Major Convictions, and a Few Gaffes, with Digital Data

American Scientist, September/October 2013 | Go to article overview

Major Convictions, and a Few Gaffes, with Digital Data


Famous criminal cases show the power of digital forensics, but a few also highlight the need for careful handling of data and devices.

* On December 17, 2000, John Diamond shot and killed Air Force Captain Marty Theer. The victim's wife, Michelle Theer (right), was implicated in the crime, but there was no eyewitness evidence. What prosecutors did have was 88,000 emails and instant messages on her computer, including clear evidence of a sexual relationship between Theer and Diamond, and messages documenting the conspiracy to murder her husband. Theer was found guilty on December 3,2004, of murder and conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison.

* In 2005, after eluding police for more than 30 years, Dennis Rader (above), a serial killer in Kansas, reemerged, took another victim, and then sent police a floppy disk with a letter on it. On the disk forensic investigators found a deleted Microsoft Word file. That file's metadata contained the name "Dennis" as the last person to modify the deleted file and a link to a Lutheran church where Rader was a deacon. (Ironically, Rader had sent a floppy disk because he had been previously told, by the police themselves, that letters on floppy disks could not be traced.)

* On Jamiary 1, 2002, Scott Tyree kidnapped and imprisoned 13-yearold Alicia Kozakiewicz. He sent an instant message of a photograph showing Kozakiewicz to another man, who contacted the FBI and provided the Yahoo! …

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