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

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.


US launches first Taliban air strikes since Afghan ceasefire end

Updated 15 min 32 sec ago

US launches first Taliban air strikes since Afghan ceasefire end

  • Taliban had announced a surprise three-day Eid ceasefire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26
  • The group has argely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the peace deal was signed

KABUL: The US launched its first air strikes against the Taliban since a rare cease-fire between the insurgents and Afghan forces ended more than a week ago, the US military said Friday.
The two assaults took place on Thursday and Friday in separate provinces in Afghanistan, US forces spokesman Sonny Leggett said on Twitter.
“These were the 1st US airstrikes against (the Taliban) since the start of the Eid cease-fire,” he wrote.
“We reiterate: All sides must reduce violence to allow the peace process to take hold,” he added.
Ten members of the Afghan forces were killed on Friday in a separate attack targeting a Humvee vehicle, the Interior Ministry said, blaming the assault on the Taliban.
There was no immediate comment from the group.
The Taliban announced a surprise three-day cease-fire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26 to mark the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
There has since been an overall drop in violence across the country, with the Afghan government saying it is ready to start long-delayed peace talks with the insurgents.
The US negotiator with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, left Friday for the region to discuss “the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations,” the State Department said.
He will visit Kabul as well as Qatar, where he regularly meets the Taliban, as well as Pakistan, the historic ally of the insurgents.
Washington signed a landmark deal with the Taliban in February, in which the United States pledged to withdraw all its troops in return for security guarantees in a bid to pave the way for negotiations between warring Afghan sides.
The Taliban have largely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the deal was signed, but have continued to target Afghan forces.
Under the agreement, which excluded the Afghan government, Washington and the militants said they would refrain from attacking each other.
However, the Pentagon last month said it would continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack Afghan partners.
The February deal will see all US and foreign forces quit Afghanistan by mid-2021, nearly 20 years after Washington first invade.
Thousands of US troops have already gone, with a senior US defense official last month putting the number left in the country at approximately 8,500.