”
[00:30:55] A couple of weeks later, “Hey, we got DNA off that.” [Yeardley laughs] And I’m like, “Bingo. Maybe I’m not an asshole.” I’m not trying to say that this analyst was, but that was the training is this is where we swab shoes for this. And I was like, “Are you shitting me? There’s not a person on the planet that would swab those areas. I don’t understand how that’s your policy. How is this a best practice?” I hope this case has highlighted some differences and allowed you to go, “Hey, maybe we should stop swab in these areas and we could maybe solve some cases if we change up our practices.” The same issue I had with analysts asking me, “I want your reports.” And I’d say, “Well, I don’t want you to have my report. I’m submitting this item of evidence, which is a sword. All I want you to tell me is if there’s human blood on it and if you can get DNA off of it. The report, don’t worry about it. I don’t want to influence your bias. I just want you to swab the areas that test positive presumptive for human blood.” And they’d say, “Well, no, I’m not going to do it without the report. I need to know why I’m doing it.”
[00:32:03] I’m like, “I think that sword ended up through somebody’s heart. That’s why I want you to do it. I’m not just trying to be troublesome, but we had the same issue. We could only submit three items at a time. We would go through that, you wait months, it comes back negative, they’d let us resubmit three more.” And I’m like, “This is absurd. This is getting silly.” But I asked for the analyst notes in this meeting, because they were presented in front of me, and I started looking, because I was like, “Where’d you swab on the sword?” “There’s nine spots circled.” And I’m like, “Oh, my God.” I took my camera out to take a picture of it, and she swiped it right back away from me and I was like, “Can I get a copy of your notes?” And she was like, “Absolutely not.” And I’m like, “Are we all on the same team here? If I asked you for your notes, would you ever have a problem giving them to me?”
Anne: [00:32:51] Well, they’re part of discovery anyway.
Dave: [00:32:52] I would hope so.
Paul: [00:32:53] But the interesting thing that’s going on, and it’s to my frustration is part of meeting accreditation standards. These note packets are becoming very controlled, where many labs have policies. They will not provide the investigating agency or anybody else copies of the analyst notes. It will only be provided under a discovery request. So, nowadays, when I consult on a case, I ask, “Hey, do you have the analyst notes? Can you call up the lab?” Most of the time, the labs are saying, “No, Detective, you cannot get copies of the notes.”
Anne: [00:33:32] To me, that’s ridiculous. When I was doing cold case stuff before, I usually told the cops, “Listen, you need to become ‘friends with the criminals.’ Bring them Starbucks and go meet them. And then you sit down, and I may disagree with you on the police report giving it to them, because then they can focus on especially the crime scene photos.” Then we would have meetings on cold cases, and we’d all sit down at a table and say, “Okay, here’s the crime scene.” And so, there was a good relationship building on that and then you didn’t waste resources on, don’t do this or don’t do that.
Dave: [00:34:03] The issue that I had why I said, “Well, I don’t want you to have my report,” is because of a learned experience where I had a previous case that I wanted a certain item, among others, to be checked for DNA. That person had asked, “Can I get your report?” And I was like, “Yeah, absolutely.” I emailed him a report, and I got the lab report back months later, and it said, “Based on information contained in the report, this item was not analyzed.” And I’m like, “I’m never sending them a fucking report again.”
Paul: [00:34:36] [laughs]
Yeardley: [00:34:37] Oh, my God. So, the lab technician who asked for your report read it and then drew their own conclusions about what items should and should not be tested, and they didn’t even consult you?
Dan: [00:34:48] Right.
Dave: [00:34:48] Like, “That’s not helpful.”
Paul: [00:34:50] Well, this is addressing very much a pet peeve of mine. What’s happening now is because of the fear of contextual bias with forensics.
Yeardley: [00:35:04] What is that?
Paul: [00:35:05] So, this is where if the analyst knows too much about the case, they may inadvertently utilize that information and sway their opinion on the case.
Dave: [00:35:18] That was my whole concern with bias. I was like, “I don’t want you to know those things, because I don’t want a defense attorney to come back and be like, ‘Oh, you’re a little bit too invested. And so, you steered this to go in the direction you want to keep it clean.”‘
Paul: [00:35:33] Now, I grew up in a lab that when I was employed, I was very much a generalist type criminalist. I worked in multiple forensic disciplines. I was a crime scene investigator. I was a scientist that was going out in the field. I was seeing the evidence in situ. I developed crime scene reconstruction expertise, blood pattern, interpretation skills, trajectory, all of that. So, when I am working a case, I bring all that to the table. Now, we have several generations of forensic scientists who have never been out at a crime scene. They have never seen the evidence in the field. All they are asked, “Here’s some swabs. Test it.” So, they are blinded, both purposefully as well as just through their experience, to be able to properly interpret their findings within the context of the case.
