REXBURG, IDAHO (CBS13) — DNA from a genealogy website helped crack the East Area Rapist case, and now a woman from Rexburg, Idaho says she’s the one who helped investigators track down the suspected serial killer, Joseph DeAngelo.

“She was stunned, we’re all stunned,” said reporter Lisa Dayley Smith.

Smith is the reporter with the Upper Valley Standard Journal in Rexburg who interviewed the woman whose DNA test helped investigators in the case.

“She was startled and scared, and amazed that this would happen to her 6 months after she took the test,” said Smith.

Smith says the woman who wishes to stay anonymous is an avid genealogist who was fascinated by her family’s history. Like millions of others who have submitted their DNA for testing, she sent in her father’s DNA last year. Somehow the FBI got a hold of that data and called her. Unbeknownst to her, her father’s 12 genetic markers apparently matched a suspect the FBI was looking for.

“For her, it was 5 months of ‘Oh my god, is my dad a murderer or rapist?’” said Smith.

The woman tells the Standard Journal: “It’s way up in the tree. It was because of that test and that rare genetic marker, that the FBI initially thought my dad was the killer.”

According to the journal, “DeAngelo’s genetic markers matched the woman’s father’s “YDNA” indicating a possible connection to the serial killer. According to, YDNA passes from father to son and is only found in the direct paternal line.”

In fact, her father and DeAngelo happen to share ancestors from hundreds of years ago, but after extensive DNA testing it was proven that the woman’s father was not the murderer

She tells Smith, “… it’s true the FBI thought my dad was their guy. They took his DNA and found he wasn’t their guy. They contacted me and asked me to research my tree to give them names of possible other suspects.”

And she did…and that eventually led authorities to her father’s distant cousin Joseph DeAngelo living in Northern California’s Citrus Heights.

“We’re talking great great great relatives, way up her family tree,” said Smith.

A curious mind from the small city of Rexburg Idaho now a huge part of a search 40 years in the making.

Smith says the woman’s father being alive was meant to be. The woman tells her, “I think that’s why my dad is here. All these years later, this DNA helped to solve a murder.”


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