The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detail has been recognized with the 2015 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)/Thomson Reuters Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation.

When detectives from the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detail responded to a crime scene with the bodies of two adults and two children buried in shallow graves in Victorville, Calif. in November 2013, they were about to solve a missing persons case that had captivated the department – and national attention – for more than three years. By employing a variety of novel investigative techniques, the sheriff’s department was not only able to identify the victims, but also apprehend a suspect.

After detailed analysis of the victims’ online bookkeeping accounts, detectives were able to focus their attention on a suspect. Forensic video enhancement techniques also found that the surveillance footage believed to be of the family vehicle leaving the neighborhood around the time of their disappearance was in fact a different vehicle that matched the description of one owned by the suspect. Further location-based analysis and calling records of the suspect’s cell phone also placed him in the area where the bodies were found around the time of the disappearance. Armed with this evidence, the suspect was apprehended and is now awaiting trial.

The Phoenix Police Department and New Jersey State Police were also recognized as runners-up for the award.