Cell phone technology aids search parties

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Investigators traced a signal from Ricky's cell phone, which led search parties to the dark, wooded area where Ricky suffered fatal injuries.

As July Fourth celebrations got underway Saturday - family and friends had little idea what had become of 31-year-old Ricky Viar. The popular motorcyclist and barber had seemingly disappeared two nights earlier.

"Everybody loved Ricky. When Ricky didn't show up for work Friday, that's not like him," said David Self, Ricky's friend and former roommate.

It wasn't until authorities traced the signal from Ricky's cell phone - that they made the final, sad discovery. Police are reluctant to talk about their tactics but private investigators like Emiel Fisher say using everyday technology to find people is not uncommon.

"Parents use it for tracking their children. You can use it for tracking your employees to see if they're where they're should be," said Fisher.

Most cell phones often send out a signal whether they're in use or not. In this case, it appears that Ricky's phone was picked up by a tower near his apparent motorcycle crash that ended deep in a wooded area, not visible from the highway. Authorities traced the phone and pinpointed Ricky's approximate location. Still, Fisher believes - investigators were fortunate.

"If they've been missing and it rains, water has a definite negative effect on cell phones, so it kills the signal and you're back to square one," Fisher said.

Fisher says the authorities' use of the technology is subject to differing laws, depending on jurisdiction. Those who knew Ricky Viar - now come to terms, with reality.

"I just know, he was an awesome guy and he'll always be remembered around here, definitely," David said.

Investigators usually need court orders to trace cell phone signals, which Fisher says are often disabled only by taking out a card that's located beneath the battery. Funeral arrangements for Ricky Viar are incomplete.

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