Evidence in iPhone Health app sends man to prison for killing wife

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Evidence in iPhone Health app sends man to prison for killing wife
The Health app tracks how much you exercise and when. Police sometimes find that useful.
Photo: Apple

A mere 18 steps recorded in an iPhone’s Health app helped send an Alabama man to prison for 16 years. He claimed he was sleeping when his webcam model wife was accidentally killed. But his iPhone said differently.

A tragic tale

Kathleen West, 42, was found dead on the street outside her home in the early morning of January 12, 2018, by a driver passing by, according to AL.com.

Her husband, Jeff West, 47, claimed he had fallen asleep after a night during which the couple drank heavily, and that his wife must have slipped and fell while he was unconscious. A liquor bottle was found next to her body. She was wearing only a bra.

Prosecutors had a different story. Turns out that Kathleen West was more than a stay-at-home mom. She also sold erotic pictures of herself online. Jeff West allegedly objected to that, and to her drinking.

During a drunken fight, he threw her iPhone outside. When she went to retrieve it, he followed her and struck her with the bottle, killing her, the jury in his trial found.

Apple Health app provides critical evidence

Jeff West claimed he went to bed at 10:30 p.m. the night of his wife’s death. But the Apple Health app on his iPhone showed he took 18 steps just after 11 p.m. That’s at approximately the last time the Health app on Kathleen West’s iPhone recorded her moving.

An iPhone’s Health app is integrated into iOS, and keeps track of the steps its user takes as a way to encourage exercise. Obviously, police found a new use for it. The step-tracking feature has been used this way in the past, helping to solve a U.K. murder.

The Health data was only part of the reason for the conviction, though. An expert testified during the trial that the injury to the woman’s head was not the type likely to be received by a fall to the ground. It was almost certainly caused by the liquor bottle found at the scene.

West was not convicted of murder, but of reckless manslaughter.