Thanks to pal Tina Ayiotis for forwarding this story.
We all watched the hunt for the Criaigslist killer in 2009, but only recently have all the digital bread crumbs followed by the detectives in the case become known. There is a splendid, gritty and compelling report of the hunt for the killer in The Boston Phoenix.
I was so rivited that my neglected tea grew cold as I read. Julissa Brisman, 25, was a massuse and probably more judging by her Craigslist ad. She died a violent death in a hotel room after meeting a client, now known to be Philip Markoff, a young man with no police record.
Surveillance cameras, disposable cell phones, cell towers, IP addresses, Craigslist accounts, Facebook data - it was a complicated scenario. There seemed to be a break when a Craigslist masseuse in a nearby hotel was tied up and robbed - her visitor looked on the surveillance film like the same man at both hotels. The presence of a gun and the use of white flexcuff seemed to support that theory. The flexcuff and duct tape used to cover the victim's mouth gave up fingerprints, but there was no match in the database.
The most important evidence was an e-mail address provided by a friend of Julissa's through which he had made contact regarding the Craiglist ad. Microsoft provided the IP address used to set up the account information only to learn that the account had been set up minutes before it was used to answer the victim's ad and then never used again. The IP address belonged to Comcast, which, with some prodding, accelerated its response to a subpoena and linked the address to Phillip Markoff in Quincy.
As a follow-up, The Boston Phoenix also has an articleon what Facebook sent law enforcement and the subpoena in the case.
It is beyond the scope of a single blog post to go through all the details of this story, but it is well worth reading from beginning to end to understand the use of digital forensics in criminal investigations.
Just don't make tea.