Two Women Were Stabbed to Death in New Hampshire, and Alexa May Know Who Did It

A judge in New Hampshire believes an Amazon Echo device could hold the key to solving a double murder.

Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini were killed on January 29, 2017, in the house where Sullivan lived with her boyfriend in Farringdon, New Hampshire, and Timothy Verrill was charged with first-degree murder for the deaths. Verrill pleaded not guilty, and last week a judge has ordered Amazon to hand over recordings taken by an Echo device at the property as evidence. 

Strafford County Superior Court Presiding Justice Steven M. Houran gave the ruling, in a move that has raised questions about the technology and privacy.

"The State's motion to search in lieu of a search warrant is granted," Houran's ruling states, as reported by ABC News. "The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability...from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period."

According to court documents, the Echo device was among the items seized by the police. The court believes the speaker could have recorded "evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen."

GettyImages-1036647282 An Echo Sub and Echo Inputs, part of Amazon's push toward giving audiophiles Alexa connectivity, is on display in Amazon's Day 1 building in Seattle on September 20. Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

While Amazon Echo is activated by a wake-up word—normally, the name Alexa—snippets of audio are recorded as it awaits instructions. However, the fragments recorded are sent back to Amazon only if a trigger word is used.

In this instance, it remains unclear whether the device has indeed recorded any audio evidence.

The tech giant told The Associated Press it it would not release the recordings "without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us."

In a similar case last year, Amazon agreed to hand over the data recorded from an Echo device only after the defendant in a murder case in Arkansas gave consent.

The bodies of 32-year-old Pellegrini and 48-year-old Sullivan were found in the backyard under a tarp. The former had been stabbed 43 times, while the latter sported eight stab wounds and had her skull fractured.

Verrill pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charges in February last year and is due to stand trial in 2019.

At a bail hearing in August 2017, police testified that 34-year-old Verrill knew Sullivan’s boyfriend, who owned the property. The court was also told that Verrill had access to the house’s security code and, according to New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR-TV, he was seen on home surveillance video with both victims before their deaths.

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