Thursday, July 8, 2010

Genetic Informants

The sins of the father may come calling if the son or daughter has given a DNA sample, at least in California or Colorado.

After the arrest of Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., the so-called "Grim Sleeper" serial killer in L.A. (named after his hiatus between murders, from 1988 to 2002) for ten murders between 1985 and 2007, maybe lawmakers in other states may start pushing for legislation for such testing (except for Maryland, where it is banned).

Once an exact match isn't found in an existing DNA pool, the net spreads wider; familial DNA looks for a close match, since family members have similar DNA. Many question whether familial DNA testing is ethical or legal. What will happen if a hit leads to a person who was adopted, or whose mother used a sperm donor or an egg donation?

In the case of the Grim Sleeper case, a close match to his son led police to the suspect. Once they identified his father as the suspect, the police monitored his movements and collected a discarded slice of pizza. The tested slice came back with a positive hit.

The federal government and all 50 states require convicted felons to provide DNA samples. California is one of 23 states that collect DNA samples from those arrested for felonies.

What do you think about familial DNA testing?


  1. Conflicted--I'm all for tools to put the bad guys and gals away, and the more forensics tools the better--but also concerned about my own freedoms. Mostly intellectual, because I've never been in a police situation myself. And so many people are voluntarily getting DNA tests for ancestry reasons??? This is a good question, Kathleen, I'm interested in what other authors think. Good basis for a novel???

  2. I can see the pros and cons. I think in cases of capturing serial killers is definitely in the pro column and would out weigh so many of the cons. Definitely something to ponder.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. Hi Madeline,
    I have no problem with convicted felons getting DNA samples taken (which is now already required). I think it's an interesting way to search for serial murderers by checking for the closes match, which would most likely mean a relative. It may have its own set of issues, however; would the person who matches be cooperative? Would they use a process of elimination to figure out which relative is the suspect? And how about those parents who abandoned their children, or adoption situations, etc.? It definitely sounds like some good storylines should be opening up!

    Hi Mason,
    I agree. I think they should do this in the case of serial killers. Usually it is the DNA that links victims, and how police know they are looking for one particular suspect. I'm sure the families of the victims would be very much in favor of such testing.