Joseph Meyers Murder Trial Web Exclusive
BATH — An expert in analyzing, processing and mapping raw cell phone data testified to a Steuben County jury late last week that phones belonging to Joseph and Iryn Meyers were “clearly traveling back and forth” between Loon Lake Services, Joseph's business and residence, and the area of 9458 New Galen Road late Feb. 14 and early Feb. 15, 2016, just hours before the fire that killed 60-year-old David O’Dell was discovered there.
Sy Ray, a former officer with the Gilbert (Ariz.) Police Department, founded ZetX in 2014. The company provides analytical and mapping services for cell phone usage, with its findings and work product used in scores of criminal cases over the last few years, Ray testified.
Ray’s system accesses a program that uses the raw cell phone data that police have gotten from providers of cell phone service, generally through warrants. The program takes the data, usually targeting a very specific, limited period of time, and maps it, allowing users to follow the paths that activated cell phones travel.
Ray testified about cell phone data previously in Steuben County, at the Tom Clayton murder trial.
David O'Dell's charred body was found by firefighters and investigators in the burned out remains of his residence. The fire was reported by a passerby at about 4:40 a.m, Feb. 15, 2016, with the structure engulfed in flames and already nearly burned to the ground.
Joseph A. Meyers, 45, is charged with first-and-second degree murder, first-degree arson, first-degree falsifying business records, second-degree attempted insurance fraud and fourth-degree conspiracy in connection with the fire death of his friend and employee, O'Dell. Joseph Meyers has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Iryn Meyers is scheduled to go on trial July 5 on charges that include second-degree murder, arson, insurance fraud and conspiracy. She has also pleaded not guilty.
Ray told the Meyers jury that RTT cell data, which measures the distance that a device is from a cell phone tower, is the most accurate indicator of a cell phone’s location. When a cell phone leaves one tower’s coverage area and is “passed on” to the next tower, Ray said, the location of the phone can be determined to “as close as one meter.” He said RTT data has been accessed in this case.
Ray told the jury that he spent about eight hours total mapping the cell phones for the Joseph Meyers trial. He said when he initially begins a job, he purposefully avoids getting specific details about the case, so he has no bias and makes no effort to fit the data to a specific desired outcome
On Friday, Ray testified under direct examination by Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, while the jury, defense attorneys, Judge Joseph W. Latham and the courtroom gallery watched computer-generated illustrations of Joseph and Iryn Meyers’ color-coded cell phone movements, underlaid by Google Earth maps, between about 11:30 p.m., Feb. 14, 2016 and 1:17 a.m., Feb. 15, 2016.
Ray’s testimony was synched for the jury with Loon Lake Services video surveillance for the same time. Just like the cell phone data, Meyers’ video surveillance system was seized in a State Police warrant. Ray said the surveillance video was a good way for the jury to judge the reliability of the cell phone mapping.
According to Ray’s cell phone mapping, underlaid with Good Earth, and linked to surveillance video:
11:15 p.m., Feb. 14, 2016: Joseph’s and Iryn’s cell phones are shown to be in the area of Loon Lake Services. On the surveillance video, Joseph and Iryn Meyers arrive at the residence/business in separate vehicles.
11:30 p.m.: On video, Iryn Meyers’ red car is seen leaving the property. “At 11:31 we start to see some movement (from both cell phones),” Ray testified.
11:37-11:58 p.m.: The mapping program puts both cell phones in the area of 9458 New Galen Road, Ray testified. He said beginning around midnight, the devices return to the area where the surveillance video is recording.
!2:02 a.m., Feb. 15: The cell phone mapping shows both devices are back near Loon Lake Services. Video shows the red car pulling into the driveway. The video continues, showing the couple unloading items from the vehicle, including clothing totes.
12:10 a.m.: Video shows Iryn Meyers’ vehicle leaving Loon Lake Services. “Around the same time frame, we see some movement” from the phones, Ray testified. He said the mapping then shows both phones in the New Galen Road area for a few minutes.
12:34 a.m.: The cell phone mapping has both devices back near Loon Lake. Video shows the car pull in and park. The device belonging to Joseph Meyers never signals again for the rest of the night. Ray said the battery may have died, the phone may have been turned off, or the device may have been switched to “Airplane Mode.”
12:41 a.m.: On surveillance video from inside the Loon Lake Services garage, Joseph Meyers can be seen picking up a pair of boots. A minute earlier, outside video captures images of Iryn Meyers placing something in the backseat of the car.
12:44 a.m.: Surveillance video shows Iryn Meyers’ vehicle pulling out of a Loon Lake Services driveway. Iryn and Joseph are both in the vehicle.
12:53 a.m.: The phone belong to Iryn Meyers is in the vicinity of 9458 New Galen Road.
1:17 a.m.: Iryn’s cell phone is back in the Loon Lake Services area.
1:19 a.m.: On video, Joseph Meyers gets out of the car, and shakes his hat over his head, apparently to activate the outside lights. Iryn walks up the stairway to the residence. She appears to be carrying a propane torch under her left arm.
Under cross examination by defense attorney Chris Tunney, Ray acknowledged they he did not field test his work, as he had in the Clayton trial.
He also told the jury that the data he handles does not trace people, only the cell devices.
He said the data does not necessarily show the exact location of a device, but rather provides an estimation of where it is.
He explained that he uses Google Earth because of its “reliability.”