Investigators Unlock Victim’s iPhone In Three-Year-Old Unsolved Arson Case

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WILKES-BARRE -- It's been nearly three years since Laurie Merritt lost her life to an arson fire inside the attic of her home in Wilkes-Barre, there are still no answers as to who started the fire.

Daughter Kristen Merritt says her family was changed forever on April 15th, 2014.

“It changed it completely,” said Kristen. “My mother had ever dinner here for every holiday. My mother held everyone together.”

But now there could be a break in the case.

The Luzerne County District Attorney's Office says new software obtained by the Luzerne County Drug Task Force called "Cellebrite" has been able to unlock Laurie's iPhone, giving investigators access to what's on it.

“We haven't had a full analysis yet,” said First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce. “We expect to have that done within the next month or so and have a briefing on what we find, if anything, hopefully we find something.”

“We`re hoping, for our own piece of mind, even if it doesn't go to a court of law,” said Kristen.

The DA's Office says the FBI did the same thing to unlock the phone owned by the San Bernardino shooter who killed 14 people at an office party in California in 2015, rather than continuing to legally battle Apple for access.

“We would send the iPhone with a search warrant and they would send us back, requiring other technical changes, we would go back and forth and ultimately they refused to assist,” said Sanguedolce.

And this Saturday is the third anniversary of Merritt's death but due to the Easter holiday, the family isn't holding a public vigil as they have years before.

Still they have a request.

“If they want to show support for my mom, on Saturday at six o'clock, to release a purple balloon,” said Kristen.

The DA's Office says the Drug Task Force obtained Cellebrite to unlocked cell phones owned by drug dealers.


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