Cops: 'Alexa, Help Solve This Murder'

Ark. police think Amazon gadget might have heard something the night man died
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2016 4:19 PM CST
Updated Jan 1, 2017 4:44 PM CST
In Strange Case, Cops Think Amazon Echo Could Solve Murder
This July 29, 2015, file photo made in New York shows Amazon's Echo, a digital assistant that continually listens for commands such as for a song, a sports score or the weather.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

In November 2015, police found 47-year-old Victor Collins dead in a hot tub on the back patio of 31-year-old James Bates' Arkansas home. More than a year later, Bates is charged with Collins' murder, and Bentonville police think the data from his Amazon Echo could help them solve the case. The device listens for voice commands but is often triggered into "listen" mode by accident and could, thus, have "overheard" something useful, Engadget reports. Authorities have issued a warrant asking to turn over audio and other records from the device in what The Information says "may be the first case of its kind." Bates says he had Collins and two other friends over to watch a football game and drink on the evening of Nov. 21, 2015, 5 News reported in February, when Bates was arrested. Bates says one friend left, but Collins and the other friend got in the hot tub and kept drinking. He says he left them there when he went to bed, and found Collins floating face down in the hot tub the next morning. (The other friend is not a suspect.)

Authorities found the hot tub water tinted red and Collins with a black eye, swollen and bruised lips, a cut on his eyelid, and blood coming from his nose and mouth; it was ultimately ruled that Collins died by strangulation, with drowning as a contributing cause. Detectives learned that 140 gallons of water were used between 1am and 3am on the morning Collins died, and a hose was used. They believe the patio was sprayed down in an attempt to wash away evidence; they found hot tub knobs and head cushions lying on the ground and Collins' blood spattered on the hot tub cover, one of the cushions, and the sides of the tub. Bates was found to have bruises and scratches all over his body, and police found Collins' wedding ring and a broken shot glass at the bottom of the tub, as well as a broken pair of Collins' glasses. So far, Amazon has only turned over Bates' account details and purchases, but police say they have been able to get data that was picked up by the Echo's speaker, the Daily Beast reports. Bates' attorney argues that the request for data from Amazon is an invasion of privacy, and an example of law enforcement using "technology that advances our quality of life against us." (Read more murder stories.)

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