(TNS) — BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — When Bloomington police began investigating the deaths of two children and the apparent suicide of their father early Tuesday, they had a tool to assist them with details of what happened: footage from a home security system that showed the father hiding cellphones in a kitchen cabinet.
The expanding use of interior security cameras is helping to catch a growing number of criminals and providing law enforcement with valuable evidence that's used to solve crimes.
In the case of the death of Eric Ringenberg, 33, and his killing of his sons, one an infant son and one 2 years old, Bloomington police used the video to confirm Ringenberg's role in the deaths, said Assistant Police Chief Clay Wheeler.
All three were found in the basement of the family home at 14 Brittany Court in Bloomington. The cause of death was strangulation by ligature, according to the McLean County Coroner's office.
A home video also captured a break-in last year at the home of a Bloomington couple who were robbed at gunpoint.
In that case, the footage played for a jury in the recent trial of Isaiah Miller showed three men forcing their way into the home and ordering the couple onto the kitchen floor. Miller, 20, of Bloomington was convicted of home invasion, charges are pending against co-defendant Kendrick Cooley and a third suspect has not been arrested.
Home security systems are becoming more popular with younger homeowners who realize that sometimes bad things can happen when they're at home as well as when they're away, said Bill Haney, one of the owners of Young's Security Systems, a Springfield company that also serves McLean County customers.
"We're putting cameras in more frequently that even a year ago," said Haney.
Security cameras have become more sophisticated, offering higher quality video for a lower cost — both attractive features for 20- to 30-year-old residents, said Haney.
For some people, interior cameras are part of a larger home security system that includes exterior video recorders and alarms.
Robert Brown, owner of Rockstar Audio Visual & Integrated Security in Normal, said customers often purchase home video systems to monitor child care and house cleaning staff in addition to personal security. Others are looking for a way to keep an eye on pets while they are away.
When crime reports are up, sales also spike, said Brown.
"We see the security systems go up when there are more burglaries," he said.
What's captured on security cameras outside a home also can be helpful to authorities.
Bloomington police asked for the public's help in November 2014 with its investigation into the death of Pam Zimmerman after several of her personal items were found several blocks from the east-side office complex where she was fatally shot.
Police reviewed a large amount of footage from homes and businesses in their effort to collect evidence that the victim's ex-husband, Kirk Zimmerman, may have been in the area around the time of her death.
Normal police have used still photos from exterior security systems to circulate images of potential suspects in other cases, said Assistant Police Chief Eric Klingele.
In one case, a homeowner was able to provide a photo of the vehicle that crashed into his tree and left deep ridges in his lawn, said Klingele.
"He had a clear video of the car showing it lost control and hit the tree," said Klingele.
Normal has installed several security cameras in its uptown area, but to date the footage has not been used to solve a crime.
©2017 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC