The Murderer’s Daughter

Carol S would like her DNA to be entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to see if her father was involved in any other cold case murders. There are several cold cases in Michigan and a few out west that should be tested.

This is another interview referring to GedMatch.com below. However, we need to take Carol's DNA to the Cold Case investigators for testing.

The co-founder of GEDmatch, the internet tool that deserves credit for the recent wave of murder-case solutions, is Curtis Rogers, 80, a professional court-appointed legal guardian from Florida.

Until it emerged that his search engine had helped bring about the arrest of the Golden State Killer, he had no idea that police were even using it.

Curtis Rogers of GedMatch.com

Rogers told me that reports of the suspected serial killer being arrested made him slightly suspicious. “I wonder if we were involved,” he said to his wife that day, April 25, which by chance also happened to be International DNA Day. The answer came a day later when he arrived at his office and found TV-broadcasting vans waiting outside.

“It came as a big surprise, no question,” he said, although it was clear from his tone that the initial astonishment had passed and that he’s now proud of his role in solving the cases.

Rogers founded GEDmatch in 2011 together with John Olson, 67, an electrical engineer from Texas. Rogers still works almost nonstop, he says, but recently decided to retire from his day job and devote himself full-time to the website.

The basic idea of GEDmatch is simple. A commercial breakthrough in 2009 – the sale of autosomal DNA tests directly to the public – enabled genealogists to locate living relatives and not only those who died long ago, as earlier techniques had made possible.

“Suddenly you had this mass of people you knew you were related to,” Rogers says, adding that the enthusiasts began bombarding each other with emails in order to decipher the family ties between them. The process was long and tedious, and Rogers asked Olson to build an algorithm that would computerize the search. The two developed what turned out to be GEDmatch, and decided to invite the world to use it.

There are significant differences between GEDmatch and similar, commercial sites. First, Rogers and Olson offer their service for free, apart from a few features that cost $10 a month. The two men obviously operate the site out of love for genealogy.

They also do not do DNA testing and don’t have a lab. Instead, users upload to their site the genetic data they have received from commercial testing firms. GEDmatch also makes it possible to upload DNA sample from every one of the firms, provided it comes in the right type of file, and to compare profiles, something that cannot be done in the case of people who were tested by different companies.

In addition, the commercial firms have a tough policy about opening their databases to legal authorities. The 23andMe genetic testing service, for example, reported that it had rebuffed all five requests it received from authorities for information.

GEDmatch, however, is open to all, including law enforcement agencies. “We realized quickly that we have no control over that. Law enforcement can put the information on our site and we would never know,” Rogers explains. Accordingly, he and his partner revised the site’s terms of use and announced that they would allow the police to use it only for solving rape and murder cases.

According to Rogers, visitors to the site were now apprised that the authorities had access to it and that they were invited to delete their information if they wished. “We became very open and honest, and we try to educate our people that that’s a possibility,” he says, referring to the possibility of law enforcement using the site.

Rogers was apprehensive about users’ reactions, following the arrest of the Golden State Killer. After all, though the police were already using the site, those who had uploaded their DNA profile weren’t necessarily aware of that. So he was relieved to get many messages of support.

One of the more dramatic examples of such support came from Carol S., whose father murdered her grandfather in Detroit in 1979.

Carol’s father had been in and out of mental institutions throughout his life. She told me that he had been tried for his father’s murder, found insane and sent to an institution again, this time for a lengthy period.

“I felt and I do feel that my father was responsible for many crimes,” she related. “I asked [the site]: How do I make sure that my GEDmatch profile is available publicly for law enforcement purposes.”

She hopes her decision to allow the authorities to access her DNA profile will bring some comfort to victims’ families: “Suffering when your loved one is murdered is hard enough, and that’s why I feel it’s so important,” she says.

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