ORANGE — In November 2004, a retired Newport Beach couple vanished days before Thanksgiving.
Tom and Jackie Hawks were selling their boat to a Long Beach couple, Skylar and Jennifer Deleon, and the Hawkses were never heard from again.
Newport Beach police cracked the case using mounds of evidence, including power of attorney documents that the Deleons believed had been deleted from their computer hard drive. The Deleons were convicted of murder and handed life sentences.
Without computer forensic investigators, much of how that plot transpired would never have been uncovered.
On Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller joined several local police chiefs in opening the Orange County Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory in Orange — the 15th center of its kind in the country. Federal and local investigators will use the facility to sift through thousands of pieces of electronic evidence that authorities deal with every day.
"There's not a case now where you don't have some mechanism for communicating or storing data," Mueller said.