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For law enforcement investigating a homicide or a missing person case, the scene of a crime or where a person vanished is always crucial for discovering initial evidence. Now, an app is trying to provide these visuals directly on phones with augmented reality.
The application “CrimeDoor,” created by Lauren and Neil Mandt and launched in 2020, recreates crime scenes or locations connected to missing persons and murder cases using AR.
“You can walk into crime scenes and you can study all of the information in one place right from the comfort of your living room,” Neil Mandt told Oxygen.com.
The app features well-known cases like the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the killing of Hae Min Lee, whose death was profiled in the podcast “Serial.” Although some cases are available for free, there is a paywall within the app offering options to purchase a single “door” experience or tiered subscriptions to unlock all of the highlighted cases.
“There are two components to a story,” Mandt said. “The door is the augmented reality assets, and it's very simple. Those are made off of crime scene photos.”
The second major focus of the app is providing case profiles with aggregated content, like podcasts or videos, in one place.
For two of the cases that are getting the “CrimeDoor” AR treatment, retired crime scene investigator Paul Holes will be stepping in to provide his analysis. The first is the Delphi murders case — the unsolved murders of Indiana teens Liberty German and Abby Williams. The best friends went on a hike on February 13, 2017, and were soon discovered dead in Delphi, Indiana. Authorities released video and an audio recording of a suspect found on German's phone, as well as sketches of an unidentified man.
Liberty’s older sister, Kelsi German, has pushed to keep a spotlight on the case. She collaborated with the app’s creators, and told Oxygen.com that she saw it as an “advocacy tool” that could bring public attention to open cases.
“[It’s] something that not only I could use, but everybody could use if they are advocating for a victim of homicide or anything,” German said. “It could be a missing person and I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Holes said that how we perceive a photograph or sketch can differ from how we see everyday life.
“We live in three dimensions. That is what is natural to us, and yet when law enforcement is putting out composites or video or still photographs, that’s into two dimensions,” Holes explained. “That’s where somebody may have seen what’s out there in this case, and goes ‘you know. I don’t have anything. It’s not ringing a bell.’
“But then they walk into the space and see a three-dimensional representation — possibly of this offender, and his face we don't see, but just his build, in his clothes. There may be something about that three dimensions that tickles the back of that person's memory bank,” he said.
When working a case, visiting locations connected to a crime helps him get a better sense of the space, Holes explained.
“The technology I see is another tool that can augment law enforcement investigations,” Holes said. “In addition to helping people that are fans of true crime better understand the cases they are hearing about.”
Within the “CrimeDoor” AR focused on Libby and Abby’s case, users are taken to a representation of the bridge where Abby and Libby encountered the unidentified male suspect.
“We’re looking at the moments before this, where there is actual documentation of the perpetrator walking towards them,” Lauren Mandt told Oxygen.com. “Libby captured a short video that has been released to the public that shows what the perpetrator looked like. We do have photos of the girls. We know the approximate distance of how far away they were from him on the bridge.”
In addition to the AR scene, within the app Holes provides his own recorded walkthrough explaining his analysis of the case.
“We do a split-screen where you can see the video of him and it goes through the description,” Neil Mandt said. “He explains every little element of it and so you’re not guessing what the pieces are. He’s already done all of the research and he tells you what people are thinking it could be, what he thinks it could be.”
The second case Holes is set to analyze on the app is the death of Rebecca Zahau. The 32-year-old was found hanging naked from a balcony in Coronado, California in 2011. Holes discusses the case in Oxygen’s “Death at the Mansion,” available to watch now.
The Delphi Murders “Crime Door” is available now.
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