[00:36:29] So, that shifts the burden now onto the investigators or onto the attorneys. There are some investigators out there that can do that, there are some attorneys out there that can do it. Most can’t. I, across the nation now, am consulting on cases. When I’m looking at crime scene photos and I’m seeing what has been tested, and I’m going, “It’s so obvious. Over here is the probative evidence. You guys have missed the mark on the direction of the testing that you’ve gone on.”
Yeardley: [00:36:57] Because what you’re seeing is most lab technicians these days don’t get to visit the crime scene, and that is robbing them of context, and therefore, they’re not getting to see the whole picture.
Paul: [00:37:09] Exactly. And nobody within that jurisdiction has the skill set to be able to do that. So, we’re building silos. You’ve got the investigative silo, you’ve got the prosecutorial silo, you’ve got the forensic science silo, and nobody can communicate between them properly on the case.
Anne: [00:37:29] Part of the problem is that it may be analyst driven. It’s just like any other profession. There’s lazy people and there’s good people that work really hard, and it’s also funding driven. And so, when you’re not putting enough money into those services, it’s like asking CPS to investigate every child abuse case in the county. There’s too many.
Yeardley: [00:37:48] What’s CPS?
Anne: [00:37:49] Child Protective Services. So, a report of a neglect or abuse.
Dave: [00:37:53] Those case workers are more overworked than anybody in law enforcement.
Anne: [00:37:58] Yes. It’s a combination of things that can cause a case to go cold.
Dave: [00:38:02] I’m not trying to say that this analyst was lazy. I was like, “I don’t understand why we’re having to pull teeth here. Just work with me and help me adjust my expectations. If I’m watching too much CSI, call me on it.” It’d be like, “Hey, by the way, we don’t have a shoe print database that’ll give us a return in eight minutes [Yeardley laughs] of where it was bought, who bought it, what their favorite color is. Like, that doesn’t exist. So, I get it, just help me adjust my expectations.” But there was things where I’m like, “I know enough to know that doesn’t seem accurate or right.” Very frustrating.
Dan: [00:38:44] Going back to the early-1990s– You got out of the academy in 1994, is that right?
Paul: [00:38:48] I did.
Dan: [00:38:49] Anne Marie, you were a prosecutor in 1990?
Anne: [00:38:51] Yes, I started in 1990.
Dan: [00:38:53] So, this is the first couple of years that DNA is really coming to the forefront. Either of you, Paul or Anne, did you have to go around to different detectives agencies and train them on DNA on, “This is important, and this is how you collect this evidence, and here’s why it’s important?”
Paul: [00:39:16] Yeah. In the early days, I was training local agencies, as well as at the end of my career, I was going to the DA investigators classes. My role was to talk to them about how to interpret a DNA report. I was also saying, oh, there’s this genealogy thing out here that I’m really pursuing well before we had actually caught the Golden State Killer. So, there’s always been a need and there always will be a need. So, the people that are investigating the case, the prosecutors that are prosecuting the case, they have a fundamental understanding of how DNA is used, and what it tells you, what it doesn’t tell you based on what was found.
Anne: [00:39:59] It’s like any other profession. I did my first case in 1994. I realized then this is the greatest tool ever given law enforcement, hands down, find the truth no matter what it is. I knew it then. Then I came to Sacramento, did my first DNA case in the late-1990s of a serial child kidnapping pervert guy. And then I started teaching lawyers and I started teaching cold case classes. There’s the legal aspect to it, then there’s the science part to it that’s changing over time. The first time Paul came to Sacramento to tell me about this little idea– And I understand DNA.[laughter]
Anne: [00:40:34] My eyes glassed over. I’m like, “Dude, you need to repeat that a few more times here, because I don’t get that.”
