SACRAMENTO (AP/CBS SF) — A family member of a couple who were victims of a California serial killer decades ago has been fighting for law enforcement to expand the use of DNA testing in crime investigations since the early 2000s.
On Wednesday, he said the arrest of a suspect has brought closure after almost four decades of anguish.
Bruce Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were killed in 1980 in Orange County, told reporters Wednesday that it’s time for victims’ families to grieve and “bring closure to the anguish that we all suffered for the last 40 odd years.”
He cheered the work of law enforcement, who said they arrested Joseph James DeAngelo on Wednesday after DNA helped solve the case.
Prosecutors say Harrington’s brother, 24-year-old Keith Harrington and his wife, 27-year-old Patrice Harrington, were killed in 1980 in their home.
Harrington has been a longtime advocate for the use of DNA evidence in forensics, calling on lawmakers to establish and expand the state’s DNA database.
“I spent time in Sacramento in the early 2000s, appearing before the Assembly and the Senate public safety committees, pleading that they embrace the power of DNA,” remembered Harrington. “And, frankly, I ran into a buzzsaw of opposition.”
Harrington — along with Larry Pool, an Orange County sheriff’s who was investigating the Golden State Killer case at the time — would spearhead the effort to pass Prop 69 in 2004. That statute helped establish the requirement that all arrested adult and juvenile felons provide DNA samples to build the California DNA database.
The Proposition passed with over 62 percent of voters supporting the idea. At the time, opponents objected to the proposed law, arguing it violated the privacy of suspects and inmates. Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court ruled that taking the DNA of an arson suspect was not a violation of his privacy, upholding the law.
Harrington went so far as to single out retired California senator and longtime Bay Area Democrat John Burton for his opposition.
“Senator Burton of the Senate Public Safety Committee, I shamed you then and I shame you now. You were wrong,” said Harrington.
Harrington defended the use of DNA not only for finding criminals, but for exonerating those who have been wrongly accused, praising “innocence projects” that have helped free inmates who have been wrongly convicted.
After briefly speaking about his new “Keep California Safe Proposition” that he is collecting signatures to get on the November ballot, Harrington closed by addressing the relief that victims and the families of victims could feel in the wake of the arrest.
“To the entire reservoir of victims out there, my sadness is with you,” said Harrington. “For the 51 who were brutally raped, sleep better tonight. He isn’t coming through the window. He is now in jail and he is history.”
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.