Ronald French’s body was recovered from a cornfield in Michigan during the summer of 2017. He had gone missing three weeks prior. His body had extensive damage which led the medical examiner to conclude that he was murdered. French’s murder was investigated for more than two years without any arrests being made. That was until one of the detectives assigned to the case learned about the emerging field of vehicle forensics, NBC News reports.
Vehicle forensics involves the study of data stored and transmitted onboard cars, especially newer ones. In recent years, investigators have turned to this type of examination for the potential “treasure trove” of evidence this data can provide. It is often possible to determine a vehicle’s location at a certain date and time, which doors were opened, and texts and calls that were made while the cellphone registered to the car was connected.
Armed with this emerging analysis practice, detectives performed an examination on French’s 2016 black Chevy Silverado pickup truck. Time-stamped voice recordings were located within the onboard computer that showed a voice other than French’s giving a hands-free command to the vehicle to play music right around the time of French’s murder. The voice was analyzed and was determined to belong to Joshua Wessel, an associate of French’s.
Wessel has since been arrested and is charged with the murder of French. Wessel has pleaded not guilty and awaits an upcoming trial.
In a digital world, it is important to take into account the various mediums that can assist in a digital forensic investigations. Newer sources of data including vehicles, voice assistants, and smart devices may assist where traditional investigation techniques hit dead ends.
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Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology