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Boston police track down suspect using signal from stolen iPhone

A Roxbury man, who allegedly forced his way into a couple’s apartment and held them at gunpoint, was located by Boston police using a GPS tracking device built into the iPhone he allegedly stole during the break-in.

Robert Heckstall, 30, pleaded not guilty to two counts each of armed assault in a dwelling, armed and masked robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and kidnapping. He is being held on $250,000 cash bail and is slated to return to court on March 4.

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Heckstall’s arrest by Boston police may not have happened had it not been for the use of GPS technology, said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley.

A Roxbury couple called police at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 29 to report that four men had forced their way into their home and held them at gunpoint, stealing a large amount of cash and the victim’s cellphone before fleeing.

Boston police detectives were able to track the stolen iPhone to a home on Elm Hill Avenue using the device’s iCloud feature.

Police activated the phone’s alarm system after a woman answered the door of the home, causing a loud ringing to sound from inside the apartment. Heckstall, who was inside the home, told police the phone belonged to him and that he had purchased it on the street.

After arresting him, police discovered he was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet as part of his 2½-year probation for witness intimidation. When asked where he was during the night of the home invasion, Heckstall told police he had been at the home of a girlfriend on Upham’s Corner.

Detectives contacted his probation officer and were able to show he had actually been in the area of the Roxbury home during the break-in using data from his GPS ankle bracelet.

Police are still searching for the other three criminals. Anyone with information regarding their identities is urged to contact Boston detectives.

Globe Correspondent Jacqueline Tempera contributed to this report. Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.
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