Court convicts murder suspect found through a DNA database

It's believed to be the first case solved through the method that went to trial.

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Authorities have been taking advantage of the public's ever growing interest in genetic genealogy to crack cold cases these past few years. California's police departments even arrested a former cop after a DNA database linked him with the series of murders and rapes committed by the Golden State Killer in the '70s and '80s. Now, a court has convicted William Earl Talbott II, a murder suspect who was identified through his relatives found on open DNA database GEDmatch. It's believed to be the first time a case cracked using the technique was brought to court -- and clearly, the evidence was enough to convince the jury to find him guilty of two counts of aggravated murder.

Investigators linked Talbott to the 1987 murders of Canadian couple Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg after two of his cousins (from both sides of the family) uploaded their DNA profile to GEDMatch. The database, which also led to the Golden State Killer arrest, allows users to upload their DNA test results from services like Ancestry and 23andMe, so they can find other relatives and create a comprehensive family tree.

CeCe Moore, the genetic genealogist who worked with the authorities on the case, traced the DNA extracted from semen left on Van Cuylenborg's body to Talbott's parents through his cousins. His parents only have one son. It was only after he was identified through the database that authorities were able to match his palm print to a print lifted from the scene.

According to Wired, both sides agreed to treat the DNA identification as a tip before the trial even began, and nobody questioned the method used to link Talbott to the case. If more and more cold cases go to trial due to DNA databases, though, there's bound to be serious discussions on whether using them to solve crimes should be regulated.

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