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Police seek cell phone access to solve SUNY Oneonta student’s freezing death

ONEONTA, NY. (NEWS10) — Four months later, and still no sign of closure in the death of SUNY Oneonta student Tyler LoPresti-Castro. His family says it’s been an agonizing wait.

“It breaks my heart, you know? That was my son. It’s very hard for me,” says father Miguel Castro. “I’ll never be the same, and I still have my moments where I cry for my boy, I’m not going to lie to you.”

As NEWS10 has reported, Tyler was found freezing and near death January 27 at an empty public transit garage in the early hours of the morning. He died later at the hospital. Tyler, a SUNY Oneonta sophomore, had reportedly attended a party the night before for a fraternity he was trying to join.

“Something happened, and I believe someone was involved. I believe that in my heart of hearts, even if it was just the responsibility of watching him,” Miguel shares with NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

However, Oneonta Police say they no longer consider Tyler’s death suspicious after evidence surfaced he was seen walking for some time outside on his own before he was found. That doesn’t mean the case is closed.

Lt. Eric Berger says investigators are still working hard to bring the family closure. He says they have a warrant to get clues out of Tyler’s cell phone, but it’s password protected and cracking the code isn’t nearly as easy as TV and movies make it look.

“They pump out updates all the time to iPhones, even other cell phone companies do the same thing. A lot of times, those updates may have within them some sort of preventative measure from new software being able to access the data on that phone,” Lt. Berger explains. “iPhones are particularly challenging. We’re hoping once more updates come out and his phone’s software becomes outdated, the program to get into it will have better success.”

A legal expert at Tully Rinckey also chimes in there’s a reason companies like Apple can’t just give away customers’ privacy in any circumstance.

“People hold privacy very tight, and when you get into intrusions of people’s privacy, you are dealing with a slippery slope. I think they’re trying not to set a precedence for the future and situations like that,”details Derrik Hogan, a partner at the firm.

Lt. Berger adds police tried getting warrants for phones belonging to others who may have been with Tyler before his death, but a judge wouldn’t allow it. Hogan says getting access to Tyler’s phone may be the key to opening that door.

“Say they get into the victim’s phone and now they find a string of messages, you know, that day, or even prior days, or even going back — there’s some connection potentially to this individual’s disappearance or whatever happened. Then I think that gives further justification to try to get access to those individual’s phones,” he says.

Tyler’s dad says he doesn’t want much, just a chance for his heart to rest.

“What happened? I want to know what happened. You know, that’s not asking a lot. We deserve answers. I want closure,” Miguel says sadly.

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