Cops and Courts, Latest News, Monongalia County

New forensic lab; Mon County Sheriff’s Department can now examine cell phones, tablets, computers

The Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department now has a digital forensic lab capable of examining cell phones, tablets, computers and other types of electronic devices at its Walnut Street office instead of sending such devices to the West Virginia State Police Lab.

“The need was there,” Sheriff Perry Palmer said.
The department’s four detectives went to Palmer and told him they were overwhelmed with electronic evidence and asked if it would possible to establish the lab.

“This room provides us a secure work environment for us to be able to do all of our forensic investigations,” Detective Jon Friend said. “Almost every investigation we work on has some sort of a digital connection to it.”

The lab was built in the overflow room on the second floor of the sheriff’s department by the Monongalia County maintenance and construction crew, led by Bobby Doyle, for about $3,000 in materials, Palmer said.

The new Forensics room is used by John Wilhelm (left to right), Sheriff Perry Palmer, Jonathan Friend, Stephen Carrie, and Lt. William Tennant.

Palmer said he was grateful to the construction crew for the excellent job they did.

Inside there are three work stations — two of which are Mac desktop computers seized from previous cases.

The sheriff’s department is a member of the West Virginia State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which provided the lab’s third computer — a Talino Forensic Work Station, which will be used in child porn investigations, Friend said. The computer itself cost about $15,000, while the software it uses cost about $10,000 and was also provided by ICAC, Friend said.

All of the department’s detectives underwent training and were certified through the National White Collar Crime Center in the forensic examination of both PC and Mac computers, Friend said. The detectives also underwent training through Cellebrite, an Israeli company that largely serves law enforcement, to use Cellebrite UFED — a program that cracks and extracts information from cell phones.

“This provides us the ability to bring a phone up, conduct the exam and immediately start reviewing the data … in order to cut it down to a week’s process instead of a year’s process,” Friend said.

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