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Fitbit to the rescue? Detectives may rely on one to solve murder

Detectives are increasingly relying on wearable devices such as Fitbit to get hints into crimes such as murder.

tech Updated: Apr 28, 2017 15:57 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

A Fitbit wearable device might become one of the key witnesses in a murder mystery as detectives are relying on the device to reveal more information about the crime.

According to a New York Times (NYT) report, detectives are relying on a Fitbit device to get more insights into the murder of a woman who was shot dead in the basement of her suburban Connecticut home.

The woman’s husband had initially told cops that the woman had struggled with the intruder before the murder but later the story fell apart as investigators began to rely on a silent witness — a Fitbit exercise tracker that recorded the woman’s last movements and may be the key to solving her murder.

Fitbit devices are capable of recordeing heartbeats, sleep schedules, locations and distances, documenting their host’s life events, from innocent mishaps to criminal encounters. A Fitbit device was factored into a Pennsylvania sexual assault case in 2015 and a personal injury case in Canada in 2014. A Garmin Vivosmart GPS recorded a young woman’s struggle with an attacker in a Seattle park in March.

When Connecticut police arrived at the home on the morning of Dec. 23, 2015, Mr Dabate, the victim’s husband, spoke of a violent struggle with a masked intruder who zip-tied him to a chair, demanded his wallet and credit cards, cut him with a knife and then fatally shot his wife in the basement, according to an arrest warrant.

But over time, the narrative that Mr Dabate told investigators started to unravel when compared with a timeline pieced together using digital data from the family home, the warrant said. Most importantly, a Fitbit on Ms Dabate’s waistband recorded that she had walked 1,217 feet around the house during the time her husband said they were being attacked. The Fitbit also showed her last living movement was at 10:05 a.m.

Mr Dabate was later punished by the court for tampering with evidence.

Wearable devices are now becoming an integral part of criminal investigations, experts claim. “It is definitely something we are going to see more of in the future,” detective Christopher Jones of the East Lampeter Township Police Department in Pennsylvania, was quoted as saying to the NYT.

“As people continue to provide more and more personal information through technology, they have to understand we are obligated to find the best evidence, and this technology has become a part of that.By itself it is not going to be that useful, but in collaboration with everything else, it can be a very useful tool,” he said.

First Published: Apr 28, 2017 15:56 IST

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