The Liquor Store Receipt

This is a copy of the liquor store receipt that Maggie (via the NH State Police) released at this past year’s Crime Con in May. Most of the information is redacted, but there are a few inferences that can be drawn.

The Bottle Deposit and Can/Bottle Redemption:

The Massachusetts Bottle Bill requires a $0.05 deposit on canned and bottled carbonated alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages sold in the state. The $0.60 deposit means Maura likely purchased a 12-pack of something. In the Oxygen show, they stated there were “8 vodka wine coolers left over from a 12-pack” recovered from the car. Given the options that were available in 2004, my guess is that she either purchased a 12-pack of [now extinct] Skyy Blue or a 12-pack of Smirnoff Ice (which happened to be featured in a Liquors 44 ad that appeared in the UMass Collegian the week before she disappeared).

In MA, you can redeem the $0.05 deposit by returning cans and bottles to a “redemption center.” You can see in the ad that Liquors 44 was (and still is) a redemption center. Maura redeemed a total of $3.95, which means she returned 79 cans and bottles. I find this relevant for a few reasons.

First, this is just my opinion (others may disagree) but to me, spending the time and energy to return 79 cans and bottles for a whopping $3.95 suggests that she probably did not leave Amherst with thousands of dollars in her pocket. To me, this is an indication that she was pinching every penny and thinking about the long-term.

Second, some have pointed out the length of time (approximately 26 minutes) between when Maura left the ATM (at 3:16 PM) and when the liquor store receipt is timestamped (3:43 PM). Even though the ATM and liquor store are very close, there is no way to get from one to the other without getting back on Route 9 and driving. I do not believe 26 minutes seems like an excessive amount of time when you consider that she almost certainly drove from the ATM to Liquors 44, then spent time returning the 79 bottles (one by one), then shopped for her items before finally checking out at the register at 3:43 PM.

Why is the Fourth Line Redacted?

There are four redacted “lines” on the receipt. I think there is a presumption that three of those lines are items of alcohol and the fourth must either be tax or a subtotal line. However in Massachusetts, there is no sales tax on alcohol. Typically it does not even appear on a receipt. The only alternative then is that the fourth line is a subtotal. But the question then is, why redact the subtotal but not the total (when one can easily be deduced from the rest of the data on the receipt)?

Assuming that the police’s redaction of the fourth line is neither a mistake nor random, then there is some information on that line they felt the need to withhold. One alternative explanation is that two of the items sold were alcohol (non-taxable) and one item was a non-alcoholic, taxable item. With regard to non-alcoholic, taxable items that one would commonly purchase at a liquor store, of course the first thing that comes to mind is cigarettes. And it’s worth noting that the place we would expect to see Faith Westman’s remarks about the “man in the vehicle smoking a cigarette” was also redacted from the 911 transcript.

All that being said, I find it doubtful that Maura purchased cigarettes at Liquor’s 44, and I think it is unlikely that they are a ‘clue’ in her disappearance. But as much as I would like to rule out anything having to do cigarettes, this receipt does not help do that. Though I’m interested to see if there are other explanations for the redacted fourth line that I haven’t considered.

Note: I went to Liquor’s 44 when I was up in Amherst a few months ago, but they had completely overhauled their accounting system several years prior and had no itemized receipt transactions they could give me to compare.