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'Brain of the car' technology used in two high-profile death investigations, Sheriff Salazar says

Sheriff investigators primarily use Berla in car crashes. However, they bought the technology after two high-profile cases in 2019.

SAN ANTONIO — The Bexar County Sheriff's Office is using vehicle forensics technology called 'Berla' in several investigations. It could help find the missing clue. 

According to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar the high-tech tool has been used in two high-profile cases. The first case is the murder of mother Andreen McDonald. The second is the Anaqua Springs case where a mother and her daughters were found dead.

"The basics of the infotainment system of the car are on the dashboard," the sheriff said. "You see the music. The navigation. The clock and all of the accessories that are in the brain of the car."

The 'brain of the vehicle' is where investigators can find valuable information. And it is Berla that gets the vehicle to spill the information. Sheriff Salazar said Berla is plugged in to the vehicle's brain.

"What it does, it gives us some information like how fast was the car going," he said. "Was there someone in the passenger seat? Was their seatbelt on? What direction was the car going? You know GPS. It gives us a whole lot of information."

The sheriff's office paid $15,000 for the equipment they've had for two years. Sheriff Salazar didn't want to show KENS 5 the technology because of confidentiality purposes.

"The information that it could give us could, quite frankly, be the piece of evidence that we need to convict somebody," he said.

Sheriff investigators primarily use Berla in car crashes. However, they bought the technology after two high-profile cases in 2019. In the Anaqua Springs case, a mother and her two daughters were found dead in a mansion. The medical examiner ruled Nichol Olsen's death a suicide and her girls' deaths as homicides.

"What I can tell you in the Anaqua Springs case is that it has been able to help us establish a timeline of where persons of interest were, in relation to of what we believe to be in the time of death," he said.

The sheriff said there are several persons of interests in this case, which remains open. He said they cross referenced information they pulled from Berla with other evidence.

"So, if we can show that at around 9:29 p.m. a cell phone made a phone call, and at 9:29 this car was here as opposed to here that could yield some good information," he said. "That could either clear somebody or cement them even more as a suspect in a case."

The next case is the murder of young mother Andreen McDonald. The suspect is Andreen's husband, Andre, who is an Air Force major. The sheriff said they used Berla to learn more about his whereabouts.

"We utilized it to try to determine and retrace where was that our suspect in that case traveled," Salazar said.

The sheriff said they didn't have as much success with Berla in the McDonald case, but said the technology works.

"And so, the Berla can just do that in any given case," he said. "It can corroborate on what we already know, or it could tell us something we had no clue about."''

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