Video home surveillance plays big part in Spring Lake Park assault case
- Article by: Paul Levy
- Star Tribune
- February 28, 2014 - 11:30 PM
Benjamin Adams allegedly used his home-surveillance system to ensure that a woman wouldn’t leave his apartment one night. Now, authorities say those home monitors could provide key evidence in an attempted-murder case against him.
Adams, 40, who faces two counts of attempted murder, as well as charges of kidnapping and domestic assault on the woman in his Spring Lake Park apartment last October, appeared in Anoka County court this week. His case reflects an emerging, two-pronged trend tied to technology: It’s one that could help prosecutors, but it also raises concerns, particularly among advocates for assault victims.
“This is a case of technology that was used for the wrong reason, but may end up saving this woman from further harm,” said Connie Moore, executive director of Alexandra House, Anoka County’s shelter for battered women.
At the same time, she said, “More and more women are having to deal with technology that allows for stalking, monitors that tell where they are and what they’re doing.”
Surveillance systems in businesses or parking lots are common. So are nanny cams. But capturing acts of alleged offenders on home systems is relatively new and rare.
Byron David Smith, the retired State Department employee who shot and killed two teenagers who broke into his Little Falls, Minn., home on Thanksgiving Day 2012, was heard on an audio recording telling one of them, “You’re dying,” before firing a final shot, authorities say. A surveillance video from the home of accused killer and former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez showed him holding what appears to be a firearm, just minutes after the 2013 shooting death of his friend Odin Lloyd, according to authorities in that case.
“Rarely is there surveillance in a domestic situation,” said Paul Young of the Anoka County attorney’s office. “Technology can be a double-edged sword for a bad guy.”
According to court documents, Adams was smoking methamphetamine last Oct. 20 at his Spring Lake Park home when he accused the 26-year-old woman — with whom he’d had a volatile five-year relationship — of having sex with other men. When he thought he heard another man’s voice on her phone, he became enraged and told her he was going to kill her, authorities say.
He allegedly struck her in the head and face with chrome scissors, cut her across the wrist with a razor blade and beat her, according to the complaint.
The woman told authorities that Adams had placed a “spyware” application on her cellphone to monitor her calls from his computer. According to the court documents, on the night of the alleged attack, he told her that he had video cameras and monitors throughout his residence to ensure she did not leave. She ran out anyway, at 2:55 the next morning, with Adams chasing behind.
According to the complaint, Adams tried to drag her back to his home, but she held onto a pole until he let go and ran back to his residence. A passerby called 911.
At a hospital, the woman was treated for a broken nose, multiple abrasions, bruises and two large cuts across her left wrist.
When Anoka County detectives searched the home, they say recovered surveillance video along with other items.
Over four and a half hours, Adams was seen beating and smothering the woman’s face while holding her by the neck and head, according to the court documents. The documents also say the video showed him threatening to stab her.
Adams’ trial is scheduled to begin on March 24. Adams remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday when his attorney, Bill Robyt, plans to challenge the attempted murder charges on probable cause. Robyt declined to further discuss the case.
Alexandra House’s Moore said that “in this case, the technology may be helpful, but in most cases, the technology used to monitor women is scary.”
“In Duluth, an advocate was taking a woman to get an order for protection,” Moore said. “She got a text from the man stalking her that read, ‘How come you’re at the court house?’”
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419
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