How a rented Tesla helped police solve a Gwinnett murder case

GPS location history, video from the car’s many onboard cameras used in the case. Defendant fought with victim nearly a year before killing him, DA says. Killer sentenced to life plus 25 years.
The victim was found dead in his truck at the Mall Corners shopping center in Duluth.

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

Credit: Gwinnett County Police Department

The victim was found dead in his truck at the Mall Corners shopping center in Duluth.

When Gwinnett County police announced the arrest of a murder suspect in September, they credited technology with helping investigators locate the man.

During his trial, officials revealed that the killer was located and critical evidence was gathered thanks to a car he’d rented to commit the fatal shooting: a Tesla.

Neil Patrick Frasdilla, 27, was found guilty on multiple charges Monday in the death of 46-year-old Darius Dugger. According to Gwinnett District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson, the Lawrenceville man was motivated by revenge when he carefully plotted Dugger’s killing, but he made a major misstep when he decided to rent a Tesla to carry out his plan.

“This was a calculated, premeditated murder,” Austin-Gatson said in a statement. “It is unconscionable to imagine someone lying in wait for nearly a year to kill a person they argued with.”

At a hearing Tuesday, Frasdilla was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 25 years, according to Gwinnett court documents.

Frasdilla’s conflict with Dugger began sometime in 2022, the DA said. Frasdilla’s then-girlfriend, whom officials did not publicly identify, went to Dugger’s home and told him, along with his fiancée, that Frasdilla was abusing her. The woman showed Dugger and his fiancée injuries she said had been inflicted by Frasdilla.

The next time Dugger visited the woman’s house, he confronted Frasdilla about his girlfriend’s claims, Austin-Gatson said. Frasdilla then grabbed a gun from his car and threatened Dugger, but he was disarmed by another neighbor. Frasdilla and Dugger then physically fought until they were pulled apart by others.

The two men later talked, and they appeared to resolve things.

But nearly a year after the fight, on Sept. 13, 2023, Frasdilla rented a gray Tesla and drove it to Dugger’s neighborhood, the DA said.

Like most electric cars, and even many modern gas-powered cars, Tesla models are bristling with cameras and constantly linked to the internet through the same data networks used by cellphones. Most Teslas are equipped with at least nine cameras mounted on their exterior and interior, according to the company’s website.

When Dugger, his fiancée and their 4-year-old child left to go to a restaurant, Frasdilla followed them in his rental car. As the family parked outside the restaurant at the Mall Corners shopping center in Duluth, Frasdilla pulled up alongside their truck and fired multiple shots.

Dugger was struck and killed during the gunfire, and the spray of bullets also knocked off the rental car’s side mirror, Austin-Gatson said.

Multiple witnesses called 911 and were able to provide the car’s license plate number, and police quickly identified the mirror as one that belonged to a Tesla. Police immediately tracked the car to the rental agency and were able to locate it using its GPS system.

After Frasdilla was detained, investigators were able to use the Tesla’s location history to find where he had tossed his gun in the woods. Police also found video taken by the car’s many onboard cameras showing Frasdilla in possession of a khaki-colored gun that matched the murder weapon. Later, the GBI Crime Lab matched the bullet that fatally wounded Dugger to the gun found by police.

In recent years, the surveillance capabilities of Tesla cars have helped police solve a variety of cases. Earlier this year in Indianapolis, several staff members of a church found that someone had broken into their cars and stolen several items, including medical equipment valued at more than $30,000, the Indianapolis Star reported. A Tesla in the parking lot recorded the thefts, and as police reviewed the footage, one of the church staffers got an alert that their debit card was used at a store nearby. With the suspect’s photo taken from the Tesla, police were able to quickly locate and arrest the suspect.

Another case in 2021 involved a Tesla helping police crack a difficult case that involved more than 100 reports of cars being shot by someone with a BB gun on freeways in Southern California. According to Electrek, an online publication that covers electric vehicle news, the attacks were random and usually involved BBs hitting the windows of moving cars.

The suspect was caught after he allegedly shot out the window of a Tesla in a town near Riverside, Electrek reported. The Tesla’s cameras recorded the man’s car and helped police identify and arrest him.

Frasdilla was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, court records show.