Fitbit: One explodes, data from another used to charge husband with wife's murder

A woman claimed her Flex 2 exploded and left her with second-degree burns. Police are using data from a murdered woman's Fitbit to disprove her husband's alibi and charge him with her murder.

Oh good, another case of exploding devices. This time the culprit was a Fitbit Flex 2, which allegedly caused second-degree burns on a Wisconsin woman’s arm. She was sitting and reading a book when her Fitbit “exploded” on her wrist. “It was either defective or really mad I was sitting still so long,” she told ABC News. “Either way, it burned the heck out of my arm.”

Dina Mitchell claimed the Fitbit is “totally melted” and her doctor “had to pick pieces of plastic out of her wound.”

A Fitbit spokesperson said this is the first time the company had heard of such a complaint; although it is “extremely concerned” and is investigating, the company sees “no reason for people to stop wearing their Flex 2.”

Since there is currently no indication this will turn into an epidemic like the exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones, there’s no reason to remove a Fitbit unless, of course, you plan to commit some heinous crime such as murder someone. A Connecticut man arrested for murder didn’t stop to consider that the “digital footprint” from his wife’s Fitbit would stop him from getting away with it.

Police say murdered wife's Fitbit data doesn't match husband's alibi 

40-year-old Richard Dabate claimed to have seen his wife, Connie, zip-tied to a chair in the kitchen and shot to death by a tall man with a deep voice like “Vin Diesel” who was wearing a “dark green camouflaged suit with a mask.”

But police say that Connie’s Fitbit recorded her moving around nearly an hour after the time her husband said she was shot to death. She had worn it to exercise class in the morning and walked an additional 1,212 feet after arriving home before her activity stopped at 10:05 am. She had been shot twice with a .357 Magnum that her husband had purchased two-months earlier.

But the Fitbit data wasn’t the only electronic device the cops used in the investigation. They checked out surveillance footage showing her movements near the gym and the time-stamp of her text messages. Once she arrived home, Connie had posted on Facebook. The cops also checked out the “Why I want a divorce” notes on her cellphone.

On the morning of the murder, Dabate told police he forgot his laptop and that he received text alerts from motion and door sensors on his home alarm system; in one of many inconstancies in his story, he later said he deleted the alarm messages from his phone...or maybe he disarmed the alarm when he left the house.

The Hartford Courant reported that Dabate, known to have been having an on-again-off-again affair for seven years, had sent a note to his pregnant girlfriend the night before the murder, writing, “I’ll see you tomorrow my little love nugget.” He was reassuring her that he intended to get a divorce. However, Dabate claimed to have donated sperm as his wife couldn’t have another child and he planned to “co-parent” the child between the two women.

Police said Dabate had secretly obtained a credit card that he used to pay for “flowers for his girlfriend and more than $1,200 at a Tolland strip club and stays at a nearby Motel 6.” A month before her death, he withdrew $93,000 from an investment account in his wife’s name. A year before her death, he sent his wife a text saying: “I want a divorce.”

There were other tech data factors -- the police investigation included forensic analysis of the couple’s computers, smartphones, social media postings, home alarm system and Connie’s Fitbit records.

Then there was Facebook, where Dabate posted a few days after his wife’s death about how his family was “doing our best to move forward, as impossible as it seems.” Five days her murder, he filed a claim to cash in on his wife’s $475,000 life insurance policy.

Dabate, who posted $1 million bail, maintains his innocence.

This is not the first time that data from an IoT device has disapproved an alibi; in a world of sensors, expect to see this type of thing happen more and more. For example, Bentonville, Arkansas, police used IoT data from a connected water meter in a homicide investigation. The cops also wanted Amazon to provide data from an Echo device, hoping recorded “snippets” of conversations would be helpful in the murder investigation.

A person can remove their Fitbit, unplug an Echo to prevent Alexa from hearing, but they can’t remove a medical device which is helping to keep them alive. Ohio cops used pacemaker data as evidence to charge a man with arson and insurance fraud. Just as was the case with the Fitbit, the data from the pacemaker was dubbed an “excellent investigative tool” to provide “key pieces of evidence.”

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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