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Thursday, April 23, 2009

A little more on gumshoe-ing from Sam Spade

I liked this article in the Globe about the investigation resulting in the arrest of the med student as the "Craigslist killer," but I was interested in finding out even more detail. So I asked my buddy, "Sam Spade" for his input. (He is a real life detective, not in Boston.) I specifically asked him how many guys would get put on something like this where he is.
Most murders are committed by a friend or acquaintance of the victim, and even if an arrest isn't made in the first 48 hours it's usually pretty apparent that it wasn't a random thing, meaning that there isn't a big public safety threat to everyone. This case was different because it was random. Plus there were the two other girls he robbed which made it very likely he would hit again. In a case like this, the PD writes a blank check an nobody goes home until either you catch the guy or all leads dry up. (my emphasis)

This case worked out good. It's amazing to me that this guy used his own internet service to email this girl. Quite often when you trace an IP address, you find the account holder is not your suspect. A lot of times they have an unsecured wireless connection in their house that people on the outside can pick up on, especially in an apartment building like the one this guy lived in in Quincy. Plus, like the article said, people can hijack your IP address remotely.

We had a case that started in Minnesota with a person who bought a car through Auto Trader. The whole transaction was done on the internet. The Minnesota cops traced the IP address back to an account in [our place], so they turned the case over to us. We watched the house for a while and did some background and were pretty sure these weren't the right people, so we didn't get a search warrant to seize their computer. Instead, we traced the origin of the email address the suspect used through gmail, and it turned out it originated in Romania and was part of a worldwide scam.

I don't know exactly how they do it, but somehow they're able to take over an IP address without the account holder knowing. So Boston did the right thing by surveilling this guy until they had some corroborating info, and eliminated other leads.

Plus this tends take the wind out of the sail early on the inevitable defense by his Attorney that "the police only focused on my guy and did an incomplete investigation.

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