More than Just Fitbit led to Charges in Murder Case
By Gayle O’Connor – The headlines say that a Connecticut woman’s Fitbit may have helped bring her murderer to justice. However, there were other factors that led police to seek an indictment against her husband, including social media evidence that directly contradicted statements he made to them.
In a nutshell, Connie Debate was shot dead in her home December 2015. Her husband, Richard Debate claimed he left for work around 8:30, only to return a half-hour later to see “a masked man about 6-foot-2 and stocky in a dark green camouflage suit and mask.” The man allegedly tortured Richard, shot Connie with her husband’s gun when she arrived home from a gym class, and then ran when Richard escaped and called the police.
But here is where it gets interesting. When the police examined all the digital data … not just the Fitbit, but text messages, computerized settings and door movements from an alarm system and even the time of Facebook posts, they found the husbands story full of holes.
First, the home security system recorded no signs of a struggle, and the alarm only went off an hour after the alleged altercation. Second, forty minutes after the alleged intruder was supposed to have shot her, Connie posted two videos to Facebook and sent a text message to a friend from her home. Finally, Connie’s Fitbit, which she’d worn to the gym, showed her walking a total of 1,217 feet around her home: an hour after her husband said she’d been killed!
It took police more than a year, but they eventually used Connie’s walking data as well as information from an iPhone and the Facebook account, to get a warrant for Richard’s arrest. Additionally, the home security system data played a major part in the eventual arrest.
All these facts are set forth in the actual warrant which can be viewed online. CNN also has a very informative video which shows how law enforcement agencies continue the trend toward using new IoT (Internet of Things) devices and social media evidence to further criminal investigations.
Gayle O’Connor is a legal technology consultant with 30 years’ experience specializing in legal marketing, particularly social media, blogs and websites. She is currently working as the Marketing Manager at Social Evidence, a cloud-based application designed to discover, organize, analyze and authenticate specific social media evidence. Gayle was previously the Marketing Manager at Degan, Blanchard and Nash, a large law firm located in New Orleans. Gayle is also a former trial technician for the federal public defenders, a marketing director for numerous legal software providers and has taught legal research at law schools. Additionally, she has been a featured speaker at American Lawyer Media LegalTech Events, ABA TECHSHOW, Online World, Special Libraries Association, Washington State Paralegal Association, National Business Institute, ABA Litigation Section Meetings, local Bar Associations throughout the U.S. and international organizations such as the Law Society of British Columbia and the New Zealand Law Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.social-evidence.com or @gaylemoconnor.
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