SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Northern California authorities said Wednesday that they have cracked a 45-year-old murder case using the same publicly available DNA database that led to the arrest of alleged serial killer Joseph DeAngelo.
Officers arrested John Arthur Getreu, 74, on suspicion of killing a 21-year-old Palo Alto woman in 1973, the Santa Clara County sheriff’s department spokesman Richard Glennon said.
Investigators were led to Getreu after recently submitting DNA evidence to the Virginia-based DNA technology company Parabon NanoLab, which uses the public genealogical database GEDmatch to generate a number of family trees connected to the sample.
Two scientists launched the database in 2010 to help amateur and professional genealogical researchers. The database doesn’t collect DNA samples directly, instead it aggregates results from commercial sites like 23andMe submitted by users. Researchers upload their DNA samples to GEDmatch in search of matches, which usually comes in the form of several family trees rather than one individual.
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A growing number of investigators across the country are turning to GED database for help after the FBI’s national DNA database fails to find a match. DeAngelo was the first suspect arrested using the company’s database in September. DeAngelo has been charged with raping and killing 13 women decades ago.
Police arrested Getreu on Tuesday at his Hayward, California, home about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco. He is suspected of killing Leslie Marie Perlov in February 1973.
Perlov’s body was found under an oak tree near Stanford University, and her panty hose were stuffed in her mouth. She had been strangled and the case went unsolved for decades.
Investigators taking another look at the case in July found an unknown man’s DNA among the evidence. They sent the DNA sample and returned with several possible families to investigate, which ultimately led them to Getreu.
He is being held in the Santa Clara County jail with no bail. Jail records don’t indicate if he’s represented by an attorney.