Sacramento prosecutors added a new rape charge against the NorCal Rapist suspect Friday, bringing the total count of charges against him to 46, as a judge delayed a decision over whether defense lawyers should be able to obtain details of the secret DNA tracking process that led to his arrest a year ago.
The new charge stems from a 1997 attack on a Chico woman, a victim whose case already had been charged against Roy Charles Waller, who could face up to life in prison for a series of assaults on nine women from 1991 through 2006.
Much of Friday’s hearing before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl focused on a request from the defense that they be given access to details of the process investigators used to lead them to Waller.
They argued that prosecutors were keeping secret information such as the name of genealogical databases used in their hunt as well as the identities of any Waller relatives whose DNA characteristics on such sites may have been used to find him.
Defense DNA counsel Erica Graves argued that Waller’s team needs to know how any genealogical sites used in the hunt handle their data, and that they need to know whose DNA was found in a site that was used to find Waller.
“If there was something inadmissible about how the site worked, they would never have gotten to Mr. Waller,” she said.
Prosecutors sharply objected to providing the information, saying the defense is entitled to the evidence that they used to arrest Waller: DNA they obtained from a soda straw while he was under surveillance, and DNA from a swab they took after his arrest that was matched to DNA left behind at crime scenes.
The technique investigators used is essentially identical to that used by Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to find a suspect in the decades-old Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist case.
That suspect, former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, was arrested at his Citrus Heights home after investigators plugged DNA data from crime scenes into a genealogical website, found samples from people who might be related to him, then built out a “family tree” that eventually led them DeAngelo.
Schubert’s office calls the process Investigative Genetic Genealogy, or IGG, and contends it is not covered under California law detailing what evidence must be handed over to the defense during the discovery phase.
Her office asked Earl to allow them to keep secret the technique used in finding a suspect, the websites used, the identities of individuals whose DNA on the sites led them to Waller, and “the cooperation by any relatives in helping to determine the identity of the suspect.”
“The IGG material will not be presented at trial,” prosecutors Chris Ore and Keith Hill wrote in a court filing. “The people will simply present that through ‘investigative techniques we determined that Mr. Waller may be someone to look at’ and when his DNA was collected it matched the DNA left in the sexual assaults from the six different cases.”
They added, “While the defense may be interested in how law enforcement was led to focus their investigation on Mr. Waller, ‘interested’ is not the standard for discovery.”
The judge said she expected to rule on the defense motion by Wednesday.