Phone Tracking Reveals Terrance Black's Location After Woman's Murder

AT&T engineer, special agents testify Thursday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A trail of text messages and iPhone data took up testimony in Terrance Black's murder trial. He's accused of killing Pilates instructor Susan Loper in April 2011. (Published Thursday, Aug 23, 2012)

    Testimony continued in the murder trial of a North Texas man accused of killing his former girlfriend in spring 2011.

    The following is a log of testimony from Day 4 of Terrance Black's murder trial.

    Black has been charged with killing fitness instructor Susan Loper on April 19, 2011. Her body was found April 20, 2011, near a treeline off John Hickman Parkway.

    Late Afternoon Testimony

    While there was no evidence of email or text interaction between Loper and Black after December 2010, testimony in the capital murder trial on Thursday afternoon implied that Black had hacked into or at least accessed Loper's Yahoo account.

    Rich, who had been testifying about his investigation of technology in the case, said two separate IP addresses had accessed Loper's account.

    Late the evening of April 18, 2011, hours before Loper went missing, an IP address registered to Terrance Black logged into Loper's email.

    Although investigators also obtained a court order to look at Facebook login data for Loper and Black, they did not find anything of interest to the investigation.

    The defense cross-examined Rich about text messages between Loper and her on-off boyfriend, Jayson Hayes.

    Texts between Loper and female friends documented that Hayes and Loper had broken up and gotten back together, but the interaction between the couple seemed to be routine and implied the two were together at the time of Loper's death.

    The last hours of testimony on Thursday were devoted to an incident at the Grand Canyon, where Black jumped off a cliff several days after Loper disappeared.

    Patty Johnson, of Phoenix, said she was on vacation with family at the Grand Canyon when they saw Black "dive into the trees" from the ledge of a cliff.

    "I believe he intentionally went into the canyon," she told the jury.

    Phillip Oaks, a special agent with the National Parks Service, also testified about the incident.

    He said he responded to a report of a man panhandling in the national park but "at that point, something didn't feel right."

    The agent said Black told him that he had lost his money clip and gestured about looking for a fanny pack -- all the while getting closer to the ledge. Then "he jumped laterally into the canyon" ... "like a cat jumping sideways," Oaks said.

    Oaks said he knew Black was still alive when he saw him breathing at the bottom of the drop-off.

    The agent, like Rich's photos of Black in hospital, testified to seeing self-inflicted injuries on Black when he was handcuffed. Oaks said the wounds appeared to be "very clean cut" and not a result of the fall.

    Another park ranger testified that Black gave rangers a fake name when they approached him.

    After his jump, rangers searching the area found a suicide note, signed "Rance," that read in part:

    "So sorry for all the pain. Debts too high, school too long ... I just can't mooch any longer. Pray for me.
    love you all, Rance."

    On the back of the note, more was written in the same handwriting.

    "Extremely depressed. Someone killed Susan. She was amazing," the note read.

    Late Morning/Early Afternoon Testimony

    Plano police Detective Jeff Rich, who also serves on an FBI task force, was called to the stand on Thursday morning. Rich began by showing the jury photos he took in Arizona when he traveled west to assist in the investigation.

    While Black jumped off a part of the Grand Canyon, Rich testified that Black landed on a ledge, then fell about 25 to 30 feet down. The jury saw photos of that location.

    Rich also showed photos of Black, taken while he was receiving treatments for the injuries suffered during the fall. The photos showed scrapes on Black's arms, hands, stomach, and his neck in a brace. There were also pictures of cuts on Black's wrists, wounds the detective testified "appeared too clean and too straight," meaning, they "looked more intentional than accidental."

    "I've worked in police work for 19 years -- to me that looks like a potential wrist-cutting mark," said Rich.

    Rich, who specializes in technology-based crimes, also testified about data he retrieved from Loper's cell phone which was retrieved from her Pilates studio at Gleneagles Country Club.

    Black's cell phone was also entered into evidence.

    Rich began reading a print-out of data taken from the calendar application of Black's iPhone, telling the jury that the calendar entries "read more like a journal."

    The timeline began on Nov. 29, 2009, with an entry on that date reading "lost her again, f[expletive] eHarmony."

    Other entries from late 2009 and early 2010 mark Dec. 13, 2009, as "last time I saw her" with a sub note "God must help".

    Black's notes do not indicate about whom he is referring.

    A calendar entry from Feb. 1, 2010, is entitled "last communication," with a sub entry "court."

    Another entry from March 17, 2010, reads "45 days since last communication -- whore".

    The calendar also notes a date on March 25, 2010, with a woman named "Olivia."

    From March 28 through March 31, each day has one entry of just one number, in chronological order, marking the first day as 5, then 4 on the following day, in a countdown pattern until reaching 1 on March 31.

    Black's calendar has similar apparent countdowns in other months -- though testimony did not indicate what they might signify.

    On April 9, 2010, Black enters "had dinner with Susan and Jake," noting Cantina Laredo. Loper has a son named Jake. The calendar also makes reference to "SL bday."

    In April 2010, in the middle of another apparent 'countdown' series of entries, Black notes on April 19, a note reading: 'buy 'g'." The prosecution asked Rich if "gun" starts with "g" -- implying that is what Black meant in his calendar note.

    May 3, 2010, was entitled "D Day", with the sub note "SL gotta go, can't let a bastard have my hard work."

    On May 6, 2010, the entry read "I'm gone, GOD FAILED ME."

    In July 2010, Black references his own birthday, writing "better be with Christy."

    Another entry references someone being "smoked," with Black's phone bearing a calendar entry "she better replace SL or gone."

