Amazon Echo and the Hot Tub Murder

Be careful what you say around your Amazon Echo. Your words may be recorded and used against you in court.

In what may be the first case of its kind, police investigating a murder in Bentonville, Arkansas, issued a warrant to Amazon.com to turn over audio and other records from an Echo. The device in question belongs to James Andrew Bates, who was charged earlier this year with first-degree murder. The victim, Victor Collins, was found dead in Mr. Bates’ hot tub one Sunday morning in November of last year.


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As for Mr. Bates, court records suggest the device prosecutors got more from wasn’t the Alexa but the home’s smart water meter. It showed that someone used 140 gallons of water between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. at Mr. Bates’ house, a much heavier than usual amount. Prosecutors allege that was a result of Mr. Bates using a garden hose to spray down the back patio area from the blood. Ms. Weber is disputing the accuracy of the smart meter readings. And, in a decidedly non-digital strategy, she says the water outside the tub couldn’t have come from a garden hose. Mr. Bates had a salt water tub, and she says all the water on the outside of the tub had salt residue.

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As most owners probably have experienced, the microphones can often be triggered inadvertently. And those errant recordings, like ambient sound or partial conversations, are sent to Amazon’s servers just like any other.