Yeardley: [00:40:37] [laughs]
Anne: [00:40:39] Because he starts talking about these SNP things and I’m like, “What the hell is that?” So, I understand it and then I’m thinking, “How does the whole world even understand what this is?” And now we’re in the weeds of, “Okay, we understand it works. How much do you need?” I was talking about a case yesterday. “Okay, you have 225 picograms. Is that enough to get a SNP? There’s 1,000 picograms and one nanogram, and you need a half a nanogram.” There’s math, which I’m not good at. So, constantly it’s evolving. I almost feel like we’re at the time of– Is it Star Trek or Star Wars where you’re going to come in and put your hands over the platform and you’re going to say, “Oh, Mr. Smith was here, [Yeardley [laughs] because we’ve gotten so advanced.” I think someday we’ll have this little SNP machine in the field for cops. I hope someday in our lifetime, probably not, well, we’re working, but-[laughter]
Anne: [00:41:26] -where you’re out there, and you go back to the police force, and you collect your little swab from that shoe that you finally figured out where to swab, and put it in the machine in the field, and you have your genealogy profile right there. That’s what I hope for someday.
Paul: [00:41:38] And even today, right now, there are rapid DNA devices. But with the evolution, you start talking about the training. Each time, there had been an advance within a technology. Then there’s training sessions going on out to law enforcement. In fact, after Golden State Killer, Anne Marie had me go down to Santa Barbara– We flew in a tiny little Cessna in a plane. [laughs]
Anne: [00:42:01] I have a picture to prove it.[laughter]
Paul: [00:42:03] Down to Santa Barbara, because she wanted me to present to all the DAs that had cases to the Golden State Killer, how this genealogy tool was used to catch DeAngelo. Then you also had me talk to Sacramento law enforcement. So, now here’s this new revolutionary tool, this genealogy, and I’m having to go out and I’m training up in Sacramento, and then I was actually down here at DA, Jackie Lacey’s request to talk to Los Angeles law enforcement. And that was within two months after DeAngelo was caught.
Anne: [00:42:38] Yeah, and the same was true for me. So, once we realized it worked, I’m texting all my DA colleagues. I’m like, “This shit is really good.” [Yeardley laughs] So, I text the San Diego DA. She’s great DA. She’s the top dog for the office. I’m like, “Can I come down there and talk to you guys about this?” Because they have a really good cold case unit. Go down there. They’ve become amazing at solving crimes. Talk to Fresno. They bring a bunch of people together. I remember the chief of police coming up, “Oh, we should use this on this Debbie Dorian case.” College kid raped and murdered. Now they have a guy charged with it. So, it’s all about you have to educate him what it does, because it is the greatest advancement in forensics in our lifetime. It just is. It just really, really is.
Paul: [00:43:23] It’s revolutionary. I do think part of the discussion of genealogy is just to try to dispel some myths about the tool, because after it came out that we had used genealogy to catch DeAngelo, I was the poster child of the person that violated everybody’s rights across the nation, right?
Anne: [00:43:44] He had his hands on all those people’s DNA.
Paul: [00:43:46] Yeah. [Yeardley giggles] BuzzFeed News was constantly hitting me up and they wanted interviews. This is something where the DNA I had access to was the Golden State Killer’s DNA that had been collected from inside a woman’s body, who he bludgeoned to death as he was raping her after he raped her. That is the one genetic bit of information that I truly had access to. Now, of course, I uploaded that profile into genealogy database. We had used initially two. It was this GEDmatch, which was a public open source type of genealogy database and then we had also used FamilyTreeDNA who were the ones that actually generated this SNP profile that we needed in order to be able to find relatives of the Golden State Killer. But I could never see anybody’s genetic information in these genealogy databases.
[00:44:40] In order to do that, I have to download their profile in order to get this SNP profile of them. Can’t do that from these websites. There’s no reason for me to do that either. So, this is where I really have an issue with calling it a genetic genealogy. It is DNA based, for sure, but fundamentally, once I get a list of people who share DNA, that’s all I know. They share DNA, how much DNA they share and what size fragments gives me an idea and how distantly or closely they’re related. With DeAngelo, when we got our initial results back, third cousins, okay, that tells us we have to build family trees of these people back in time to the great, great grandfather level. For DeAngelo, for the Golden State Killer, it turns out these were people born in the 1840s. But that building of the family trees is just straight genealogy that anybody does using ancestry.com, using findagrave.com, newspaper articles, looking at obituaries, it’s public records, census records.
Dave: [00:45:48] To me, it’s no different than searching Facebook.
Anne: [00:45:50] It’s very similar, but the difference from the public perspective, and this is where the misinformation is in the world is, they think you guys are going to find out if they have Parkinson’s or you’re going to go serve a search warrant on the pharmacy to see if they’ve getting medicine for this. One thing that we do to try to educate policymakers, legislators, whoever, or the public is, you as law enforcement have the same rights as anybody else does in these sites. You can create a fake Facebook account to go find a gangster. That’s legal. You can upload to a genealogy site like anybody else. What’s interesting to me about the privacy debate is in the world of adoptions, people thought they had contracts that protected themselves from their names being disclosed. Those are poof. Those are gone. So, kids that are adopted are now finding their biological parents.
