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Joanna Hoyt
01-07-2011, 10:47 PM
It would be very useful to my mystery plot if a phone message from the murder victim to one of her housemates could get lost for a couple of days after her death. I've tried doing that by having the housemate drop her cell phone while engaged in searching the woods in a thunderstorm, and not find the phone for a couple of days. Which leaves me with a few questions:

Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for two days still function?

When the police find the dead woman's phone, would they be able to find out that she had called her housemate?

Would there be any way to retrieve the message without finding the housemate's phone?

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Prawn
01-07-2011, 10:54 PM
It is certainly plausible for the phone to be okay. Go for it!

PeterL
01-07-2011, 10:59 PM
Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for two days still function?

After drying out completely and recharging, it probably would work perfectly.


When the police find the dead woman's phone, would they be able to find out that she had called her housemate?

The listed of numbers dialed should be there.

[QUOTE] Would there be any way to retrieve the message without finding the housemate's phone?

That depends of the network and type of phone. I believe (and I not completely certain about this) that Blackberries leave everything on a server, so the message would still be there. Plai vanilla phones just transmit, but things ae saed on a server, if they an't be delivered immediately. I don't know how long something would be retained.

Calla Lily
01-07-2011, 11:01 PM
Answers within.




Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for two days still function?

Not sure. Possibly. A blow-dryer may help, but really not sure.

When the police find the dead woman's phone, would they be able to find out that she had called her housemate?

Easily. They can check her call log or get a warrant and subpoena her records from the phone company.

Would there be any way to retrieve the message without finding the housemate's phone?

Possibly, with newer phones. I presume you're talking about voice mail rather than a text, as her "sent" folder will show the text in question without a problem.

Any advice greatly appreciated.

My phone is 3 years old. :) Hopefully someone who's not a luddite like me will have a newer phone and can give you more info.

Prawn
01-07-2011, 11:02 PM
Voice messages are not stored on the phone, usually the phone dials the provider to get them. Texts are stored on the phone, but there is probably a copy on the provider's servers as well.

Stanmiller
01-07-2011, 11:02 PM
Hi J,


It would be very useful to my mystery plot if a phone message from the murder victim to one of her housemates could get lost for a couple of days after her death. I've tried doing that by having the housemate drop her cell phone while engaged in searching the woods in a thunderstorm, and not find the phone for a couple of days. Which leaves me with a few questions:

Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for two days still function? Likely, unless it was submerged.

When the police find the dead woman's phone, would they be able to find out that she had called her housemate? Sure. Cell phones remember last numbers called.

Would there be any way to retrieve the message without finding the housemate's phone? If a voicemail message had been left, it would be on the server at the phone company. But if you're referring to the conversation with her roommate, that's tricky. If your vic is on a terrorism watch list, National Security Agency and FBI can legally monitor her conversations. Any other monitoring would be illegal without some kind of warrant, depending on the jusdiction. There's LEOs and lawyers hanging out here that can provide more info on that.

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Stan

Jersey Chick
01-07-2011, 11:18 PM
Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for two days still function? I had a Motorola Razr that was left out in the rain for a number of days. I dried it out in a bowl of rice and it worked fine after that. I know of other phones that have met with water (my nephew dove into our pool with his in his pocket. The rice method worked on that as well.) It's entirely possible.


When the police find the dead woman's phone, would they be able to find out that she had called her housemate? If she used her cell, yes. It would be in the recent calls, or dialed numbers section of the phone. Barring that, there would be records with her carrier.


Would there be any way to retrieve the message without finding the housemate's phone? I have a BlackBerry and can access my voice mail from any other phone as well. I don't know about text messages, though.

cbenoi1
01-07-2011, 11:56 PM
> It would be very useful to my mystery plot if a phone message from
> the murder victim to one of her housemates could get lost for a
> couple of days after her death.

See below. Phone operators can't "lose a voicemail and find it three days later". If this ever occurs at any phone operator, that phone operator would be out of customers really really really really fast!

> Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for
> two days still function?

A phone is nothing more than a terminal. Most everything is server-side, aka the phone operator. Exceptions being games (apps in general), screen savers, and ring tones; even that is recorded server-side so you can get what you're owned should the phone go bust. The phone can be crushed by a stampede of rutting elephants and the police can still access records directly from the phone operator.

> When the police find the dead woman's phone, would
> they be able to find out that she had called her housemate?

Phone companies record everything because they want to find ways to BILL THE CUSTOMER. It's as simple as that. So yes, the police could find that information, modulo a warrant.

> Would there be any way to retrieve the message
> without finding the housemate's phone?

See above. Phone messages are left on the server. Always.

