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Same type of DNA search used in Grim Sleeper case leads to arrest of Santa Cruz sex offender [Updated]

March 15, 2011 | 11:38 am

State investigators said Tuesday they have arrested a sex offender as a result of a familial DNA search, the controversial use of genetic investigation that led to the capture in July of the alleged Grim Sleeper serial killer.

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris announced the arrest of Elvis Garcia, 21, charged with the sexual assault and false imprisonment of a young woman at a Santa Cruz coffee shop in 2008.

[Updated at 12:14 p.m.: Garcia was arrested for the March 19, 2008, sexual assault, robbery and false imprisonment of a 23-year-old employee of The Kind Grind coffee shop.

Harris said the assailant trapped the victim in the coffee shop's kitchen, held a knife to her throat, sexually assaulted her and then forced her into an unused refrigerator and barricaded the door.

When a protracted investigation produced no suspects, Santa Cruz police asked the state to do a familial search. It led to the genetic profile of Garcia's father in the offender DNA database.

Investigators eventually began to focus on the offender's son. A search of his trash produced a Gatorade bottle with his DNA, which matched the DNA left at the crime, police said.

California became the first state in the nation to adopt a formal familial search policy in 2008.]

The DNA hunt for the culprit in the Santa Cruz attack was the 13th time the state has used familial searches since Jerry Brown approved the technique when he was attorney general.

Familial searches, opposed by civil libertarians, compare DNA left at a crime scene to DNA profiles in a state offender database.

State forensic investigators look for genetic profiles that strongly resemble the DNA of a perpetrator. Once a possible relative has been identified, police employ conventional detective work to zero in on the suspect.

In July, a familial search led to the arrest of the Lonnie David Franklin, the "Grim Sleeper" suspect accused of killing several women over decades in Los Angeles.

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-- Maura Dolan

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