[00:46:44] There’s a lot of secrets out there in these genealogy sites. And so, for law enforcement– I’m sorry, I’m just going to say it, you’re solving crime, you’re exonerating people that are innocent, you’re identifying unidentified human remains. And for goodness’s sake, we’re preventing crime by doing this work.
Dave: [00:46:58] It’s the greater good.
Anne: [00:46:59] It is.
Yeardley: [00:47:12] Before we wrap up, talk a little bit about since the Golden State Killer case, maybe both you, Anne Marie and Paul could talk a little bit about some of the other cases that were solved with this technique that you found really gratifying.
Paul: [00:47:26] Well, a personal one that I was directly involved with was this 1974 homicide out of Fort Worth, Texas. 17-year-old Carla Walker goes to a Valentine’s Day dance with her boyfriend, Rodney. They take off from the dance, driving around, having a good time with some friends, drop the friends off, and then they go to the bowling alley to use a restroom. Get back in the car, and there probably was some necking going on, maybe an argument was going on between them. But then Rodney makes statements that, as he’s on top of Carla, passenger door opens up, and a man with a gun pulls her out of the car, and he initially says shoots him.
Yeardley: [00:48:07] Shoots Rodney?
Paul: [00:48:08] Shoots Rodney. But no, he was likely pistol whipped. But then Carla is being drugged away by this man. And for, God, 50 years Rodney is prime suspect. I interviewed Rodney multiple times. This was for a TV show, but I’m truly investigating this case, and I’m sitting down with Rodney and talking to him on camera. We get a similar car that he was in and have him reenact, because I’m looking at blood patterns in the car going, “His statements aren’t adding up with the blood patterns.” His statements have changed over the years. Rodney had been under suspicion for a half century, basically. His life was forever changed by this event, because first, he lost this love of his life, if you want to call it that at age. He was 18 at the time. But then just to be clouded by, you’re the killer. And I was suspecting him, because his statements were so often, the physical evidence wasn’t adding up.
Dan: [00:49:06] Well, and he didn’t call the police. He went to the girl’s parents house right after this happened, didn’t he?
Paul: [00:49:12] After he regained consciousness, he drove to the parents’ house, which was literally a two-minute drive away from the bowling alley. Yet, it was an hour and a half later when he shows up there versus the time he said that she had been abducted. I was like, “Well, that’s enough time to go to work.” Her body was found two days later. Her dress had been torn apart, she had been raped, she had been killed, strangled. This is one of those frustrating cases is that there was actually vaginal semen. There was a syringe used to withdraw some of that, and then also a swab use. Pathologist confirms ton of sperm. Rodney completely denied having any type of sex with her that night. It’s like, easy case. Well, it turns out that evidence is gone. It’s missing.
Dave: [00:49:59] I already know. Murphy’s Law. Okay. Yeah, somebody destroyed it or threw it away mistakenly.
Paul: [00:50:04] But this is where it’s like with these cases, don’t rely upon what previous examinations have done. Redo everything. And so, had her dress, her pantyhose, her bra, some other items sent to a lab. And great DNA analysts did amazing work and had found a couple of semen stains. One on her dress and then one on a bra strap. The one on the bra strap was the best sample. Single source male. CODIS qualifying, went up in CODIS, no hit, and it was like genealogy. It went to a lab, and I’m not going to divulge which lab it is. This had 10 nanograms of male DNA in the sample.
Anne: [00:50:52] That’s a lot.
Paul: [00:50:53] This is a ton of sample. This lab consumed the entire thing and said, “Can’t do anything with it.”
Yeardley: [00:51:00] [gasps]
Paul: [00:51:01] So, at this point, I’m thinking, kill the case, right? The other stain, which was lesser quality because it was somewhat mixed and was only four nanograms. I consulted with the head of this other lab and he’s going, “I think we can definitely work with it.” He’s using a better technology. This is really underscoring how the genealogy DNA testing has now evolved from being this mass screening technology to build databases to now utilizing technology and optimizing technology to actually work with forensic samples that are typically very limited, degraded their crap samples. You can’t just use the standard technology and procedures. So, that sample does get sent to this other lab and they get a full SNP profile. They search and do genealogy, and they land on a guy who was living in Fort Worth, and his name was in the case file.
