Detective in Cooper trial accidentally erased cell phone data

Staff writerMarch 30, 2011 

— The murder trial of Brad Cooper continued Wednesday with details from a Cary police officer on how he accidentally erased data from Nancy Cooper's Blackberry.

Under cross-examination, Det. Jim Young said his department wanted access to the slain woman's cellphone to see if its history was consistent with other phone records and to see if it contained a text message sent July 12, 2008.

Young said the phone was password-protected, and that police got a court order to obtain access through AT&T, the service provider.

He further testified that he spoke with an AT&T representative but got neither his name nor level of expertise. That representative gave him instructions for entering an incorrect password into the phone, and then using a "PUK code" when prompted.

After receiving the code from AT&T several days later, Young said, he attempted to access the phone based on his memory of the phone conversation. He did not seek help from anyone trained in cellular forensics or with the State Bureau of Investigation, he told defense attorney Howard Kurtz.

Young then said he entered an incorrect password several times, proceeding even after seeing a screen advising that information would be erased, as he was instructed by AT&T.

A bar appeared on the phone indicating that the information would be erased. Young said he attempted to turn off the phone.

"Did it occur to you at the time that you were deleting evidence off that phone?" Kurtz asked.

Young said he had no idea what was on the phone or whether it contained evidence. He informed another detective that access couldn't be gotten through the PUK code. He did not attempt to contact AT&T again.

"There's no way to reach the same representative twice," he said.

Prosecutors contend Brad Cooper strangled his wife to death July 12, 2008, and then dumped her body in an unfinished neighborhood nearly three miles from their home. But defense lawyers maintain his innocence.

The defense team argues that Cooper is the victim of a rush to judgment by an "inept" Cary police department that homed in early on him as their prime suspect and ignored details that could have yielded a different conclusion.

Testimony continues this afternoon.

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