Below is my review of the first episode in the 6-Part Oxygen series about Maura’s disappearance that premiered Saturday, September 23rd.
Thus far it seems as though Maggie and Art are challenging assumptions and not taking anything for granted, which is refreshing. They come across as skeptical yet open-minded, which is a great combination.
James Renner. In my opinion, any time devoted to Renner is time that is wasted. I would prefer to see that time being used to discuss the real facts of the case. That said, I am not naïve. At the end of the day, the goal of television is “entertainment.” I get it. That does not mean I have to like it.
ATM: I recognize the location of the ATM they visited as 195 University Drive, in Amherst, MA, on the corner of Route 9 and University Drive (the shopping plaza with the Big Y supermarket).
Liquor Store: I am not 100% certain, but am fairly confident the liquor store they visit is “Liquors 44,” which is right around the corner from the ATM, but technically in neighboring town of Hadley, MA near the Stop & Shop. The address is 458 Campus Plaza, on Route 9, Hadley, MA 01035.
Route: From UMass, she could have gone either north on 116, or south on Route 9 to catch Route 91 North. The location(s) of the ATM and liquor store suggest to me that she probably caught Route 91 off of Route 9, heading towards Northampton. Anecdotally, I think this would make sense because coming from eastern Mass, this is where she would get off of Route 91 coming to school, so she would be more familiar with this on-ramp to Route 91.
Possible Third Stop: It is now permanently closed, but in 2004, there was a DMV in Hadley, MA between Liquors 44 and the on-ramp to Route 91. I think it’s possible she could have stopped here to get the form that needed to be filed within 5 days of the crash (though she also may have printed it from the internet).
Unanswered Questions/More Explanation Needed:
There are a few things I noticed that I am hoping to see more about in future episodes and/or a better explanation of how a particular conclusion was arrived at:
Starting the stopwatch at the ATM: It appears as though Art begins the stopwatch at the ATM. The NH State Police have stated that she stopped at the ATM sometime before 3:40 PM. The reason I think it’s curious is because the NH State Police have provided a precise time she purchased the alcohol, which was 3:43 PM (after the ATM stop). It would therefore seem to have made more sense to start the stopwatch after purchasing the alcohol. It’s probably only a difference of 6-10 minutes, but I wondered if there was a reason behind it.
Unaccounted for Hour of Time: I believe the unaccounted hour between the time she likely left Amherst, and the time she got into the accident in Haverhill is crucial. In the show, they imply it is worthy of investigation, so I hope they are able to explore it more.
Alcohol in the Car: The show states that there a box of red wine, Bailey’s, and 8 vodka wine coolers left over from a 12-pack found in the Saturn, which means there is yet one more conflicting account of what alcohol was recovered from the car (though I tend to think the Oxygen show's account is going to be the most accurate because they are presumably getting their information directly from investigators). They sort of gloss over the fact that police have not released the receipt containing the items of alcohol purchased in Amherst, but I believe it could be a crucial piece of information. If there are items that were purchased in Amherst that were not recovered from the Saturn, then there has to be an explanation for that. And it may be a factor in the hour of time that is seemingly unaccounted for.
The “Seven Minute Window”: Faith Westman called 911 at 7:27 PM. She reported seeing Atwood’s bus pull up while she was on the phone with 911, which suggests to me that he arrived within minutes of 7:27 PM. Given the limited amount of information exchanged, he could not have been there for more than a minute or two. My timeline has him pulling up to the Saturn around 7:29 PM and leaving at approximately 7:31 PM. In the logs, Cecil Smith reportedly arrived on scene at 7:46 PM. As far as I can tell, that means that Maura could have been alone for as long as 15 minutes, not seven minutes. In the accident report, Smith noted that he arrived at 7:45 PM, so it is possible it took him a few minutes to radio back after arriving on scene. Regardless, it still seems as though it would be more appropriate to say that seven minutes is perhaps the shortest possible window of time, and the longest possible window is about 14-15 minutes. To me, there is a significant difference between 7 minutes and 14 minutes.
Exit 17: During the drive, Maggie says something to the effect of Maura either having to know exactly where she was going or have no idea where she was going to have gotten off at Exit 17. I disagree with that to some extent. If she was making her way to Bartlett and had printed off directions, it’s very possible the route would have her get off at Exit 17. But even if she did not have a perfect idea of where she was going, all she really needed to know was that she should find Route 302, and that would take her all the way east to Bartlett. Finally, there are signs for food and fuel just before Exit 17, so had she needed to re-fuel, it would have made sense to exit there because the distance between the exits on that section of Route 91 can be over 20 miles.
Parking Lot at UMass: I almost feel bad for pointing out something so minor, but there is a comment about Maura having parked in one of the lots near the towers in Southwest, and that’s likely not true. She had almost certainly parked in Lot 12, which was a mile from the towers. The only reason it matters is because it makes it less likely the hour that is unaccounted for may have resulted from her returning to campus after stopping at the ATM and the liquor store.