Computer sleuths track down digital evidence inside the FBI’s Salt Lake City laboratory

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Key evidence in the investigation into the deaths of Idaho children Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow is being processed at a lab in Salt Lake City but this isn’t blood or fingerprints. It’s digital data taken from phones and computers.

FBI agents seized dozens of items from the home of Chad Daybell, the man who married the children’s mother Lori Vallow and on whose property their bodies were found. Some of the items were analyzed at the Intermountain West Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Cheney Eng-Tow is the lab’s director, overseeing a team of certified examiners, who painstakingly scour hard drives and cell phones for evidence.

“Everybody owns a computer. Everybody owns a phone and no matter what type of crime that occurs, there’s going to be digital media involved,” Agent Eng-Tow said Thursday. “A lot of the cases you see in the news or read about end up here…Digital evidence is crucial these days and that’s why our lab and the other RCFLs across the country are important because we provide services to the state and local agencies that just don’t have the resources to do this work.”

With specialized training and software, examiners can uncover data that’s been deleted or encrypted, in other words, what criminals do their best to conceal.

“Almost half of the cases that we work here are child pornography, sexual exploitation, sexual assault cases which obviously nobody wants to see that going on in our society,” Agent Eng-Tow said. “So when you work so many cases like that it is satisfying to put these people in jail who are molesting kids or trading child pornography or things like that.”

An examiner from this lab recently testified at Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing.

“If cases go to court as the Daybell/Vallow did, our examiner will go there and testify,” Eng-Tow said. “They’re oftentimes deemed experts for what they’re doing.”

Chad Daybell is scheduled to be arraigned Friday. His wife Lori is awaiting trial on a charge of conspiracy to conceal, alter or destroy evidence.

The lab worked on 455 different cases in 2019  and currently has 150 active cases.

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Emily Florez
Rick Aaron, has more than 24 years of experience in television news as an anchor, reporter and producer. Originally from Mississippi, Rick graduated with honors from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and began working at KTTV Fox 11 in Los Angeles.

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