[00:52:08] So, Fort Worth PD goes and gets a direct sample, because you never, never, never make an arrest based on genealogy results. You always go back and get a direct sample and do traditional DNA testing. They get that direct sample. It matches the semen on Carla’s dress. And they pull Glen McCurley. I’m not sure I’m saying his last name right. And he confesses. He gives a statement.
Dave: [00:52:34] Been living with that for decades.
Paul: [00:52:36] “It’s not so much I’ve been living with it, like, there was a guilt. It was I was in that parking lot, I saw them arguing, I went to rescue her.”
Dave: [00:52:45] Huh.
Anne: [00:52:45] Huh.
Paul: [00:52:46] Yeah.
Dave: [00:52:47] And killed her.
Paul: [00:52:48] Yeah. But this is a case now where bad guy, and he likely has done others. They have some others that potentially he’s good for. He’s now taken off the street. Obviously, he’s elderly now. Rodney is free and clear.
Yeardley: [00:53:03] Right. But 50 years on.
Paul: [00:53:05] Yes.
Dave: [00:53:06] So, to consume that size of sample in its entirety, is that incompetence? Is that negligence? Is that an honest mistake?
Paul: [00:53:16] No, this is because this was in the earlier days of utilizing the genealogy tool. We utilized a lab, who was doing work for law enforcement at the time, but their process was set up to be that mass screening to build databases. They aren’t forensically trained, because we always assess a sample. As a forensic scientist assess a sample, how much is there? Do I need to consume the whole thing in order to be able to get a result? Or, can I only use a portion? If I only need to use a portion, that’s what you always do. But their whole thing was is whatever’s in this tube is going in the instrument, basically.
Anne: [00:53:59] That’s bad practice.
Dave: [00:54:01] Oh, God.
Paul: [00:54:02] For me, it was very enlightening, because I became very well versed about SNP technology, but not necessarily what was happening in the actual testing labs in terms of how they were approaching samples. The actual technologies that they were using. I’ve never utilized that type of instrumentation. But now, we’re seeing labs develop much better forensic awareness that do the genealogy testing, as well as the technologies that have the sensitivity to minimize the consumption of sample. That’s what you always want to do, because there’s always newer technologies coming down the pipe. You want to not kill a case on an existing technology. If you’re aware that, it’s a 50% chance we might get a result. But I’m going to take the only DNA that we have in this case that could solve the case and just completely wipe it off the map.
Dave: [00:54:54] Yeah, securing evidence, I used to always take twice the amount of pictures, twice the amount of swabs. I took, extra everything, because I was like, “It’ll happen on my case. Murphy’s Law is going to show up and ruin my case. Let’s make sure I get double of everything.”
Anne: [00:55:11] Well, that’s why the GSK got solved was because the pathologist took a second sample one of the murder victims. Just because.
Paul: [00:55:18] Yeah, this was an amazing thing. In terms of part of the marching down to utilize genealogy for GSK was, well, I had consumed all the DNA out of Contra Costa, in part, getting the original DNA testing done. Then I was doing that older genealogy, Y-STR stuff. It was off of rape cases. Cases that at the time were past statute of limitation. Southern California had the semen evidence from the Golden State Killer in their cases. And the question was, well, which case actually has single source evidence insufficient quantity that will work. At the time, we needed 200 nanograms of GSK DNA. This is bucket loads of DNA, which is like, “How am I going to find that?” But fortunately, Ventura under DA Greg Totten was like, “Yes, you can utilize our DNA. But the question was, is there enough DNA?” A lot of that DNA had been consumed over the decades. But then the investigator, I think he talked to the original pathologist and pathologist was like, “Well, my practice on homicide cases is to always collect two sexual assault kits.”
[00:56:33] One is given to the investigating agency, and one is kept at the coroner’s office. So, they go to the coroner’s office and there is a sealed sexual assault kit that had never been opened. And so, therefore, the swabs that pathologist had collected had never been touched. So, that gets sent to the Ventura Crime Lab and they get gobs of Golden State Killer DNA. To a point, they’re saying, “We’re going to send you a tube with 500 nanograms of his DNA.” And I was like, “I, in good conscience, cannot take 500 nanograms of your homicide evidence.”
Anne: [00:57:08] “I’ll take half.”
