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Fitness tracker data leads cops to a suspected killer

Some of the things we’re able to do with modern technology is amazing. With smartphones, self-driving cars and virtual assistants helping us around the house, it can feel like we’re living in the future.

There are also health-tracking wearables that help us lead healthier lives by tracking our steps, heart rates, calories and they even nag us to get us moving!

Turns out, that’s not the only benefit of wearing a fitness tracker with every step we take. It looks like fitness trackers can also help solve crimes.

Read on and see how the San Jose police used fitness tracker data to help solve a murder.

Fitbit data tells a gruesome tale

A Fitbit fitness tracker that recorded a woman’s rapid surge in her heart rate before suddenly dropping to zero is now helping the San Jose police solve a gruesome murder that involves a 90-year-old man and his stepdaughter.

A man named Tony Aiello was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of killing his 67-year-old stepdaughter, Karen Navarra, on Sept. 8.

Navarra, a pharmacy technician, lived a couple of blocks away from Aiello and her body was discovered by a co-worker on Sept. 13 after she failed to show up for work for a few days.

Court records say that Navarra was found slouched on a chair holding a large kitchen knife with large cuts to her neck and multiple wounds on top of her head. Investigators said that the murder scene appeared to have been staged to look like a suicide.

However, a later autopsy revealed that she had “multiple deep and intrusive wounds” to her head and facial area likely caused by blows from a small hatchet or ax. The doctors said that Navarra couldn’t have possibly inflicted all these wounds herself. Because of this, the death was ruled as a homicide.

During Aiello’s initial interview, he told the San Jose police that he visited Navarra’s home on Sept. 8 to bring her pizza. He also recalled being outside his own house a few hours later and he said he saw Navarra drive by him with someone else in her car’s passenger seat.

But the investigators claim that Aiello’s story doesn’t match what they saw on a surveillance video. Cameras around Aiello’s neighborhood revealed that his car was parked in Navarra’s driveway for at least 21 minutes, between 3:12 p.m. and 3:33 p.m, on that day.

The footage also didn’t show Navarra’s car going in the location that Aiello disclosed, the police said.

The devil is in the detail

The police noted that Navarra was wearing a Fitbit when her body was found and later contacted the company to see if the fitness tracker could reveal clues about the murder.

After pulling up the data, a Fitbit representative then told the police that Navarra’s heart rate climbed rapidly at 3:20 p.m. on Sept. 8 and abruptly slowed down. The Fitbit completely stopped registering a heartbeat at 3:28 p.m.

According to the court affidavit, Aiello stuck with his story after his arrest but when confronted with the Fitbit evidence, he suggested that someone else could have been in Navarra’s home on the night of the murder. He told the police that Navarra actually walked him to the door so he couldn’t have possibly killed her.

But the police said that the Fitbit data says otherwise and it would tie her death to the time of his visit. The police also said that they found clothes in his hamper covered in blood splatter, further reinforcing their case against him.

Not the first time

This is not the first time detectives have turned to fitness trackers and smartwatch data to proceed with arrests in homicide investigations.

It was more than a year ago when similar technology helped solve a murder case. That time, it was a 2015 murder in Connecticut, with a Fitbit helping to crack the case. Earlier this year, Apple Watch data was also used as evidence in an Australian murder trial.

You might question the legality of such practices but the fact is, fitness trackers are here to stay. As technology improves, lawmakers will have to figure out how to weave these devices and their negative or positive impact on our daily lives into legislature.

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