Every day on the news, reports are coming in about how digital forensics are being used more and more to catch bad guys, whether they are committing abuses like fraud, or something as dangerous as harassing someone.
One specific case recently caught our attention. This one takes place in Ada, Oklahoma, and tells how local police worked with detectives in Colorado at the County Jail to track down a man who formerly lived in Ada, and whom they state has sent messages threatening the life of his old girlfriend in the community of Ada.
Zachary Ray is 27 years old and is currently living in Colorado. He is now awaiting his extradition to the jail in Pontotoc County, where he’ll be facing charges of violation of the “Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act”.
Zachary Ray has been accused of using his cell phone to threaten a violent act, which leaves another person afraid of serious harm, or even death. This is a felony charge, and his bond was set for $500,000 in Colorado.
A police detective in Ada, Destry Musgrove, used Google Earth to track Zachary Ray within less than three city blocks of the cell phone he was using, over 500 miles from Ada. Musgrove did this while in his basement office at the Police Department building in Ada.
From that point, police in Colorado contacted one of Ray’s friends in their local community. Working together with police detectives in La Junta, these cooperating agencies of law enforcement found Ray and placed him in jail.
Zachary Ray and the victim in Ada have a child together, who was in the custody of the woman. That has caused conflict between the two, according to further police evidence that was found on Ray’s cell phone.
Some of Ray’s alleged messages to his ex-girlfriend were especially frightening, and they are printed here, with some words obviously censored.
“I can’t wait to get all u mother (expletive deleted) LMAO,” said one message.
“If you take (child’s name) out of my life, I will take ur life. I swear to god nothing is gonna stop me. I’m not on my meds, so if I can’t have her, neither can you.
“Mark my words, I will gut you before the year is over, and that I promise. Let the cops see this IDC (I don’t care), cuzz by the time they catch me, you will be in a hole somewhere right next to (baby’s name) new daddy.
“See u in a bit. You can’t hide from me. I love her (their baby) too much to let u do this to me. I’m gonna take out your whole (expletive deleted) family.”
“New daddy is first. I will die or spend the rest of my life in prison so I will make it worth it. I promise.”
“If I didn’t mean it, then I wouldn’t tell u something that will for sure land me in jail. U R Gonna die!!!”
After receiving these and other messages, the victim contacted Kevin Heck, a police officer in Ada, to report this threat done via cyber-stalking.
Heck instructed the victim to bring her cell phone along to the Ada police station, which she did. Detective Musgrove then checked it in the department’s lab for Digital Forensics.
Musgrove performed “extraction acquisition” using her cell phone using either traditional digital forensics techniques or equipment such as Cellebrite. After this, police were able to determine where those messages were from. With this information, they obtained a legal search warrant, after first determining these calls were genuine and not a spoof. The warrant was court-issued by a District Judge.
This judge ruled that there was indeed probable cause for them to believe that Ray used his computer (technically his cell phone) to threaten serious violence to the victim, or even death.
If you are in the Maryland or Washington DC area and would like to learn how private investigators are using cell phone forensics to catch bad guys, give us a call for a confidential call.