Paul: [00:57:08] “I will take half.” [chuckles] Exactly. And so, Steve Kramer had an agent out of the Ventura FBI office go in and get possession of that evidence. Then that was sent to two different labs. And then the one lab was able to get the SNP profile. It was that, like you said, over collection. That pathologist, what he did back in, that was a March 1980 case in Ventura. Double homicide, Charlene and Lyman Smith. So, Charlene’s vaginal swabs were what solved the Golden State. It’s what we used. And Ventura pathologist has taken a step up and beyond. Yeah, we were fortunate we had that in this case, and then boom.
Yeardley: [00:57:49] So, Paul, when you were doing the genealogy process to identify DeAngelo, can you reveal how distant a relative you got the first hit on from the public databases? Was it a second cousin, a sibling?
Paul: [00:58:05] Sure. Well, it really isn’t like a hit. When I searched a GEDmatch using the Golden State Killer’s DNA profile, I get a list of individuals out of that database that share a percentage of their DNA with the Golden State Killer. The amount of DNA that they share tells me or a genealogist how closely or distantly related they are. So, the initial list that we got out of GEDmatch, the closest relative was a third cousin. So, a third cousin is somebody who shares great, great grandparents with the Golden State Killer.
Yeardley: [00:58:49] Oh, wow.
Paul: [00:58:50] And we had also searched family tree DNA, which was a much larger database at the time, the GEDmatch. The closest relative was also a third cousin. So, third cousins are now that the genealogy tool has been used, and there’s a lot of experience. It is a doable relationship in order to be able to identify the offender. But it’s hard. You really want to see a second cousin or ideally first cousins, brothers, sisters, or if the guy was stupid enough to put his own DNA into a [Yeardley laughs] genealogy database, that would be nice. So, we started doing the genealogy working with third cousins, and then Barbara Rae-Venter, the genealogist, that was really the one showing us how this was done. She took it upon herself. She had access to the MyHeritage database, completely different genealogy database.
[00:59:46] I remember her sending the email out saying, “Oh, we may have caught a break here,” because she found a second cousin. And so, now we were one generation closer. And then the genealogy tool is a triangulation process. So, in essence, we were able to build out family trees between the second cousin and one of the third cousins, and show how they were related to each other, identify their common ancestor, the great, great grandparents, and then identify all the descendants of those great, great grandparents until we got into the generation in which we are confident the Golden State Killer was born, which we were pretty confident he was born between 1940 and 1960. Ultimately, we landed on DeAngelo using that second cousin and a third cousin.
Yeardley: [01:00:34] That’s incredible.
Anne: [01:00:35] You asked, Yeardley, about like what’s happened since. Across the country, I think there’s upwards of about 160 cases that we know of, there’s no centralized database tracking them, but we do the best we can. These are cases, first of all, they’re fascinating, because there are cases that, but for the genealogy, they would never have been solved. There are cases, like I’ve said earlier, that people were suspected that never committed these crimes. Some of these are folks that are, as I say, hiding in plain sight that just got up one day and decide to kill and go back to their lives. Some of them are fascinating, because they then get caught on genealogy and they try to kill themselves before the cops get them.
[01:01:18] In my county in Sacramento, we have a lot of cases that we wanted to solve. We knew the list and we’ve been very successful. I mean, serial rapists, committing rapes for 15 years. We had one guy that had committed a couple rapes in the early-1990s. He became an associate prison warden in Florida, and he gets busted on that. Then our most recent is a 1970, the oldest one in Sacramento, 1970 murder of a court reporter who’d happens to be engaged to the public defender. Same thing. The guy was living right there. A lot of these, you’ll find there in– It’s not necessarily their name in the report, but they may have lived in the complex and they had a line of sight to the woman.
Paul: [01:02:00] You covet what you see.
Anne: [01:02:01] Yes.
Yeardley: [01:02:02] Wow.
Anne: [01:02:03] So, GSK took 43 years to solve it. They had, I think, 650 investigators, 15 law enforcement agencies. I think there was $10 million spent on the case. 8,000 potential suspects, 300 people swab for DNA, didn’t produce anything. Then they come in and do genealogy. There was a team of, I think, six.
Paul: [01:02:25] Five law enforcement based and then one genealogist.
Anne: [01:02:27] Six folks. And I think it cost them about $207 or $217.
Yeardley: [01:02:33] Oh, I thought you were going to say $217,000.
Anne: [01:02:35] No, $217. It took, I think, 63 days. So, that’s 63 days on a case that was 43 years. So, then we go to NorCal Rapist. He had raped women for 15 years over 8 to 10 jurisdictions all over Northern California. So, that’s why he’s called NorCal Rapist.