You probably seen or heard about something called a "SIM card". GSM phones, very popular in Europe, all have that. Phones there are fashion accessories so they made it easy for customers to switch phones to match their wears; they swap the SIM card from phone to phone. The SIM card represents your phone contract; it connects the phone to your phone number, your voicemails, etc. You can put your SIM card in any GSM phone out there and that phone will act as if it was yours.

Hope this helps.

-cb

jaksen
01-08-2011, 02:27 AM
It would be very useful to my mystery plot if a phone message from the murder victim to one of her housemates could get lost for a couple of days after her death. I've tried doing that by having the housemate drop her cell phone while engaged in searching the woods in a thunderstorm, and not find the phone for a couple of days. Which leaves me with a few questions:

Would a cell phone that had been left in the wet woods for two days still function?

When the police find the dead woman's phone, would they be able to find out that she had called her housemate?

Would there be any way to retrieve the message without finding the housemate's phone?

Any advice greatly appreciated.

If the housemate is a young person, however could they 'survive' for a few days without a phone? The young people I know, if they lose or damage a phone somehow, they get a new one THAT VERY SAME DAY.

Perhaps your character (housemate) is Amish and can live without personal phone service for a 'couple of days?'

I am old and ran over my phone. I did not use it like young people do today, but I insisted on getting a new phone the next day.

Seriously.

Darkwing
01-08-2011, 03:23 AM
If the housemate is a young person, however could they 'survive' for a few days without a phone? The young people I know, if they lose or damage a phone somehow, they get a new one THAT VERY SAME DAY.

Perhaps your character (housemate) is Amish and can live without personal phone service for a 'couple of days?'

I am old and ran over my phone. I did not use it like young people do today, but I insisted on getting a new phone the next day.

Seriously.

I've got to admit, that as important as my phone is to me, I'm even more aware of money. Being a poor grad student, I would probably search everywhere for a week or more before finally bringing myself around to the idea that I had to buy another phone.

Maybe I'm weird, though. I average maybe a couple text messages a month, and generally don't call friends on the phone. I prefer facebook. :)

Joanna Hoyt
01-08-2011, 04:34 AM
Thanks, folks. So, if they know the dead woman called the housemate they'll definitely be able to access the message right away. That won't do... Do I understand correctly that even if the dead woman's phone was gone the police could (and probably would) be able to check with her phone service provider and find out who she had called? If that's the case I need to redo this chunk of the plot...

I still don't own a cell phone, so can't really imagine feeling bereft on account of not having one for two days.

jclarkdawe
01-08-2011, 05:56 AM
Let's go through this without a phone. It makes it more interesting. The police would ask witnesses whether she had a cell phone and what was her number. Once the police have the number, they'd attempt to call the phone (suspect may have picked up the phone, so the police may be able to get a location) to find out where the phone is. GPS enabled phones can be located, providing the phone is on. Some of the smarter phones (not meaning to describe Smart Phones) can be turned on remotely, unless the battery is dead or the signal cannot reach them. (Realize that something like a ravine can completely block signals.)

But let's say the phone is not on or the battery has gone dead. So they don't have the phone. However, they can find out which company owns the phone number. Each phone company maintains a record for each phone number, just like the information you get with a land-line phone bill. Messages may be maintained if deleted by the customer for a certain period. Non-deleted messages are obviously maintained by the phone company.

Contacting the phone company does not get the information to the police. They need to get a search warrant from a judge, which orders the phone company to divulge the information. Phone companies are notorious for not giving up this information easily. This process can easily take a couple of days, especially if you throw in a weekend. And make the phone company out-of-state. And if the phone company has an idiot on the phone, you can spend a lot of time.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

jaksen
01-08-2011, 06:08 AM
I've got to admit, that as important as my phone is to me, I'm even more aware of money. Being a poor grad student, I would probably search everywhere for a week or more before finally bringing myself around to the idea that I had to buy another phone.

Maybe I'm weird, though. I average maybe a couple text messages a month, and generally don't call friends on the phone. I prefer facebook. :)

In the US, young, tech-savy people (young adults) can make up to 40-50 text messages a day. I don't know the backgrounds of the characters in this story, however, so perhaps money would be an issue, or perhaps they only used the phones on an occasional basis. Teenagers can make that many texts in a few hours.

So it would depend on the story and how the characters are written if they'd replace the phone immediately or spend time looking for it. It's just an element that might need to be considered. I am writing a story with teenagers in it, and to go an hour without their cell phone - omg, they'd be lost indeed.

Kitti
01-08-2011, 07:58 AM
I don't know if this still happens or not, but 6-7 years ago I used to go to college in a town that was outside my service provider's main network and my voicemails and text messages often when astray when I was in "roaming" mode. This also happened when I was up on mountains, out in the woods, anywhere without good reception. My phone wouldn't connect in to the network and receive the message until I got into an area with good reception/out of roaming. Some of my voicemails in college I didn't receive for weeks.

