Man Captured on Doorbell Camera Footage Confessing to Murder

A man was captured on home security camera footage confessing to the murder of his sister on Friday, shortly after she was stabbed to death in a Texas home, the authorities said.

The woman, Jennifer Chioma Ebichi, 32, had been stabbed at least a dozen times when the authorities found her on the kitchen floor at the home in Pflugerville, according to documents provided by the Travis County District Clerk’s Office. Her younger brother, Michael Egwuagu, 25, was arrested on a murder charge.

An arrest affidavit said one witness saw Mr. Egwuagu “exit the residence smiling and with a bloody kitchen knife in his hand stating, ‘I killed Jennifer.’ Michael’s clothing was covered in blood.”

It added that footage from a doorbell camera at the home corroborated the witness testimony.

The episode is one of several recent examples of doorbell cameras — increasingly affordable and popular security tools that can be connected to home Wi-Fi systems — yielding footage that becomes useful to the local authorities.

“Every time there is more surveillance and more captured of the lived experience, that will be helpful for police investigators,” said Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor and the author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement.”

“The consequences are an erosion of privacy and security at our homes and in our private moments,” he added. “The trade-off is one that is hard, but also one I’m not sure citizens have fully understood when they decided to buy a little extra security for their home.”

One of the best-known doorbell camera brands is Ring, which makes a doorbell that doubles as a security camera and was acquired by Amazon in 2018. According to data shared publicly by the company, it now has partnerships with over 700 local police and sheriff’s departments, including the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

The authorities can access footage via Ring’s Neighbors app, which people can use to share videos and monitor criminal activity in their neighborhood. When the police seek videos from a certain location, Ring asks users in the area if they are willing to share their footage.

Users can refuse, but the police can still obtain footage using other legal avenues, such as obtaining a warrant.

Credit…Travis County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

“Ring will not disclose user videos to police unless the user expressly consents or if disclosure is required by law, such as to comply with a warrant,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “Ring objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate legal demands as a matter of course.”

It was unclear whether a Ring camera was involved in the Pflugerville case; other popular home security camera brands include Wyze and Nest. The sheriff’s department declined to say which brand of camera had filmed Mr. Egwuagu on Friday.

The murder charge captured additional attention because Mr. Egwuagu had been known as a star football player at the University of Texas, San Antonio. He was a safety who tried out for National Football League scouts in 2017 and 2018.

After Mr. Egwuagu left the residence in Pflugerville, an Austin suburb, around 5 p.m. on Friday, witnesses said he knelt down in the street as though he were praying, then removed his clothing and placed it in a trash can, the arrest affidavit said. The arrest affidavit also said that Ms. Ebichi’s two children were present at the time of her death.

An autopsy showed that Ms. Ebichi had been in her first trimester of pregnancy when she died. Dr. J. Keith Pinckard, the chief medical examiner in Travis County, estimated that she had sustained one dozen to two dozen stab wounds, according to the arrest affidavit.

Mr. Egwuagu is being held on a $500,000 bond. A statement from the office of Krista A. Chacona, a lawyer representing Mr. Egwuagu, said: “We do not have any comment at this time except to say that this is a very painful and difficult time for the family. We would ask that people please respect their privacy and allow them time to grieve.”

In recent weeks, home security cameras have raised concerns about data leaks and hacking. Executives at Wyze, the company behind a budget-friendly home security camera, said this week that the information of 2.4 million of their customers had been exposed to the public because of an employee error.

And last month, there were reports of at least four individual cases of camera security systems being hacked; in one case involving a Ring security camera, a man was able to speak to an 8-year-old girl whose bedroom was being filmed. He used a racist slur and said he was Santa Claus.

On Wednesday, a violent episode that had been captured on home surveillance footage was posted on YouTube by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The footage shows a woman who appears to be trying to escape from a man. He can be seen running after her, kicking her down some stairs and dragging her toward a white car. The police posted the video to seek help from the public in identifying the man and the woman.

“Police are going to see new opportunities, and they’re going to seize those opportunities because more information is obviously better for them,” Mr. Ferguson said. “But it all comes at a cost to a certain sense of personal privacy, and also the collective privacy of your neighborhood and your community and who’s surveilling whom in particular neighborhoods.”

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