At-home DNA kit leads to an arrest of Florida serial rapist

Reporter: Justin Kase
Published: Updated:

An at-home DNA kit called GEDMatch, similar to and 23andMe, brought down a suspected serial rapist who terrorized the state over 20 years ago. The case ran cold, until now.

Two decades ago, detectives said Robert Brian Thomas raped four women in Florida, including Indian Rocks Beach, Venice, and Sarasota.

However, no DNA evidence was left behind in the rape in Sarasota. But in the other two cases, investigators said Thomas is a match. Investigators made a family tree after receiving a hit from one person who took a home DNA testing kit.

“It was estimated that the person who loaded their DNA and the rapist were somewhere around fourth cousins,” said Bob Gualtieri, from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives said they have complete access to your DNA from these home test kits if you do not choose to opt-out. The kits can increase the likelihood that you will find a relative you did not know about.

Most people WINK spoke to were afraid of their genetic information getting into the hands of insurance companies, for instance, where it could see predispositions to diseases. But almost everyone said that law enforcement should have to obtain a warrant before accessing that information.

“If they need it for criminal purposes,” said Jack Hudson, a Lee County visitor. “I think, you know, just like anything else, they should have a warrant of some sort and they should have some means to get it in those cases.”

But others said, if you have nothing to worry about, then the clause should not be a problem.

“If you like didn’t do it, then he wouldn’t be like scared or anything like that,” said Madison Franco, who lives in Fort Myers. “So I mean, I think it’s ok using peoples’ DNA. Just like to solve the crime.”

Clarification: During a press conference, Gualtieri, from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said there was a possible connection to Sanibel. Sanibel Police have since confirmed there is no connection.

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