Los Angeles police investigators say they discovered a way to bypass the passcode security on an iPhone 5s owned by a murder victim.
The Los Angeles Times says the LAPD found a “forensic cellphone expert” who had a way around the passcode on the locked iPhone belonging to April Jace, slain wife of actor Michael Jace, who is accused of killing her at their L.A. home in May of 2014.
April Jace’s iPhone has been at the center of the criminal case against her husband, who is charged with carrying out the May 19, 2014, killing, according to court papers.
Investigators have contended that the actor and his wife argued “about their relationship” via text message shortly before he opened fire, according to the search warrant.
Court room records obtained by the LA Times show detectives seized the iPhone owned by the victim shortly after her death. The iPhone has been in possession of the LAPD since 2014, however they were only recently able to access the device’s contents.
Shortly after her killing, April Jace’s cellphone was locked by a passcode, which “hindered” the investigation, Zych wrote. But in 2015, an Apple technician was ordered by an L.A. judge to help police extract data from the phone’s hard drive, according to the search warrant.
In late January, an investigator with the L.A. County district attorney’s office again tried to extract data from the phone but could not, and only obtained the contents of its SIM card. Zych wrote that the phone “was disabled,” according to the warrant. The following month, authorities tried to inspect April Jace’s iPhone but it didn’t even turn on, the warrant stated.
The LAPD noted in its court filings that it contracted with a “forensic cellphone expert” who could “override the locked iPhone function.”
A senior investigator with the district attorney’s office was able to examine the phone in April, as was Jace’s private cellphone expert, the warrant states.
While the device was protected by a passcode, similar to that of the San Bernardino iPhone 5c which was the center of a heavily publicized case involving a legal battle between the FBI and Apple, the iPhone 5s in the Jace case was in police possession BEFORE the release of iOS 8 – which has stronger encryption enabled by default – meaning the device may have been easier to crack without fear of losing data.