Judge orders Amazon to provide Echo recordings in double homicide case
A judge in New Hampshire has ordered Amazon to release recordings from an Echo device in the Farmington home where two women were found fatally stabbed in January 2017.
Judge Steven Houran of Strafford County ordered release of any recordings on Friday, report the Union Leader, WMUR, the Associated Press, Ars Technica and ABC News.
Echo can be activated with the word Alexa or other wake-up words, at which point it begins recording, prosecutors said. Police investigating the crime scene had seized the Echo device.
Prosecutors told Houran that the device could have been activated during the murder of 48-year-old Christine Sullivan, thought to have been stabbed to death in the kitchen.
Timothy Verrill, of Dover, has been charged with murder in the deaths of Sullivan and 32-year-old Jenna Pellegrini.
Blood was found in the kitchen and on a mattress; the bodies were found in the backyard under tarps on Jan. 29, 2017, according to previous coverage by WMUR.
Verrill has pleaded not guilty. At a bail hearing in August 2017, police said Verrill knew Sullivan’s boyfriend and had access to the home’s security system.
An Amazon spokesperson said no information will be released until the company is served with a valid legal demand. Houran ordered release of any recordings made between Jan. 27 and Jan. 29 of 2017.
Police in Bentonville, Arkansas, also sought information from an Amazon Echo device in a murder investigation. Police thought the device could provide clues to the November 2015 death of Victor Collins, who was found dead in a hot tub amid some signs of a struggle. The initial suspect was James Andrew Bates, who owned the home where Collins’ body was found.
Amazon had filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that requests for information from the digital assistant, along with the service’s responses, are protected speech under the First Amendment.
Amazon dropped the fight, however, after Bates told the court he did not object to release of any recordings.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Bates in November 2017 after telling the court that evidence in the case “cannot eliminate other reasonable explanations” for Collins’ death, Courthouse News Service and CNN reported at the time. The motion said prosecutors had reached their conclusion after consulting with law enforcement, the victim’s wife and multiple expert witnesses. The document did not mention any evidence from the Echo.
Bates told a CNN affiliate that he is “100 percent innocent.”