SAN DIEGO - Authorities said homicide suspect Christopher Dorner may have recently used a prepaid cellphone to call the father of the woman he is accused of killing.
San Diego State University technology professor Murray Jennex knows how someone like Dorner could easily be using prepaid cellphones because Jennex also has one.
"I got one of these because I was doing some international travel. I had to teach a class down in Mexico City and I had a concern with having my regular phone cloned," Jennex said.
Authorities are investigating whether it was Dorner who made a taunting phone call to retired Los Angeles police Capt. Randal Quan, allegedly telling Quen he should have done a better job protecting his daughter Monica, who was found shot to death more than a week ago.
Jennex said what would make prepaid cellphones appealing to someone on the run is their anonymity.
"That's how if you're going to use it to hide yourself, you would do it; you would pay cash for it," said Jennex.
Prepaid phones are sold at airports, phone stores, Wal-Marts and even 7-Eleven stores. The phones can cost less than $20 or in the hundreds for a smartphone. Users can load a certain dollar amount on the phone, which depletes per minute as it is being used.
While you're on a prepaid phone, Jennex said, the number associated with the phone could be traced using cell towers to triangulate a location. However, Jennex said there's a big obstacle to doing that.
"The hard part is tracking the user of that number, so since your name isn't associated with the number, they wouldn't necessarily find you right off the bat," Jennex said.
Even if a trace were set up, as former LAPD detective and author Mike Rothmiller told 10News, Dorner would know better than to stay on the phone too long.
"He's planned for this and he's a smart man. He knows the tactics of law enforcement and how you can trace phone calls," said Rothmiller.
Dorner could do more than just dispose of a used phone.
"Someone who was smart would turn that off and also they would take the battery out," said Jennex. "If he doesn't make a mistake, they're not going to catch him through the phone."
Prepaid phones are gaining popularity with parents trying to limit their children's phone use.
Rothmiller believes Dorner stocked up on prepaid phones in advance to use them now at will.
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