Full length portrait of a young smiling nurseWe never like these stories, but they happen. As professionals, all of us here at know that the cell phone has become one of the most productive tools in the investigator’s toolbox.

This is why forensic mobile services has exploded:

Earlier in the year a nursing student went missing from school in Oklahoma. She had told family that she was coming home for a visit but she never arrived. Foul play is always on the table in these situations and parents, friends and siblings play out all the awful scenarios in their minds.

After days the young woman was still missing. No sightings and no leads. But authorities had a cellphone witness – her cell phone. More precisely, they had a ping witness. Through specialized subpoena language for cell records, the police were able to track her route with the pings through cell tower triangulation. They knew where she was headed and they knew where the last ping occurred. That narrowed the search area dramatically.

Narrowed it enough that the waterways, rivers and ponds on the route could be searched thoroughly. And it was in one of the rivers that her tan Tahoe was located, with a body inside. The investigation concluded that there had been no foul play. It was suspected that she had fallen asleep at the wheel and veered off the pavement and over the edge into the river.

The nightmare scenarios in the minds of her loved ones were erased, although the accident was harrowing enough.

Cellular phone forensics are important to just about every criminal case today, to prove guilt and innocence. But when someone goes missing, cell phone tracking and cellular tower triangulation can save time, and quite possibly a life.

-Brenda McGinley, CEO, All in Investigations, All in Investigations