Yeardley: [01:02:54] Yes, I remember that. Paul, you spoke to us about the NorCal Rapist on an episode of Small Town Dicks, and how genealogy led you to finally identify him as Roy Waller, right, as I recall.
Paul: [01:03:09] Yeah.
Yeardley: [01:03:09] And he was sentenced to something like 900 years in prison.
Paul: [01:03:13] Correct.
Anne: [01:03:13] Yes. It’s a 15-year investigation. Soon as the GSK, I’m like, “We’re doing NorCal.” It was probably solved in less than an hour.
Yeardley: [01:03:22] What?
Paul: [01:03:23] Yeah.
Anne: [01:03:23] Less than an hour.
Paul: [01:03:24] NorCal Rapist, in fact, I know Monica even said it was within five minutes. In part, we had prior genealogy information on NorCal Rapist using Y-STRs with a surname of Waller. When she was building out using the new genealogy tool, she immediately saw a branch with that name in it. Then within a few keystrokes, she was like, “Oh, here’s this Waller.” It turns out his driver’s license photo looked identical to the ATM photo when he’s wearing this clear, hard mask, which you could still see his facial features and it was like, “Yeah, this is obvious.” They did an awesome job on that.
[01:04:04] We blazed a trail and learned on Golden State Killer. But since then, individuals like Barbara Rae-Venter, CeCe Moore, Colleen Fitzpatrick, and then there’s a lot of other genealogists out there, they have become much more proficient at doing this tool to assist in law enforcement. And so, they are much quicker than what were, because, literally, Barbara is trying from Monterey, where she lives, trying to tell these law enforcement guys across California, “This is what you need to do.” [laughs] We’re just like, “Okay, we’ll do this.”[laughter]
Yeardley: [01:04:41] That’s incredible. I’ll never tire of the fact that you’re like an Edison or an Alexander Graham Bell in your field. I know you looking at me right now shaking your head [Paul laughs] like, “No, no. no.” But the advance that you helped facilitate has changed everything, and that is extraordinary.
Paul: [01:05:03] I appreciate the kind words, but I didn’t invent this tool. I would say that myself and my partner on this, Steve Kramer, where we deserve credit is we didn’t take no for answer.
Yeardley: [01:05:18] See, now, that’s a big deal. So, hats off. It takes a village, but thank God you didn’t say no.
Paul: [01:05:25] Yeah. And obviously, it has worked out, not only for getting DeAngelo off the street, but for getting so many other families answers on these unsolved cases.
Dave: [01:05:34] For you as a DA, Anne Marie, when you have GSK, multiple jurisdictions, different regions of the state, NorCal Rapist, 8 to 10 jurisdictions involved there, who gets to prosecute that? Which venue takes that case and how do you as DAs negotiate that?
Anne: [01:05:54] That’s a big question. First off, the law allows on certain types of cases in California. If there’s multiple jurisdictions involved, then any one of the counties can have it. In the GSK, I think there were seven. There was Sacramento, Tulare, Contra Costa, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Orange County. So, it was a big deal, it was a big discussion Again, I was very lucky to be the DA. So, ultimately, after conversations with the big dogs, where are we going to try this case, there’s potentially a lot of expenses involved. But to me it felt right because he lived in Sacramento at the time of his arrest, upwards of 50 rapes occurred in Sacramento, and he was arrested in Sacramento. So, after a lot of conversations, reasonable amongst the electeds, we all agreed.
[01:06:45] We’re a good size office. So, we bring the resources. And at the end of the day, it was a very good decision in my view. And ultimately, you all know the outcome and it was the A-Team that brought it. It was an A-Team from all the counties involved. These folks on this team were incredible.
Dave: [01:07:01] And just to wrap up on GSK, Joseph DeAngelo pled guilty in June 2020 to multiple counts of murder, and kidnapping, and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Paul: [01:07:14] Yeah.
Dave: [01:07:15] He will never see the light of day again.
Yeardley: [01:07:25] Maybe, we, at some point revisit this again. I have another conversation about genealogy, because for the greater good, there’s nothing bigger in law enforcement.
Dave: [01:07:35] Plenty can be said about catching actual suspects and identifying real suspects, but the hidden gem here is also exonerating people. Honestly, my biggest fear as a detective was, I’m going to get somebody wrongfully convicted. The worst feeling in the world would be, “Hey, that person didn’t do it. Here’s all the evidence you ignored.” You followed your own theory rather than following the evidence, and you just ruined this guy’s life. The fact that you can filter through and sort out who belongs on the suspect list and who no longer does, valuable, really valuable.
