Art's Timeline

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. Of course 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. I am therefore 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 seem to all suggest that it is at least possible.

Official Records:

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.

Cecil’s Statements:

From what I understand about 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. This time, Smith says yes. He 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. Notably, the route he describes to the scene happens to correspond precisely with the route one would take if they had been at or near the Haverhill Police Department when they were dispatched.

In addition to asking about the route Smith took to the scene, Maggie and Art also ask him about when he radioed in to 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.

My interpretation of his answer is that either 1) he radioed back immediately upon arrival; or 2) he got out, looked around the vehicle to see if anyone was injured, and then radioed back to dispatch. If so, it would presumably not have taken more than a minute or two (which could explain the minor discrepancy of one minute between the accident report and the police dispatch log). But 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.

Witness Statements:

Art’s arrival time for Smith also conflicts with Atwood’s eye witness account. The way I interpret Atwood’s statements from the Caledonian Record is that police arrived 7-9 minutes after he called 911, which would have been around approximately 7:45 PM. I grant there is some ambiguity in how his statements may be interpreted (i.e. whether police arrived 7-9 minutes from when he left Maura at the car or 7-9 minutes from when he placed the call to police). 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.

In light of evidence from a variety of both objective and subjective sources including official records (i.e. the accident report and the dispatch log), at least one printed news source, Officer Smith’s description of the route he took to the scene, and eye witness accounts, it would seem more likely to me that Smith arrived on scene around approximately 7:45 PM or 7:46 PM. In fact as far as I can tell, the only ‘evidence’ that suggests otherwise, or that points to Smith arriving at 7:35 PM is Art’s timeline itself.

That said, I fully acknowledge that Art (and Art’s timeline) could be correct. It is of course possible that Smith was the first officer on scene and that he was driving SUV #001 that Witness A saw parked nose-to-nose with the Saturn. But coming to that conclusion requires manipulating times and ignoring relevant facts. For instance, the route Smith outlined (Route 10 > Swiftwater Rd > Sawyer Hill Rd > Route 112) appears to conflict with the route described by Witness A. Witness A reports that SUV #001 passed her twice; the first time at the sharp left at Goose Lane, and second time at the intersection of Goose Lane and Rt. 112. Therefore it is impossible for both Witness A and Cecil Smith to be accurate. It is for these reasons (and many others) that I am personally just not willing to offer the benefit of the doubt quite yet.