California police use genealogy websites to arrest suspect in 1990s rapes

Kevin Konther, 53, suspected of committing multiple rapes in the 1990s, including the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old girl, is seen in this Orange County Sheriff’s Department, California, US. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 January 2019
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California police use genealogy websites to arrest suspect in 1990s rapes

  • The nine-year-old victim was walking home from a Lake Forest, California convenience store on the evening of October 21, 1995, when a man pulled her into a wooded area and raped her

LOS ANGELES: A California man has been arrested in connection to rapes committed in the 1990s after his DNA was linked to the crime scenes through commercial genealogy websites, which initially turned up the both the suspect and his twin, police said on Friday.
Kevin Konther, 53, was taken into custody on Thursday at his home in Southern California and booked on suspicion of rape, kidnapping and child sexual abuse, Orange County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. One of the victims was nine years old at the time of the attack.
Konther was identified as a suspect by sheriff’s detectives using techniques similar to those used in recent years to help solve a number of older crimes. Last year, a 73-year-old former police officer was arrested over the ‘Golden State Killer’ string of murders and rapes across California in the 1970s and 1980s.
In investigating the 1990s rapes, which were committed in Orange County, investigators working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation compared DNA samples collected at two crime scenes to that found on the websites used by consumers to trace their ancestry, Braun said.
Detectives use the sites to follow the family trees of matches, seeking blood relatives who roughly fit the profile of the suspected criminal.
Both Konther and his twin brother were taken into custody on Thursday before investigators identified Konther as the suspect and released his brother, who has not been publicly identified, Braun said. She declined to name the website used or the family member whose DNA led to the suspect.
Konther was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending an initial court appearance scheduled for Monday, where he will be arraigned on two counts of felony rape, oral copulation on a child under the age of 14, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 and aggravated sexual assault.
The sheriff’s department asked the public to come forward with any information about the case. It was not immediately clear if Konther had retained an attorney.
The nine-year-old victim was walking home from a Lake Forest, California convenience store on the evening of October 21, 1995, when a man pulled her into a wooded area and raped her, according to the sheriff’s department.
Three years later, a 31-year-old woman jogging on a trail in Mission Viejo, California, was pulled her into the bushes by a man who raped her before fleeing.
Both victims reported the attacks to police but for more than two decades the DNA collected did not match any suspects in an FBI database, Braun said.


UK firms step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as PM Theresa May meets with EU leaders

Updated 21 March 2019
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UK firms step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as PM Theresa May meets with EU leaders

  • May is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in attempt to get support for Brexit delay
  • The Bank of England warned in November that the British economy could shrink by a massive 8 percent

LONDON: UK companies have ratcheted up their preparations for a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit as best they can over the past couple of months, the Bank of England said on Thursday.
With the prospect of a chaotic Brexit potentially eight days away, a survey by the central bank’s agents showed that around 80 percent of companies “judged themselves ready” for such a scenario, in which the country crashes out of the European Union with no deal and no transition to new trading arrangements with the bloc. That’s up from around 50 percent in an equivalent survey in January.
For decades, trading with the rest of the EU has been seamless. A disorderly Brexit could see the return of tariffs and other restrictions on trade with the EU, Britain’s main export destination.
To prepare, some firms have moved jobs and operations to the EU to continue to benefit from its seamless trade. Many have had to learn how to file customs declarations and adjust labels on goods. Exporters of animals are learning about health checks they will need to comply with.
According to the bank’s survey, however, many of those companies preparing for a “no-deal” Brexit said “there were limits to the degree of readiness that was feasible in the face of the range of possible outcomes in that scenario.”
There’s only so much companies can do, for example, to prepare for new tariffs and exchange rate movements.

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Britain appears headed for a “no-deal” Brexit on March 29 if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to win parliamentary support for her withdrawal agreement with the EU.
She is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in an attempt to get support for a delay to the country’s departure date to June 30. EU leaders have said a short extension would have to be conditional on her Brexit plan getting parliamentary backing and have indicated they would only be willing to back a delay to May 22, the day before elections to the European Parliament. After two heavy rejections in parliament, there are doubts as to whether she will be able to get parliamentary approval. What would happen next is uncertain.
European leaders, including those from France and Luxembourg, have said any extension will be granted dependent on May's deal passing a third parliamentary vote.
The Bank of England warned in November that the British economy could shrink by a massive 8 percent within months, though Governor Mark Carney has indicated the recession will be less savage, partly because of heightened preparedness.
According to the minutes of the latest meeting of the bank’s nine-member Monetary Policy Committee, at which the main interest rate was kept at 0.75 percent, rate-setters warned “Brexit uncertainties would continue to affect economic activity looking ahead, most notably business investment.”
Brexit uncertainty has dogged the British economy for nearly three years. In 2018, the economy grew by 1.4 percent, its lowest rate since 2012, even during what was then a global upswing. Business investment was down 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter from the year before.
“Business investment had now fallen in each of the past four quarters as uncertainties relating to Brexit had intensified,” the rate-setters said.
The survey showed uncertainty was likely to remain for months, even years, as Britain works out its long-term relationship with the EU. It said around 60 percent of UK firms in February said Brexit was one of their top three uncertainties, compared with 40 percent just after the June 2016 Brexit referendum.
Around 40 percent of firms expect the uncertainty to be resolved only by the end of 2019 and 20 percent anticipate it persisting into 2021 or beyond.