Brian Walshe: How investigators use digital evidence to crack complicated cases

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COHASSET, Mass. — In Brian Walshe’s case, disturbing Google searches could play a big part in his murder case.

This digital evidence brings into question how long your information stays on the internet even if you delete your history.

Brian Walshe was charged Wednesday for killing his wife Ana.

“Whatever you do has the ability to come back to haunt you, so you know, be careful what you put out there,” said Kevin Powers, a Boston College professor and cybersecurity expert.

A lot of the evidence laid out by prosecutors included more than a dozen Google searches on how to dispose of a body after his wife went missing.

Powers says even if you delete your search history, the information is still there for awhile.

“You can, but it’s going to take time so per Google if you delete your account right now, it’s still going to stay in place for at least 30 days,” said Powers.

Powers says even after clearing your history online, Google can hold onto your information for 6 months.

“Remember that whatever you put out there, you might not have absolute control over it,” said Powers.

Prosecutors and police had to go through several steps before even accessing that Google history on Brian Walshe.

First, they needed a search warrant for his house, then a warrant to seize those devices like his son’s iPad, and another warrant to search Google.

“So we have this stuff, how do we know it was the suspect in this case, Brian Walshe who actually did those searches?” said Brad Bailey, a former state and federal prosecutor as well as a longtime criminal defense attorney.

Bailey says there needs to be enough probable cause to use those Google searches in a trial, but with the DNA evidence recovered from the trash and the basement, those searches could help tie the case together.

“That evidence alone, what was in those devices is not sufficient to sustain a conviction of murder, but taken all together, in what is a circumstantial case,” said Bailey. “That’ll just be another piece in their chain of proof and it’ll be the defense’s job to try to break up that chain.”

Bailey says even though there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence in this case, including those digital searches, that can be just as powerful as DNA evidence to convict someone of murder.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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