After a couple of weeks on the road, I’m catching up on another passion of mine: true crime stories! 48 Hours had an interesting case last Saturday which had an eDiscovery angle involving Snapchat location data.
The transcript and video of the broadcast is available on the CBS News site here. Warning: some of the details of the case are pretty horrific – I’ll avoid those and just stick to some basic facts of the case.
Bart and Krista Halderson had a good life in Wisconsin. They had two sons: Mitchell, 24, who worked in tech at Epic Systems and Chandler, 23, a college student living at home who was also interning with American Family Insurance as an IT administrator and had just landed a job at SpaceX. For months he’d been telling everyone that he was enrolled at Madison College during the 2021 spring semester.
Only (in Chandler’s case) none of that was true: no enrollment, no internship with American Family Insurance, no upcoming job at SpaceX.
Detectives believe Chandler’s parents had no idea he wasn’t in school – at first. They say when his parents questioned him about his transcripts, Chandler created a chain of emails that seemed to come from the college, but none of the people sending those emails actually existed.
When Bart began to figure out that Chandler wasn’t actually enrolled at school, he planned a trip to meet at the college with his son on Thursday July 1. When Krista failed to show up for work on July 2, a friend of Bart and Krista went out to their house only to find that Chandler said they had to go up north for an emergency at their cabin.
As part of the investigation, detectives spoke with Chandler’s girlfriend Cat Mellender. After he had previously cheated on her, Cat had convinced Chandler to let her track his movements using Snapchat location data.
According to detectives, the tone of a message exchange on the morning of July 1 worried Cat. So, two days later when Cat checked Snapchat and noticed her boyfriend’s avatar — “Hubby” on her screen—indicated that he was nearly 25 miles from home – Cat saved the image to her phone.
It was a Snapchat screen shot of Chandler … almost nine in the morning out by the Wisconsin River.
That was where they ended up discovering the remains of Krista, after having previously discovered Bart in a different location tied to Chandler’s movements. Chandler was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Just yesterday, in the Deloitte Judicial Fireside Chats webinar with Judge Facciola and Judge Hedges (which was terrific, and for which the recording will be available soon), Judge Facciola discussed how electronic evidence has revolutionized law enforcement and criminal law. This case illustrates yet another way in which it does so.
So, what do you think? Have you seen a case before that was impacted by Snapchat location data? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Snapchat Image from Dane County Clerk of Court (via CBS News)
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the authors and speakers themselves, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.