Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Solving a Connecticut Murder One Step at a Time

Fitbit Helps State Police Build Their Case Bit by Bit

We live in a brave new world filled with constant tracking and surveillance by devices that silently record a virtual map of our daily lives. Discussions in this area typically focus on the ever-increasing loss of privacy brought about by the cell phones, apps, digital assistants (such as Amazon Echo and Siri), security cameras, and the like that create the map. But a recent murder charge in Connecticut highlights a positive aspect -- how law enforcement can now rely on this ever expanding virtual map (including in this case data from the victim's Fitbit) to help solve crimes and bring criminals to justice.

State Police arrived at the home of Connie and Richard Dabate on December 23, 2015, and found Connie dead, having been shot twice with a gun that her husband had purchased, with Richard tied to a chair with superficial wounds. He claimed that he had struggled with the intruder who shot Connie before scaring him off. (Sounds like the plot of the famous 1960s television show -- and hit movie in the 1990s -- called The Fugitive.) Police and the K-9 unit were not able to find evidence of an intruder.

After a lengthy investigation lasting almost a year and a half, police recently charged Richard with the murder of his wife. Reading the 48 page arrest warrant application is like reading a virtual reenactment of the lives of the husband and wife (and others) in the days leading up to and on the day of the killing. In addition to the Fitbit data, the investigators scoured alarm company records, video surveillance at the local YMCA where Connie exercised the morning of the murder, cell phone records, computers, Facebook postings, text messages and notes on Connie's cell phone, all in an exhaustive effort to reconstruct a timeline and understand what really happened that day. As you can imagine, all of this data revealed quite a bit, so to speak, including Richard's pregnant girlfriend and a troubled marriage. And it did not help that he contacted his wife's life insurer within days of her murder.