Re: being able to get the messages from her voicemail provider... is it any different with burn phones (the pre-paid kind you can get at Best Buy, I'm sure there's another name for them but I can't remember) than it is for phones where you have a service plan with someone like Sprint or Verizon? If your murder victim had a burn phone for some reason, it might take the police a couple of days to track it all down.

mtrenteseau
01-08-2011, 10:41 AM
If you don't want to send the housemate back out into the woods, they could simply drop the phone and step on it before they realize it, so it doesn't work. Then other things could distract them before they get a new phone. The SIM card identifies the account, so putting it into a new phone would retreive any unreceived messages.

With most cell phone plans, after two years you can get some sort of cheap phone for free.

Joanna Hoyt
01-08-2011, 08:18 PM
Thanks all! JCD, that solves my plot problem beautifully.

RandomJerk
01-08-2011, 10:09 PM
Three or four years I had a cell phone through AT&T. I was working basically a part-time second job. He'd call, say he had work for me, and I'd pop in. At one point, I was alerted to a voice mail on my phone. I listened to it, and discovered it was left THREE DAYS prior. I called customer service, and the woman on the other end said that it does happen from time to time, based upon call volume and so on. No surprise. And I was not roaming or in a dead spot. My service in that area was overall quite good. So, it does happen.

jclarkdawe
01-08-2011, 11:54 PM
Re: being able to get the messages from her voicemail provider... is it any different with burn phones (the pre-paid kind you can get at Best Buy, I'm sure there's another name for them but I can't remember) than it is for phones where you have a service plan with someone like Sprint or Verizon? If your murder victim had a burn phone for some reason, it might take the police a couple of days to track it all down.

Pre-paid or burn phones are searched by the police in the same way. Instead of getting Verizon or Sprint, when they check the number, they discover Boost or Tracfone owns it. Boost and Tracfone keep the same sort of records that every other phone company in the United States does.

Understand that in a murder investigation, what the police are going to try to do is reconstruct the last couple of days of the person's life. The level of detail here will vary on need, but if there is no suspect that's how they begin attempting to find one. As a standard part of that investigation into a person's life, phone (and internet) records will indicate who the victim was in contact with, and may reveal relationships that have indications of stress.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

jclarkdawe
01-09-2011, 03:54 AM
John Wheeler's cell phone was found (he's the Pentagon official who was found in a dumpster), I'm guessing on his body, but I don't know. It may well be just that the police traced his phone number (probably known to a bunch of people). His body was found on Friday, 31 December. According to New clues in death of Pentagon official (http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/01/08/delaware.pentagon.official.death/index.html?hpt=T2), a cab driver was contacted on Wednesday, 5 January, because the police found the cabbie's phone number in Wheeler's cell phone.

Now this is a case in which massive amounts of resources are being dedicated. But it does give you some idea of the real world time lines.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

jclarkdawe
04-27-2011, 01:48 AM
I wanted to bring this back because I know of another case in the real world. Report: Blood Found In Missing Motherís Car (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/local/Boston/CBS_Boston/SIG=12t57hmur/*http%3A//boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/26/report-blood-found-in-missing-mother%e2%80%99s-car/)

The young woman in this case went missing Saturday, 23 April. New Hampshire has a judge available full time for search warrants and an attorney general was assigned to this case sometime Saturday. I can't imagine a judge rejecting any search warrants in this case, as it is obvious that time is essential. (Although she may be dead already, the longer this goes on, the more likely that is to happen. Further, the longer this goes on, the colder the trails go. Hence, speed is essential and fairly obvious to anyone involved.)

I'm not positive, but I do not believe her cell phone was found at the scene, requiring a phone company to provide her recent phone activity. Now with a judge willing to sign a search warrant, but both the attorney general and the judge knowing that any search warrant will be contested by the phone company and the possible defendant, it took until today until they got her phone records.

If you watch N.C.I.S. and see McGee finding phone records at the drop of a hat, then compare it to the real world, big difference. So if you want to use real world problems to delay your protagonist, they exist.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Prawn
04-27-2011, 02:36 AM
Holy crap!

"Her car was found Saturday morning in Conway with its engine running and hazard lights flashing in the parking lot of the Cranmore Mountain ski area. Dittmeyer’s 14-month-old daughter was alone inside."

"We believe there is blood evidence in the vehicle....there’s nothing to suggest Dittmeyer is not alive."

Right.

shaldna
04-27-2011, 02:22 PM
Slightly gross, but my mum dropped her phone in the toilet once, and after a thorough cleaning and slow drying out it seemed to work okay. Not that I ever touched it again.