Idaho killings: Investigators focus on sedan, use 3D tech

Idaho College Killings

(NewsNation) — Investigators in the Moscow, Idaho killings have been sorting through 22,000 registered white Hyundai Elantras, as they believe the driver of one particular Elantra may have “critical information to share regarding this case.” 

This comes after detectives retrieved hours of footage from a Moscow gas station which showed the vehicle speeding by the night four University of Idaho students were killed at their nearby home, including testimony from an overnight assistant manager at the gas station, who told Fox News she saw the white sedan speed by around 3:45 a.m. the day the students were found stabbed to death.

“Investigators would like to thank the community and public for recent information provided about the vehicle and the spike in tips,” MPD said in Thursday news release. “The FBI is prioritizing and vetting those tips for use in the investigation.”

The developments are but the latest in what has been an all-out effort to try to provide some sort of update to the victims’ families.

In addition to focusing on the sedan, investigators are now using advanced technology: 3D imaging.

At a mock crime scene at Florida International University’s Global Forensic and Justice Center outside Tampa, police, military and students learn the intricacies of preserving and processing a homicide using 3D technology, which can take what would be a simple crime scene photo and replace it with a movable 3D model, enshrining minute details forever.

“We’re talking about lidar scanning of scenes. They call it 3D imaging because it gives you a 3D representation of the room,” Kevin Lothridge said. 

Lothridge, who is the forensic center’s deputy executive director, had investigators train with a handheld “faro” brand scanner. The scanner is special because it has rapid laser measurement capabilities that creates interactive 360-degree images that are admissible in court.

”It’s really good for large outdoor crime scenes, good for vehicle crashes, good for shooting reconstruction. If you’re trying to look at a room where people are positioned and evidence is positioned, it allows you to do a little bit more than just videotape or photography,” Lothridge said Thursday on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour.”  

The 3D scanner not only provides 360-degree spherical photography but takes pictures that give countless measurements each second. 

”Thousands, like millions of points, are taking in a point cloud,” said Stephen Stockman, a crime scene investigations professor. 

Stockman explained how the technology can take detectives back in time, which is very helpful when the overlooked becomes critical.

“That piece of evidence that you didn’t see that was significant is now in the point cloud here a year later. How far away is that from the victim’s hand, and you can literally go into the software and click to the index finger or the victim to the exact piece of evidence, and then you’ll get the exact measurement, down to the millimete,.” Stockman said. 

One prior use of 3D imaging and printing demonstrated the technology’s capability; 3D imaging was used to scan burned bodies, and 3D life-size replicas were printed to see if they fit together without investigators having to handle the fragile evidence.

3D imaging is also now being used in autopsies, as the process is less invasive than a traditional autoposy, which can forever destroy that part of a crime’s evidence.

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