“What alcohol did law enforcement recover from the Saturn” should not be a question that is left open to interpretation. Yet like so many other clues in this case, media reports have been inconsistent, largely because information they receive from law enforcement has been inconsistent. The inventory of alcohol that the Haverhill Police Department (HPD) reportedly recovered from the Saturn included: wine, vodka, Bailey’s, and/or Kahlua. Contrast this with the New Hampshire State Police’s reported account, which included: wine, a 6-pack of Seagram’s, and a receipt for Kahlua, but no bottle (see source note). Without presuming either is lying, how can this discrepancy be reconciled?
The theory below offers one explanation, which is that Maura had already interacted with law enforcement [at least] once prior to the crash at the WBC, and that exchange resulted in a portion of her alcohol supply being confiscated. The dispatch logs point to the possibility that Officer McKay was in the Woodsville/Swiftwater area around 7:08 PM. If that is true, and if he happened to cross paths with Maura, then it could explain where McKay was heading when he cleared call #4751 at 7:28 PM.
To be clear, this is only one of a number of possible explanations. There may be [probably are] better alternatives out there, but it is at least a place to start.
NH Title XIII, Section 175.6
In New Hampshire, it is illegal to ‘import’ more than three quarts of alcohol from another state without first obtaining a license. If we accept HPD’s account, then even by the most conservative estimates (see source note), Maura almost certainly broke the law when she crossed the border from MA into NH. When police uncover a violation, the law dictates that they seize any alcohol that exceeds the importation limit. So could part of Maura’s alcohol supply been confiscated by an officer prior to the WBC?
Under normal circumstances, I would say it seems far-fetched, and doubt whether officers would even be aware of such an arcane law. But the thing about NH that is unlike other states (for instance, MA) is that liquor and wine stores are owned and operated by the state. The rules are enforced by police, who are required to receive training by the state Liquor Commission. Of course there are plenty of obscure or antiquated laws that most reasonable officers choose not to enforce. Then again, there is always that handful of officers who would never forfeit an opportunity to assert their dominance and authority in order to feed an insatiable ego.
Recall the quote from Boston Magazine about Officer McKay’s policing style: “pursuing every infraction, no matter how petty, with the same bulldog ferocity…” Not surprisingly, McKay’s style seemed to particularly clash with young people, who felt as though he was targeting him, when for example, he towed all their cars during a high school graduation celebration. A little unreasonable? Maybe. But to be fair, he was just doing his job. I have no doubt that he was ‘just doing his job’ during the 300 traffic stops he rang up (compared to the two other officers’ combined 11 stops).
My point is not to say whether McKay was a good or bad cop. The point is that while most agree he was a hard-liner, and some might go so far as to say ruthless, there is no one who would characterize his approach as ‘soft’ in any way. So would confiscating alcohol from a 21 year-old fit McKay’s police profile? I think so.
Also recall that at 7:08 PM, McKay called dispatch inquiring about the phone number to Butson’s Liquors (SL-16). If I were to speculate on whether that call could be related in any way, I might wonder if he was looking for guidance on the specifics of the law…perhaps looking for help converting liters to quarts..?
That said, there is another way Butson’s may factor into this puzzle. The Butson’s siting always seemed a little odd to me because just a few hours earlier in MA, Maura had purchased a sizable quantity of alcohol. Why would she be stopping at another liquor store? But if a sizable portion of her alcohol supply had been confiscated, it might have made sense for her to have stopped by the nearest liquor store to pick up more.
As we know, a cashier came forward at some point claiming that she checked out a woman she believed to be Maura on the evening of Feb 9th. Referring to the woman’s purchase, the cashier reportedly stated: “as I recall the blue wine coolers cus that's what I drank.” If this is true, then it sounds to me like it could be a pack of Seagrams, which is the same alcohol the NHSP [but not HPD] claims to have recovered.
Where was McKay going at 7:28 PM?
It might seem like I’m picking on McKay. But the only reason his police tendencies and history is relevant is because the dispatch logs suggest he was headed somewhere at 7:28 PM after clearing call #4751. I won’t reiterate everything from this prior post, but I will clarify and emphasize a few points.
First, it is possible there was another call or event that required his attention. But according to the logs, call #4752 was the only other incident occurring at that time, and call #4752 was Maura’s accident. The next call (#4753) did not come in until 7:36 PM and did not require any officers to be dispatched. In short, if McKay cleared #4751 to attend another incident, then no other possibility exists except for it to have been Maura’s.
Second, that said, it is also possible for him to have cleared the scene because other officers had the situation under control and his presence would be redundant. The problem with this is that at virtually the same time McKay cleared call #4751 (15 seconds before to be precise), another officer was dispatched out. Maybe it’s another coincidence. But it could also be an indication that McKay cleared the scene only after a ‘replacement’ was secured.
To this point, the narrative of call #4751 includes statements like “call another officer in ref covering town” and “called to confirm can come in […] he adv to have him come in.” I will not pretend to understand exactly what this language means. But from my limited perspective, it does sound possible that an officer who had “ref” (referenced) “covering town” (covering another town) may have been requesting another officer be dispatched in his place. If that is the case, then the logs would suggest that the only officer this could have been was McKay.
As a purely speculative side note, if the rumors about Jeff Williams having been drunk and sent home earlier in the day are true, I can’t help but wonder if “covering town” could have anything to do with an officer that may have been ‘covering’ for him. If that is true, then McKay might be a logical choice given that he had worked for Haverhill PD before moving to Franconia PD.
I understand the resistance to any implication of police ‘involvement’ with Maura’s disappearance. At the same time, we know NHSP refuses to release additional dispatch/police logs because by their own admission, to do so would “severely hinder” the investigation. In a sworn affidavit signed March 15, 2007, Detective Landry states:
One particular phrase in Landry’s affidavit stood out to me: “law enforcement response to the scene.” I may be interpreting this too literally, but what this says to me is that there is information regarding the police’s response to the scene that is being withheld as evidence of a potential crime. We know John Monaghan was at the scene, but does not appear in the log. Maybe he isn’t the only one. Maybe that is where McKay was headed at 7:28 PM.
And if law enforcement was in possession of the confiscated alcohol prior to the Saturn winding up at the WBC, then it might explain how HPD can truthfully claim after the fact that all alcohol had been “accounted for.” In other words, it may not have physically been in the Saturn at 7:27 PM, but it was eventually accounted for. At the same time, it might explain how NHSP could claim that the only alcohol recovered from the Saturn had been the wine and the Seagrams.
1) As critical as I’ve been of Renner, for better or worse, the reality is he’s provided a lot of information in this case (albeit in varying degrees of relevancy and accuracy). The reason I find the sources here credible is because he seems to hold no bias toward the police. Also, the sources (Byron Charles [below], HPD, and Lt. Scarinza formerly of NHSP) could have refuted Renner’s claims and they have not. It’s one thing to exaggerate or editorialize certain elements of the case. It is another thing to make bold face lies about people in authority who have the ability to denounce you – especially when there is nothing to be gained in this case.