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Case Study

Text Messages And Cell Tower Triangulation Makes For A Murder Mystery Most Foul

Phones Analyzed For Message Content And Cell Tower Location Data

Today’s criminals do not plan their crimes via email and zoom exchanging PowerPoint slides. And when it comes to solving today’s complex crimes, identifying technological data points that can prove innocence or guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are at the heart of every investigation. From Fitbits to burner phones, today’s criminals leave a trail of digital fingerprints that require modern investigative technology.

Mobile devices are often considered a window into one’s daily life. A cell phone’s location can be detected through cell site location information, often referred to as CSLI. This data, when available, can be quickly analyzed through technological means to place a person at or near specific locations. However, geolocation is often just one piece of a complex puzzle. When you send an SMS, MMS or place a call, your phone’s location is often being recorded when connecting to a nearby cell tower. Dates and times are also recorded down to the second that include the moment a call or message was sent, as well as the service being engaged, such as SMS or 4G LTE.

Investigators were trying to piece together as much evidence as possible to determine where each suspect was located in correlation to the crime scene.

Recently one of our Partners needed to analyze and cross reference messages received by one device in conjunction with cell tower data from two other devices subpoenaed as part of a criminal investigation. Mobile messages from the victim’s device were loaded into ESI Analyst combined with the cell tower data captured from the suspect’s devices. Leveraging ESI Analyst’s Actor matching technology, each message could be mapped to its participants, showing who was engaged in conversations at specific times.

Investigators were trying to piece together as much evidence as possible to determine where each suspect was located in correlation to the crime scene. ESI Analyst quickly linked actors to the phone calls, text messages, and the cell tower geolocations recorded. Timelines were then built for each matter actor, leveraging ESI Analyst’s timeline feature, showing where each suspect was located in correlation to the victim. Combining this evidence into a single investigative solution quickly revealed patterns of activity surrounding the night of the incident, helping investigators present a clear picture of the night in question.

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