GEDmatch Again Used to Identify a Suspected Murderer

Investigators in Washington state recently used the same technique that earlier identified the suspected Golden State Killer. (You can read my earlier article about the “Golden State Killer” at Investigators have now used genetic genealogy to connect a 55-year-old Seattle area man to the rape and murder of a woman more than 30 years ago.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state said it was able to link William Earl Talbott II to the November 1987 slaying of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, by matching DNA found at the crime scene to data in the public GEDmatch genealogy website.

The suspect previously did not have a criminal record and was unknown to law enforcement personnel. “He was never on any list law enforcement had, there was never a tip providing his name,” Snohomish County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Scharf said at a news conference, the Seattle Times reported. “If it hadn’t been for genetic genealogy, we wouldn’t be standing here today.”

You can read more in an article by Steven Musil in the C|Net News web site at: and a more detailed article in the Seattle Times at

It seems strange that a web site previously known only to a few genealogy DNA aficionados now has become one of the premier crime solving databases in the United States. Law enforcement officials nationwide are now using to help find relatives of murder suspects.

If you contributed your DNA information to, you may have helped identify a murderer or other violent criminal. Is that a good thing? Or is it an invasion of your personal information and the personal information of your relatives?


LE is using not only our DNA data, but also our years of research as they turn to public trees on Ancestry to find the culprit. I’m all for catching violent criminals and solving cold cases, but I pulled my data from GEDmatch because I want the protection of a search warrant or judge between LE and my data. LE is not infallible. The Golden State Killer was, in fact, LE while he was committing the majority of his crimes.

Liked by 1 person

    I think you have hit the nail on the head, Kate: “I want the protection of a search warrant or judge between LE and my data.” I am waiting to see how judges view this path of investigation. I am going to explore ways to anonymize my GEDmatch data, but may end up pulling my data too.


“…is it an invasion of your personal information and the personal information of your relatives?”

Since law enforcement isn’t using GEDmatch to arrest people for spitting on the sidewalk, or other misdemeanors, I support the tactic. I am glad law enforcement is using a valuable tool to locate rape and murder suspects. That’s one reason I just placed my raw DNA file on GEDmatch yesterday. Not that any of my near or distant relatives have ever done anything illegal. 😉

Liked by 2 people

If my DNA can solve a horrible crime then I’m more than please I uploaded my Ancestry file to GEDmatch!
And for the TinFoil hat people remember both the Govt and your Insurance company has many opportunities to get your DNA straight from your annual blood work without you ever even knowing about it.


I think it is an invasion of our privacy. If the police can’t catch criminals with all the wealth of new technology that they have today, they shouldn’t be in the job!


    They are catching criminals with new technologies – DNA and genetic genealogy. Not much different than fingerprints and, when done properly, a lot more accurate. I too feel that if my GEDmatch data can catch a murder, please use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Something tells me if it was your relative who was killed you would likely not feel the same way.


There is a question posed by Dick Eastman regarding the use of DNA. I do not have a problem with process but do have questions:
1. To what extent will DNA be used in cold case files? Recent cases were murder and violent crimes but would police us it for lesser crimes? People leave DNA everywhere in their life time.
2. I wonder if these cold case files would extend outside of the USA? Is Canada ready to deal with USA police requesting an arrest based on the investigation?
3. While using genealogyDNA I have found some people with very few matches and others with 1000s of matches. It appears some people may have more common DNA then others. There is also the issue of how many DNA markers are reviewed.
4. Can police make use of the process to possibly close out old cold cases when the trail leads to a possible deceased suspect?
5. The process could be even more interesting if adopted individuals are involved.


If a relative of mine committed a violent crime I would be fine with my DNA leading to their capture. We watch a lot of true crime shows on television and it is heart breaking to see families waiting for years for justice after the violent death or disappearance of a loved one.


I fully support the use of DNA submitted to public sites to chase down these lowlifes. Might I have criminals in my family tree?? Maybe, its a big tree and I seem to be related to everyone!


I admit to being completely clueless (pun intended) as to how this forensic research in GEDmatch is an invasion of anyone’s privacy. GEDmatch is public and completely voluntary. trees can be accessed by anyone with a subscription. For years, when I’ve complained about people copying my research into their database and posting it publicly, or posting my immediate family members publicly, or just adding cousins to their database who are distant relatives but not ancestors, I’ve been told that I don’t own the information, yet it surely feels like an invasion of privacy to me!
That said, if I have posted something publicly, if law enforcement uses it to catch a criminal, it’s fine by me. The only individual whose privacy is invaded is the criminal, and he/she waives that right by commiting a crime.


    I have heard from a couple of fellow genealogists with their DNA on GEDMatch about pulling their DNA samples. That would not accomplish much, because there are so many matches to begin with. I have hundreds of close matches including a sister, first cousins, niece, second cousins, and so forth. It would be pointless to think that the police would rely on mine alone. In any event, I am for the victims and their families, catching a killer or rapist with DNA is just great, that person might kill or rape again.


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