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Callaway County deputies use cell phone ping to find assault victim

Deputies use cell phone ping to...

CALLAWAY COUNTY, Mo. - Callaway County sheriff's deputies used cell phone GPS technology to ping the location of a woman who was allegedly kidnapped by two other women earlier this week. 

According to Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism, law enforcement officers are allowed to request the GPS location from specific cell phones in "exigent" circumstances. 

"Through law, we are allowed to ping a phone if there is an emergency situation if that is what it takes to find someone who has been harmed or maybe being harmed currently is located at," Chism said. 

The victim called 911 from a rural part of Callaway County around 3:45 Wednesday afternoon, according to Chism. He said the victim was disorientated and did not know where she was. Chism said the 911 call center can sometimes get a relatively accurate location of the call but, depending on the cell phone provider and location of the phone, that doesn't always work. 

"So in cases like that, we have to quickly establish which cell phone carrier services that phone number in question and then we contact the law enforcement emergency contact at that cell phone provider," Chism said. "They provide us with emergency affidavits we have to fill out as law enforcement officers swear off to the facts that this is an emergency and exigent circumstances exist and we need the information as to this phone's location right now."

Chism said the woman was found in a rural area in the Missouri River bottoms, miles from the closest home. 

"The victim could have literally walked for miles without reaching a residence or someone who had a landline or cell phone," Chism said. 

Chism told ABC 17 News investigators are continuing to put the pieces of this case together and are investigating all parties involved. He said just because they made two arrests in the case, doesn't dismiss the possibility of arrests in the future. 

"Although the basic information has been obtained and arrests have been made, we’re still trying to back track all the historical information to try to figure out why this happened," Chism said. 

Cell phone and GPS technology has changed the way law enforcement officers do their job in some cases, according to Chism. He said 10 years ago, if a child was missing, no one would think to check the child's cell phone location because not many kids had cell phones. Today, Chism said, that's a different story. 

"If we have a child that goes missing, wonders off in the woods, whatever it may be," Chism said. "If they have a cell phone on them, that's one of the first steps we take now is to try to get that cell phone pinged."

Chism said law enforcement agencies' ability to ping without a warrant is only for exigent circumstances -- if there is an emergency situation and/or if it is a public safety measure.  

"By law we are not allowed to ping people's phones for the sake of doing so," Chism said. "We have to show those emergency circumstances and we have to do legal affidavits to provide the facts to support that emergency." 

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