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California man convicted of murders in 1980s cold cases because of his genetic genealogy

A California prosecutor labeled as a serial killer was convicted on Thursday of raping and killing two women in the 1980s after investigators linked him to DNA evidence, prosecutors said.

Horace Van Vaultz Jr., 67, was convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances allegations that the crimes involved multiple murders, rapes and sodomy, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. .

Vaultz, a former Bakersfield resident, has been jailed since his 2019 arrest. He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole when sentenced next month.

Vaultz was convicted of the murder of 22-year-old Mary Duggan in 1986. Her body was found in the trunk of his car in a parking lot in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank. He was also convicted of the 1981 murder of 20-year-old Selena Keough, whose body was found under bushes near an apartment building in Montclair, San Bernardino County. Both were strangled.

The cases remained cold for decades until they were linked to Vaultz using investigative genetic genealogy, in which genealogy websites are used to identify potential relatives of a suspect on the based on DNA collected from a crime scene.

It was the first criminal case in LA County to use the procedure, the district attorney’s office said.

At his trial, the prosecution argued that Vaultz was a sexually motivated serial killer. The defense argued that he had consensual sex with the women and someone else killed them. Vaultz described himself as a “‘swinger’ and said he did not recall meeting the victims.

Prosecutors also said a recent review of evidence showed a DNA link between Vaultz and a third murder in Ventura County, KNBC-TV reported.

Janna Rowe, 25, was strangled and left on a rubbish heap. Vaultz was acquitted of her death in 1988, before DNA evidence was used at trial, and cannot be retried.