eDiscovery Daily Blog

Wife’s Fitbit Leads to Murder Arrest for the Husband: eDiscovery Trends

At both the Master’s Conference session that I moderated in San Francisco on Tuesday and the webcast that I conducted yesterday, the topic of discovery from IoT (Internet of Things) devices came up.  This story illustrates how discovery from IoT devices is becoming more and more important, especially in criminal cases.

According to an article in Business Insider, data from a murdered woman’s Fitbit led Connecticut police to arrest her husband in connection with the death.  After more than a year of investigations, the Hartford police charged Richard Dabate with his wife’s murder, tampering with physical evidence, and making false statements to the police after her Fitbit showed she was still walking around an hour after he claimed she was murdered by an intruder.

In December 2015, Connie Dabate was shot in her home with a .357 Magnum that her husband, Richard, had bought a few months before.  Dabate stated that, after getting a house alarm notification on his phone, he got back around 9 a.m. when he spotted an intruder, he said: a 6’2” man with a stocky build wearing a “camouflaged suit with a mask.”  Dabate said that, at about that time, he heard his wife come home and yelled for her to run, but the intruder shot her to death after a short struggle.  Dabate also said that the intruder tied him to a chair and began burning him with a torch, but he struggled with the intruder, eventually getting the torch from the intruder and causing him to flee.

Cops brought in K-9’s to pick up the scent of an intruder, but they could only pick up Dabate’s scent.  With no other evidence regarding an intruder, cops eventually obtained search warrants for Connie Dabate’s Fitbit, both of their cell phones, computers and house alarm logs.

According to an article in CNN, this timeline of activities conflicted with the story that Dabate told the police:

  • At 9:01 a.m. Richard Dabate logged into Outlook from an IP address assigned to the internet at the house.
  • At 9:04 a.m., Dabate sent his supervisor an e-mail saying an alarm had gone off at his house and he’s got to go back and check on it.
  • Connie’s Fitbit registered movement at 9:23 a.m., the same time the garage door opened into the kitchen.
  • Connie Dabate was active on Facebook between 9:40 and 9:46 a.m., posting videos to her page with her iPhone. She was utilizing the IP address at their house.
  • While she was at home, her Fitbit recorded a distance of 1,217 feet between 9:18 a.m. and 10:05 a.m. when movement stops. If Richard Dabate’s claims were correct, detectives say the total distance it would take the victim to walk from her vehicle to the basement, where she died, would be no more than 125 feet.

Dabate later admitted to having an extramarital affair where he impregnated a woman.  Oh, and five days after the incident, Dabate also attempted to make a claim for his wife’s life insurance policy for $475,000, police said.  He is due to appear in court today.

It seems IoT devices are becoming more and more important to criminal investigations.  It seems like only a matter of time before that becomes the case for civil litigations as well.

So, what do you think?  Have you been involved in any cases where data from IoT devices was at issue?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.