    More July entries showcase some personal reflections by Black, reading "I'm gone, God failed me, never answered any prayer for me." That entry was marked "Yellowstone" in the location line.

    The entries are fairly benign until March 11, 2011. One entry reads "smoker." A subsequent entry on April 4, 2011, also reads "smoker."

    The prosecution then asked the witness, Rich, if, when said out loud, "smoker" might sound like "smoke her" -- implying gunfire, and tying into their other observation about "buy g" and earlier calendar entry.

    Earlier this week, the prosecution said they believed Black went to Loper's Pilates studio intending to shoot her, but the gun did not work.

    The last calendar entry is April 8, 2011.

    Rich also read aloud some text messages exchanged between Loper and Black in December 2010. The texts seemed mostly about Loper's son, who was "playing indoor soccer now ... an awesome goalie", and included a brief discussion of Christmas plans. Black said he was in Florida, and asked if Loper was going to "WF" for Christmas, which, presumably, meant Loper's hometown of Wichita Falls. That exchange was the last known contact between the two.

    Phone records also show messages sent and received by Black's phone on April 19, 2011, the day Loper was reported missing, and April 20, 2011, the day her body was found.

    Phone data examined by Rich shows texts from someone identified in Black's phone book as "Wendi World" (possibly Black's sister Wendi Black) on April 20, 2011. The first message, which registered after 1 p.m. and showed the message was read, said "Hey brother, call me ASAP!"

    Another message soon came in from a contact called Jocelyn Humphreys. That message, also read, said "Rance, just heard of Susan, is there anything I can do?"

    At 2:30 p.m., the Wendi contact texted "???? You at school???"

    Black's phone responded to these text messages the same day. To Jocelyn, the sent message read "What happened? Been out of town since Monday." However, expert testimony given earlier in the day said the phone had been in the Frisco area early Tuesday morning before heading west.

    The Jocelyn contact answered "Call if you can..." and another message received four minutes later also read "call me if you can."

    A sent message from Black's phone to the Wendi contact, sent in the late afternoon read, "Thanks for all you did for me, can't be a parasite anymore. Love ya, bye." The contact responded, 'You're not a parasite, I love you. I love helping you...It will kill me and your dad. Don't do anything stupid, I can't breathe."

    That message was received and read.

    Black's phone also included bookmarks for several websites, including dating site PlentyofFish.com, Mate1.com and a website called The Magic of Making Up, which features advice on "how to get your ex back."

    Incoming and outgoing texts to and from Loper's phone in the days before her disappearance were also entered into evidence.

    Rich read many of those texts aloud to the jury. Many of them were routine, back and forth with her ex-husband Craig Loper about toys and scheduling for their son Jake, texts to "Jason," presumably boyfriend Jason Hayes, and many other interactions with other phone numbers that appeared to answer questions about her fitness classes.

    Every text message to Loper's phone was marked "read" until April 19, 2011, the day she went missing.

    One text in the morning presumably came from a Pilates student. It read, "Was Pilates canceled? The room was dark and closed."

    As of 1:30 p.m., Rich was still on the stand.

    Morning Testimony

    The state began Thursday morning by calling a Secret Service special agent to the witness stand.

    According to the agent, on April 19, 2011, the day Loper disappeared from Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Black's cell phone was "in the North Texas area", or, more specifically, the DFW Metroplex.

    The agent testified that the phone went "south" later in the day, then traveled west.

    The state then called Peter Evans, an engineer for AT&T.

    Evans testified to Black's phone usage data from AT&T's billing records, which, he noted, "cannot give an exact location," and that while he does not know the exact error rate of the database, he said the following.

    "I haven't found an error in any of the CRD records before ... There are going to be errors in any database that huge. It has to be minimal, otherwise ... either AT&T is throwing away money or we're committing fraud," Evans said.

    Evans said that at 7:28 a.m. on April 19, Black's phone was used in the Frisco area.

    He then led the jury through what he calls a pattern of "connecting the dots," or tracking the cell towers that pick up the phone.

    By 7:57 a.m., the phone was headed west, toward The Colony. By 9:29 a.m., data showed the phone was along Interstate 35W in the Fort Worth area.

    About two and a half hours later, the phone was west of Abilene and by 6:29 p.m., it was near or on Interstate 10 in El Paso. The phone reached New Mexico by 9:40 p.m. and appeared to be stationary for a few hours after 3:46 a.m. near Deming, N.M. By 8:53 a.m. on April 20, the day Lopper's body was found, Black's phone was near the Tucson, Ariz., area, and reached the area around Flagstaff,Ariz., after 12:30 p.m.

    At that time, Evans testified that Black's phone sent two SIMS, or text, messages at 12:37 p.m. and 12:41 p.m. from the Flagstaff area. By 12:56 p.m., the phone was outside of Flagstaff and registered another text message, although it was not clear if that message was sent or received.

    When pressed by the defense, Evans said Black's phone was never placed at Gleneagles Country Club, never placed at the location on Preston Road in Plano where Lopper's car was discovered, never placed at the Starbucks where Loper made a purchase early in the morning of her disappearance, and finally, Evans told the defense that Black's phone was never tracked to the location in Frisco where Lopper's body was discovered.

    Late Wednesday, a state's witness, an employee of the Plano Police Department, had testified that she had made an attempt to contact Black on his cell phone, leaving a voice mail to call police to help in their investigation of Lopper's "disappearance."

    At that point, Lopper's body had already been discovered.

    The witness testified that Black never returned a call to the number she had provided.

    As testimony resumes this morning, out-of-state witnesses are expected, including park rangers from the Grand Canyon.