Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial
When Aaron Hernandez was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd in Boston, Massachusetts, a Blackberry Bold cell phone was seized as part of the investigation. This model of phone was relatively new to the market, and conventional examination techniques were not able to access information on the device. The device was sent to Dixie State University’s Digital Forensics Crime Lab, where a thorough investigation was conducted on the phone and the results of the examination were presented to the police investigating the crime.
David Heisler – Kidnapping/Murder
David Heisler, age 30, was kidnapped from his home in Santa Clara, Utah on June 27, 2016. Approximately 7 weeks later his body was found in Mohave County, Arizona by a Bureau of Land Management geologist. Heisler’s badly decomposed body was discovered approximately 4 miles from the location where he was reportedly left alive by one of his alleged abductors. Medical examiners were unable to determine the cause of death. Authorities searched the area, locating numerous items, including an electronic device. The device was brought to Utah Tech University’s Digital Forensic Crime Lab for examination. Results of the examination were presented to the investigative authorities, where additional charges were brought against the three individuals allegedly involved in the abduction, to include first-degree felony murder charges.
In February 2017, two teenage boys, Colter Peterson, 16, and Jayzon Decker, 16, lured 14-year-old Deserae Turner into a canal field and shot her in the back of the head. Peterson and Decker lured Turner to the spot because on of them “got tired” of her texting and messaging him on Snapchat. Turner survived and was found hours later. After the suspects were found with personal items from Turner, police sent in several small devices that were broken by the suspects to Utah Tech University’s Digital Forensics Crime Lab. The lab was able to extract data from one of the devices and send results back to the police. The two boys were convicted of attempted murder and for obstruction of justice and sentenced to 15 years to life.
Fatal Bank Robbery
On September 11, 2014, St. George Police officers responded to a report of a bank robbery at Zions Bank on S. River Road in St. George, Utah. The robbery suspect, Benjamin J. Schroff, 37, entered Zions Bank wearing a disguise and brandishing a firearm. Schroff demanded money and bank employees complied. After taking an undisclosed amount of money, Schroff took two female bank employees’ hostage. Schroff and the hostages got into one of the hostage’s vehicles and drove away. Officers caught up with the suspect and attempted to stop the vehicle. After a 3-hour chase that started off in a stolen vehicle and concluded as a foot chase with Schroff being fatally shot. The police department sent in two cell phones to the Digital Forensics Crime Lab, and a lab examiner was able to extract information from the seized evidence.
Aggravated Arson & Murder
In 2016, 72-year-old John Williams, a well-known Utah restaurateur and LGBT pioneer was killed in a house fire in Salt Lake city. Craig Crawford, 47, Williams’ estranged husband was arrested on suspicion of murder and arson. In court, Crawford pleaded guilty to the charges and stated that he just snapped when Williams tried to divorce him and get a restraining order. Some of the electronic evidence seized at the crime scene, including a cell phone and some fire damaged surveillance videos was sent to Utah Tech University’s Digital Forensics Crime Lab to be examined. Information was recovered from the submitted evidence and the results were presented to the police investigating the crime.
Teenagers Brelynne Otteson and Riley Powell went missing in December 2017. In March 2018, the bodies of Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, and Riley Powell, 18, were located and pulled off of a 100-foo-deep ledge in a 1,500-foot mine shaft in Juab County, Utah. The autopsy reports revealed the teens were stabbed multiple times and died from blunt force trauma. Jerrod William Baum was charged with their murders shortly after the bodies were discovered. Several broken and damaged cell phones were recovered during the investigation. The cell phones were sent to Utah Tech University’s Digital Forensics Crime Lab. Even though the phones were damaged, information was recovered from one cell phone and the results of the extraction were presented to the police investigating the crime.
Mark Spooner, MSc
Office: University Plaza D, 203A
Joan Runs Through
Assistant Director/Lab Examiner
Office: University Plaza D, 202