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Fitbit Data Connects Husband to Wife's MurderBy Jamiles Lartey
Posted: April 27, 2017 9:53am PDT
Wearable technology is revolutionizing the way people keep active, and if prosecutors in Connecticut have their way, it may help put a suspected murderer behind bars.
Officials say that the timeline given by Richard Dabate, accused of killing his wife in the couple's Ellington, Connecticut, home in 2015, is at odds with data collected from her Fitbit, a wearable device that tracks physical activity.
"To say it is rare to use Fitbit records would be safe," Lancaster, Pennsylvania, district attorney Craig Stedman told the Hartford Courant.
Dabate told police that a masked assailant came into the couple's suburban home at around 9am on 23 December 2015 and subdued Dabate with "pressure points" before shooting his wife, Connie Dabate, with a gun that Richard Dabate owned. He said that the man killed his wife as she returned through their garage from a workout at the local YMCA. Dabate claimed that he eventually chased the assailant off with a blowtorch.
But the Fitbit tells a different story. According to data from the device, which uses a digital pedometer to track the wearer's steps, Connie Dabate was moving around for more than an hour after her husband said the murder took place. Not just that -- it also showed she had traveled more than 1,200ft after arriving home, contrary to Dabate's story that she was killed as she arrived. The distance from her vehicle to the location she died is "no more than 125ft", according to police documents.
"It is an electronic footprint that tracks your movements," Stedman said. "It is a great tool for investigators to use."
The arrest warrant shows a detailed breakdown of all her movements and locations from waking up through the time she was killed. From the sync locations and activity monitor, investigators were able to produce a timeline down to the minute of when she left for the gym, the duration of her trip home, when she walked into the garage, her intermittent moving around in the home, and when her body stopped moving.
The Fitbit is far from the only challenge Dabate faces in his legal fight. Computer records show that he lied about where he was when he sent an email to his employer that morning. He said he was on the road when he was really at home.
Digital -- especially mobile device data -- is increasingly becoming a critical aspect of criminal investigations. "As the types and sophistication of electronic media from which digital evidence can be gleaned increase, this type of evidence will become an essential part of investigating and prosecuting most crimes," said a 2015 report from the National Institute Justice.
More traditional investigation methods found no signs of forced entry or a struggle, and police canines detected no scent of the stocky 6ft 2in man with a "Vin Diesel voice" that Dabate described.
Dabate is out on bail, and facing trial on charges of murder, tampering with evidence and making a false statement. Investigators say his marriage was "in trouble" and that a month before the killing Dabate had texted his pregnant girlfriend to let her know that he and his wife were "on the same page" in terms of an impending divorce.
Dabate attempted to claim a $475,000 life insurance policy on his wife five days after the murder and withdrew $90,000 from an investment account in her name the next month. He is due back in court on 28 April.
© 2017 Guardian Web. Syndicated here under contract with YellowBrix, Inc. All rights reserved.
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