'Fitbit Murder' suspect appears in court, plea hearing continued until end of the month

It’s been dubbed the “Fitbit Murder.” A woman in her 60s, allegedly killed by her stepfather, and the victim’s Fitbit apparently recording the time of death, bolstering the prosecution’s case. 

The suspect, 90-year-old Anthony Aiello was in court Thursday. He shuffled into a Hall of Justice courtroom in San Jose shackled and wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit. He had his plea hearing in the brutal murder of his stepdaughter continued until the end of the month so prosecutors could turn over evidence to his defense lawyer.

“The defendant is charged with one count of murder with the personal use of a deadly weapon,” said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Victoria Robinson.

She pointed to the San Jose police Statement of Facts report which said September 13th Karen Navarra’s body was found in a wooden chair inside her house on Terra Noble Way, near the East San Jose foothills. 

The 67-year-old had been beaten in the head, had her throat cut, and a knife placed in her hand to suggest a suicide. Aiello told investigators he visited the home, but left after only 15 minutes. But investigators say surveillance video shows him at the home much longer, and the victim’s Fitbit watch recorded a spike in heart activity, then nothing.

“I think the DA is going to use the fitbit to show the time of death is consistent with their forensic timeline that points to Mr. Aiello as the killer,” said legal analyst Steven Clark.

The move to use this piece of technology to cement facts in a case could be groundbreaking for criminal prosecutions. Experts say the device uses sensors to track heart rates, and could accurately pinpoint time of death.

“That’s all great evidence that prosecutors would want to collect, and this is a great way to collect it,” said technology analyst Larry Magid, who heads the company ConnectSafely.

Defense lawyer Steve Nakano points to other DNA evidence at the crime scene as raising reasonable doubt an elderly man with no motive is the actual killer.

“There was a cigarette butt found at the scene. Neither my client or his stepdaughter smoke. And there’s DNA evidence (at the scene) and he’s been ruled out, according to the report that I just received. So there’s a lot that needs to be investigated in this case,” said Nakano.

Aiello is now scheduled to have his plea hearing on the 29th of this month. But he’ll do so before judge Susan Chatman, because of a conflict of interest with judge Arthur Bocanegra, who was presiding in the case.