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High profile arrest led Alabama police to genealogy testing

March 19, 2019

OZARK, Ala. (AP) — A truck-driving preacher accused in the killing of two teenage girls from Alabama decades ago was found with the same genealogy database techniques that were used to identify a suspect last year in the notorious “Golden State” serial killings.

The killings of Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley sat unsolved until Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker saw that success in the California case and turned to the same company, Parabon NanoLabs, for help.

Parabon uploaded Alabama’s crime-scene DNA and then reverse-engineered a publicly available family tree on a genealogy website. That led police to arrest Coley McCraney, 45, of Dothan, on multiple counts of capital murder, including one accusing him of killing Beasley during a sexual assault.

Investigators are cheered by this technology, but others say it raises huge privacy concerns.