Yeardley: [01:08:14] Yeah. That’s incredible. What a fabulous byproduct.
Paul: [01:08:17] And just to really underscore genealogy, you start talking about clearing. We were utilizing traditional DNA to clear all these men, 300 plus men that we got their DNA from and directly compared to the evidence and eliminated them.
Yeardley: [01:08:32] In Golden State Killer case?
Paul: [01:08:33] In the Golden State Killer case. But think about this. Think about being at your house. I knock on your door and say, “Hey, your name has come up in an investigation.” You’re going to hink up about that. “Oh, by the way, it’s an investigation involving rapes homicides. May I have your DNA sample, so I can clear you, eliminate you.” I have just intruded into that man’s world. I have traumatized that man. He’s not the Golden State Killer. But also, and this is where it’s important from a genealogy standpoint, “I have just as a representative of the government taken possession of your DNA.”
Dave: [01:09:09] Yeah.
Paul: [01:09:10] Nobody talks about that.
Dave: [01:09:11] It’s intrusive.
Paul: [01:09:12] Genealogy in Golden State Killer, we only got DNA from one person in the process. Up until the time, we caught DeAngelo and that was a voluntary sample. It eliminated a person that I ultimately never contacted, but it told us we were close. If we hadn’t used that genealogy tool, we would have probably gotten DNA from hundreds of more men. This just shows the remote power that we have to preserve people’s lives from being interrupted during a normal course of investigation.
Yeardley: [01:09:47] It’s extraordinary to talk to the source of this investigation. I just can’t get enough.
Paul: [01:09:54] Well, and I think we should plug Anne Marie has a podcast, and I believe the first episode was you had me, Ken Clark.
Anne: [01:10:02] Yeah, I have a podcast. Okay, if you’re going to let me plug it now.
Yeardley: [01:10:04] Yes–[crosstalk]
Dave: [01:10:05] Yeah, please.
Anne: [01:10:06] It’s called Inside Crime Files with me. [Yeardley laughs] And it’s probably similar to you guys, but it’s cases where I believe really amazing police work was done to solve it or amazing things came out of it. And so, we did a four-parter on the GSK. So, yes, Paul was on an episode with some of the investigators, and I called it the Project Podcast, because it was all about these amazing projects that the law enforcement did to try to solve it. Genealogy was obviously the key. But one example was, I called it the Phonebook Project. So, you think about the fact that this guy is raping and killing in all these places all over California.
[01:10:43] You go back to the 1970s, we didn’t have the internet. We had hard phone books. So, Kirk is, “Let’s get a copy of every phone book from every zip code from every neighborhood of where these crimes happened, and let’s figure out if the same guy registered his phone in those neighborhoods, if he lived there.” So, then he basically got every phone book for every zip code. Then he had the police department write a program to digitize all those books. It was a pretty cool idea.
Yeardley: [01:11:13] Are you looking for–?
Anne: [01:11:14] We’re looking for the name of the suspect. Maybe he’s moving and putting his phone number in those zip codes. So, that was one segment. We did another segment with the two brothers of Keith Harrington to talk about the DNA stuff that they changed the world on. We did one with some of the rape victims to talk about the advocacy work they now do. So, it was just more about stuff that’s not the typical mainstream conversation. It’s about–[crosstalk]
Yeardley: [01:11:38] The ripple effect.
Anne: [01:11:39] Right.
Yeardley: [01:11:40] Thank you all so much.
Dan: [01:11:42] Incredible work, and I’ll never get tired of listening to this case.
Yeardley: [01:11:46] Totally agree.
Dave: [01:11:47] Agreed. Honestly, honored to be at the table with Anne Marie Schubert and Paul Holes.
Yeardley: [01:11:51] Same-same.
Paul: [01:11:52] Well, I just want to thank Anne Marie for everything she did over the years.
Anne: [01:11:57] Oh, same to you. It’s been a great ride. Lots more work to be done, but thank you very much for having me.
Dave: [01:12:07] That’s it. Another episode in the books. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.[music]
Yeardley: [01:12:17] The Briefing Room is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley, Smith and coproduced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only Monika Scott. Our researcher is Delaney Britt Brewer. Our music is composed by Logan Heftel, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell. If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the podcast, please visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com/thebriefingroom. Thank you to SpeechDocs for providing transcripts and thank you to you, the best fans in the pod universe for listening. Honestly, nobody’s better than you.
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