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Woman Arrested For Cold Case Murder Using Information From Free Ancestry Site

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

A South Dakota woman was recently arrested for the cold case murder of her infant son who was found in a ditch 38 years ago. Police were able to make the arrest by obtaining information from a free ancestry site, GEDMatch, where people can upload their genetic information, similar to Ancestry and 23andMe. This is the same site used by police in tracking down the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who killed 12 and raped 45 women from 1976 to 1986 in California. Since the arrest of the Golden State Killer, over a dozen more criminals have been identified using similar techniques. With the help of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology laboratory that frequently assists in cold cases, police were able to match DNA from the baby to the baby's biological mother, Theresa Bentaas. Ms. Bentaas now faces murder and manslaughter charges.

Is It Safe To Use Genetic Testing Sites?

With the use of popular genetic testing and ancestry sites on the rise, the issue of how the sharing and use of that information is becoming increasingly important. Over 26 million people have used one of the top four commercial genetic testing sites since the beginning of 2019, and the numbers only appear to be rising. 

There are several advantages to using genetic testing websites--they are inexpensive ways to find long lost relatives or to find out important health information. However, a recent study found that based on information available in genetic and ancestry databases today, 60% of white Americans could be identified even if they did not submit the data themselves and a distant relative had used the site. Using an anonymous DNA sample, basic genealogical information, and information from these DNA databases, the identity of a person could be narrowed down to less than 20 people.

So what are ways you can protect yourself from unwanted sharing of personal information?

  • Have thoughtful and open discussions with family members about genetic privacy issues. Even the information they share will reveal information about you.
  • If you or a family member decides to use a genetic testing or ancestry site, familiarize yourself with the privacy policy for the site. Is the site is open to anyone or is it limited to members only? Is the company allowed to share your information with third parties with (or without) your consent?
  • Determine if there are and take advantage of any "opt out" options for the unwanted sharing of personal genetic information

If you've been charged with a criminal offense and are concerned about whether there has been unwanted sharing or use of your private information, it's critical to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former prosecutor, Steve Karimi is thoroughly equipped to defend against charges made against you. Speak with a member of our legal team by filling out an online case evaluation form or calling (206) 621-8777 today.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

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Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.