Critical DNA Swab in Golden State Killer Case Was Collected in Hobby Lobby Parking Lot


Forty years after the first double homicide connected to the Golden State Killer, a judge has unsealed documents further detailing the arduous process of piecing together a DNA profile and match (which controversially lifted information from an open-source genealogy website–more here). Investigators report that, while surveilling Joseph DeAngelo, 72, they collected fateful DNA swabs from the driver’s side handle of his car while he was in a Hobby Lobby as well as a tissue from trash he’d put out on the sidewalk. The DNA matched semen found on the body of Charlene Smith, who was murdered in 1980 with her husband at their home (and that semen matched the DNA of semen found at the scenes of several other homicides). As described by the Washington Post, investigator Paul Holes used DNA from a crime scene to trace a line back to the killer’s great-great-great grandparents, build 25 family trees “containing thousands of relatives” and narrowed the leads down to a few candidates before finding Deangelo (this is beyond me). He has now been charged with 12 murders.

The warrant is also just a laundry list of nightmares, which started with “Phase One”: a rash of burglaries, prowling, and sexual assaults in the neighborhood from 1976-1978 which ended with the double murder of Brian and Katie Maggiore in 1978. One heavily-redacted section mentions having received “in excess of 30,000 reports” presumably of phone call hang ups, burglaries, and prowling which took place in the area leading up to and throughout the crime spree. Frequently, crimes and stalking would take place at homes in close proximity to drainage ditches. An abundance of physical descriptions and composite sketches match DeAngelo, who was a police officer at the time. (He was reportedly fired in 1979 for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent).

From there, the report escalates into details of murders–often, couples or women found nude in their homes shot or bludgeoned to death.

Probably the most real element, though, is the list of mementos and valuables taken from homicide scenes: a man’s golden wedding band inscribed “For My Angel” “1/11/70″; a silver dollar dated 1888; a class ring, “Lycoming College 1965″; several drivers’ licenses; a charm bracelet.

The sheer volume of parallel reports is staggering. You can read the search warrant, arrest warrant, and affidavits here and here.

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