It is still unclear why law enforcement refused to release the ATM footage for thirteen years (even to the Murray family). Any guess would be pure speculation. Regardless, I was grateful that the Oxygen show was able to obtain the footage, which they aired in the final episode of the series. To be clear, the term “footage” is a bit of a misnomer. Art states in the show that the footage is actually a series of photo stills taken every three or four seconds. Those stills are below (thanks to Melissa B. for capturing them). There were a few things I noted right away about the footage:
The Time: 3:15 PM:
The footage appears to have a timestamp of 3:15 PM. That time is consistent with what the State Police have previously stated about when Maura visited the ATM, which was some point before 3:40 PM. It’s unclear how long she was there because as far as I could tell, the footage of her leaving the ATM does not display timestamps. More than likely, she left right away. But it would be nice if we had some certainty about the precise time she arrived and departed the ATM.
What Maura was Wearing:
I think a lot of people picked up on the light-colored coat right away. To me, the coat is notable for two reasons:
1) Missing Posters / Law Enforcement’s Description of Clothing. It was widely reported in news programs and on missing posters that Maura was wearing a dark coat. This information likely came from Butch Atwood, because in the BOL put out on Feb 10th, the witness described the driver as “black hair past shoulder length, wearing a dark coat, about 5’5”, 120 pounds.” Witness accounts are notoriously unreliable. So if law enforcement had the footage of Maura wearing a light colored coat, why did they choose not to correct this piece of information?
Of course it is possible they did not obtain the footage until after the posters had been printed. But that does not explain why they have continued to say she was last seen wearing a dark coat, even to this day. Either it is standard protocol for police to defer to witness statements despite having video evidence in their possession to the contrary, or they have some reason to believe Maura was wearing a different coat than the one seen in the footage from earlier that day. Maybe I am nitpicking. But if this piece of information is important enough to include on all the missing posters and the Cold Case Unit’s webpage, it should probably be accurate (or at the very least, qualified).
2) Rick Forcier’s Account. Forcier was a contractor that lived across from Butch Atwood in 2004. Several months after the disappearance, he told police that he believed he saw Maura running along Route 112, about four or five miles east of the accident scene the night she disappeared. We know very little about Forcier other than what amounts to a number of unsubstantiated rumors that have been floated around throughout the years. Those rumors seem to run gamut; some are dark and incriminating, others describe him as harmless yet prone to exaggeration with a history of telling tall tales. The details we know about what he told police essentially amount to what was published in 2011 SOCO article about the case:
“..New Hampshire State Police said that Maura was reportedly spotted four miles down the road shortly after her accident. A man reportedly saw Maura between 8 and 8:30 p.m. The person believed to be her was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood.”
The notable point here is that he mentions the person he saw was wearing a dark coat. We cannot know everything that Forcier told law enforcement, but whatever it was, his account was deemed credible. My question is: why? If police are truly convinced Maura was wearing a dark coat despite the footage, why is that so? Is there something (or someone) other than Butch Atwood that has corroborated it? And if they are not convinced of that fact, then why was Forcier deemed credible? Given that the information Forcier told police could have been learned from any news article or missing persons poster, and given the timing and unusual circumstances under which he ultimately came forward, I have always been curious as to why the police believed his story to be credible. After viewing the footage and seeing that she may not have been wearing a dark coat at all (and police knew that), it is even more puzzling to me.
One point to note that was brought up in one of the Facebook discussions is that it is possible for colors to appear inverted in black-and-white footage (see below). I am not going to pretend to be an expert on this subject, but from what I can tell, it does not appear to be a common problem. And looking at everything else in the photos including her jeans (assuming she was wearing jeans), her shoes, etc., nothing else appears like it could be inverted. So I think it’s unlikely the color of the coat was inverted, but I do not have enough expertise to say for sure.