There were a lot of interesting elements of the most recent MMM podcast, which featured Maggie and Art and a discussion of Art’s timeline. In my opinion, the episode was less about the actual timeline and more about whether or not Maggie and Art are willing to entertain the possibility that another officer was on scene prior to Officer Smith. So to cut right to the point, this post will focus on just one element of Art’s timeline, which is when Cecil Smith arrived on scene.
Art’s timeline has Smith arriving at approximately 7:35 PM. The official accident report and the official dispatch log note Smith’s arrival time of 7:45 PM and 7:46 PM, respectively. The reason it matters is because it determines whether it would have been possible for Witness A to have seen Officer Smith in the SUV, or alternatively, whether it is possible there was another officer on scene prior to Smith. To me, the following bits of information point to an arrival time for Smith of approximately 7:45 PM. Based on the following, I am unable to rule out the possibility that there was another officer on scene prior to Smith. To be clear, I do not mean to imply that there was definitely an officer on scene prior to Smith. I only mean that my interpretation of the facts, data, evidence, and witness accounts all seem to all suggest that it is at least possible.
There are two official sources of data for Cecil’s arrival time: 1) the accident report, which notes his arrival time of 7:45 PM; and 2) the police dispatch log that recorded his arrival time of 7:46 PM. It is important to note that these are two independent sources. So in order for Art’s timeline to be accurate, we have to assume that not just one, but two data points are approximately 10-11 minutes off.
Printed News Sources:
As far as I know, there is only one source that mentions Smith’s location when he was dispatched to the scene, and that is the SOCO article, which was published in 2011. The article states that Smith was at the Haverhill Police Station when he was dispatched. Given the route Smith supposedly took to the scene (outlined below), the time it would take to drive from the station to the accident is approximately 18 minutes. Art’s timeline has him arriving in about 6 minutes. The official logs have him arriving in about 16-17 minutes.
Of course being in a police cruiser, he was likely driving slightly faster than the speed limit. But he would have to be going about 100 mph (including around corners and through stop signs) in order to make it from the Haverhill Police Station to the accident scene by 7:35 PM. To me, it seems more likely that Smith took about 16-17 minutes to complete a trip that would normally take about 18 minutes. If we give or take a few minutes here or there, an arrival time between 7:43 PM – 7:47 PM seems roughly more accurate to me than one between 7:33 PM – 7:37 PM.
That being said, Art makes a fair point – that we should not focus on one ‘outlier’ fact or piece of information to the exclusion of everything else we know to be true. However there may be an additional source. Cecil’s own statements may corroborate the location outlined in the SOCO article.
During Maggie and Art’s interview with Smith, they asked him where he was when he was dispatched to the scene. He answers by saying he could not recall. Later on, they ask him if he remembers the route he took to the scene. Smith says yes and described his route as going north on Route 10, onto Swiftwater Rd past the Cottage Hospital, left on Sawyer Hill Rd, and finally onto Route 112. (Note: this route is consistent with the route one would take if they had been at or near the Haverhill Police Department when they were dispatched.)
Maggie and Art also ask him about when he radioed in dispatch to let them know he had arrived. As far as I can tell, Smith never gives any indication that he arrived notably earlier than when he radioed in to dispatch. When specifically asked if he radioed back immediately, Smith responded by stating that he could not remember, and that he might have gotten out to see if anyone was injured first before radioing back.
Whether he radioed back immediately upon arrival or got out first and looked around the vehicle to see if anyone was injured, and then radioed back to dispatch would only be the difference of a minute or two. It therefore may explain the minor discrepancy of one minute between the accident report and the police dispatch log, but it seems like a stretch to suggest it explains the 11 minute gap. But
Most importantly, at no point does Smith ever suggest that he went to the Westman’s first, or waited any significant amount of time (which would have broken standard protocol), before radioing back to dispatch.
Art’s arrival time for Smith also conflicts with Atwood’s eye witness account. According to the Caledonian Record, Atwood states that police arrived 7-9 minutes after he called 911. We know that Atwood called 911 at 7:42 PM, which would put police's arrival time at around 7:49 PM - 7:51 PM. Regardless, what is clear is that Atwood states police arrived after he called 911 and not before. In order for Art’s timeline to be accurate, we have to assume that Atwood called 911 after police were already on scene - and had already been on scene for about 7 minutes. It seems highly unlikely that Atwood, who was reportedly standing on his porch when he called 911, would call the police if law enforcement was clearly visible on scene.
The bottom line is, all evidence including official records (i.e. the accident report and the dispatch log), news reports, witness statements, the route described by Officer Smith, etc. support the idea that Smith arrived on scene at approximately 7:45 PM or 7:46 PM as indicated in the official records. At the same time there is no evidence whatsoever to support the earlier timeline of 7:35 PM.
To hear more about Art's timeline and our discussion of it, check out Episode 10 of the podcast (“The Timeline”). Ethan and I compare our timeline to Art’s timeline and respond to some of the arguments we heard in Episode 75 of the Missing Maura Murray podcast. Again, the biggest difference between Art’s timeline and my and Ethan’s timeline is that we can not rule out the possibility that there was another police officer on scene prior to Officer Smith. But just to be clear – we are not arguing that there was definitely another police officer there before Smith; we only argue that it is one possibility. There are still lots of possibilities. I think it is a theory that should be scrutinized, but not to the exclusion of all other theories.