ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - The 'Golden State Killer' arrest is shining the spotlight on a controversial DNA search known as Familial DNA.
In the summer of 2013, local communities were gripped by fear amid a string of unspeakable crimes.
An unknown culprit dubbed 'The Creeper' entered five homes in Escondido and one in San Marcos, cutting screens, cutting the clothes of little girls and molesting them while they slept.
The suspect left DNA at several scenes, but a search turned up no matches. Ultimately the case went cold until detectives applied to the State Department of Justice - for a DNA familial search.
In 2015, the mystery DNA profile was linked to somebody already in the system, a close relative of the suspect.
"They were able to determine through a familial search who the suspect likely was," said Deputy District Attorney Ryan Saunders.
That suspect was Gilbert Chavarria, who recently pleaded guilty to a host of charges. He was sentenced to 100 years to life in prison.
"Police did an excellent job gathering the evidence, but the leads were exhausted. Without the familial searches, we'd still be on our hands waiting," said Saunders.
It marked the first use of the search in a local case. Amid concerns from privacy advocates, Governor Brown in 2008 enacted a policy that familial DNA would be used only as a last resort.
It's been rarely used but did provide the break in several serial killer cases, including the 'Grim Sleeper' case and now, the 'Golden State Killer' case. In the latter, the mystery DNA was linked to a familial profile from an ancestry website.
Some law enforcement experts tell 10News the recent cases could lead to a lot more requests for the DNA search. Familial DNA also provided the break in the infamous 'BTK' serial killer case in Kansas.