A new method to identify potential criminal suspects made its largest splash in April of 2018.

That’s when police arrested a 72-year-old man accused of committing around 50 rapes and 12 murders, some of which occurred more than 40 years earlier.

His name is Joseph James DeAngelo, who police believe is the Golden State Killer.

Investigators used DNA collected from the various crime scenes over the years and entered the genetic profile of the suspected perpetrator into an online genealogy database. Through the database, officers were able to identify distant relatives of the DNA profile.

The identification of distant relatives gave police leads they would likely not have developed otherwise. Investigators then used those leads to home in on a suspect. Once a suspect was identified, investigators collected “abandoned” DNA from DeAngelo, which matched the DNA collected from the crime scenes.

Since that arrest, published reports indicate more than 20 people have been arrested for major crimes through the same technique.

It is a technique that could have played a major role in the arrest of Coley McCraney Saturday in connection with the 1999 Wiregrass murders of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett.

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