Cecil Smith Interview, Part 1
Cecil Smith Interview
Male: Keep me young.
Male: [inaudible 00:00:00] And they're like "Look. I had to talk
to the police, I talked to the police."
Crew: All right. How's everybody feelin'?
Art: Exactly. (clears throat)
Male: [inaudible 00:00:07]
Male: I know.
Crew: Let's see [crosstalk 00:00:09]-
Crew: Good for the [crosstalk 00:00:10]?
Crew: Have to see.
Crew: Let me know when you're ready.
Crew: Clear the, uh ... Everybody ready to roll it up?
Art: Good job. Nice.
Crew: All right.
Maggie: That was good.
Crew: We're, Jeff we're good.
Art: Good. Very good.
Maggie: We're gonna do pickups ask about Fred.
Crew: Open the door.
Art: Yeah, we have to do that.
Maggie: Yeah [inaudible 00:00:26].
Crew: Walk in, walk up, say hello.
Crew: [crosstalk 00:00:27]
Art: [00:00:30] (sighs) Yeah.
Crew: Excuse me, sir.
Cecil Smith: Hello sir.
Art: Art Roderick, good to meet you Cecil.
Maggie: Hi, Maggie. Nice to meet you.
Cecil Smith: Hi.
Art: Jeff, good to see you again.
Maggie: Thanks for meeting with us. Hi. How are you?
Male: Good to see you again.
Art: (clears throat)
Crew: Stop down for one sec here.
Crew: [crosstalk 00:00:51]
Crew: Where's that ...
Art: This is the ...
Crew: Yep. Pull off one.
Crew: Just make one little adjustment.
Crew: There you go.
Crew: There you go.
Crew: [inaudible 00:00:58] would [00:01:00] never cut. [inaudible 00:00:59]
Crew: And, um ...
Male: Cover up that bald spot. That's good.
Art: Yeah, I know, huh? Yeah.
Male: [crosstalk 00:01:12] (laughs)
Art: I got that problem in the back.
Crew: [crosstalk 00:01:15]
Maggie: Should we start again? [crosstalk 00:01:17]
Art: Yeah. You go ahead.
Male: They should name this room after you guys. You guys have spent more time in this room than anybody else [crosstalk 00:01:20].
Art: Yeah, I know, huh?
Male: We're gonna name it after you.
Maggie: I know.
Art: The Texas Crew Memorial Conference Room, right?
Male: [crosstalk 00:01:30] maybe?
Crew: I think [00:01:30] we're gonna be [inaudible 00:01:32].
Crew: No problem.
Art: (clears throat)
Crew: We're rollin'?
Crew: Yeah. We look good.
Crew: Give me one second to get my sand bag on my shoulder here.
Crew: Right José?
Crew: That should do it.
Crew: Okay. Everybody good?
Crew: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Crew: All right.
Crew: [crosstalk 00:01:58]
Crew: Who's startin'?
Maggie: [00:02:00] Whose?
Crew: I'll put it on the floor next to you.
Crew: You wanna put it on the floor?
Crew: Actually on that side is fine.
Crew: Give me some, give me some room José.
Cecil Smith: You could get me in trouble. My first big starring role.
Art: [crosstalk 00:02:13]
Crew: Who's startin'?
Maggie: I'm, um, starting.
Crew: All right. Go ahead.
Maggie: Okay. Chief Smith, thank you so much for meeting with us. We really appreciate it. Um-
Cecil Smith: You're welcome.
Maggie: You know, you were the first person on the scene at Maura's accident and a lot of people have brought you up so [00:02:30] we wanted to have you here to just-
Cecil Smith: Okay.
Maggie: ... clear the air for yourself. Um, but we would love to start and know, you know, your history in law enforcement and just in your career.
Cecil Smith: Okay. I, I had a career in the military before, uh, law enforcement and in 1995 I became a police officer, uh, same, same drill everyone else does. Go to the academy, work your way up through the ranks and, uh, when this incident occurred I was the Sergeant [00:03:00] of the Haverhill Police Department, so ...
Maggie: Great. And so we want to go over the basics of the timeline of that night. What you do remember. Um, when, when did you get called and what did you hear over dispatch?
Cecil Smith: Um. I was dispatched to a, the report of a, a car accident near the Weathered Barn and, uh, I, that was probably around 7:30 at night. I was on the 3:00 to 11:00 [00:03:30] shift, so I was the only officer on, so I responded to the, to the call.
Maggie: Were you at another call before that, or ...?
Cecil Smith: I don't recall.
Maggie: Okay. Um, and so when you arrived on the scene what did, what do you remember seeing?
Cecil Smith: Um, as I approached the scene I, uh, there was a 90 degree corner, um, I came around the corner and there was a black vehicle in my lane, facing me. Um, I could see, uh, tire impressions from the, going from the road to [00:04:00] a group of trees and then back to the vehicle that was at final rest. Um. I activated my take-down lights, they're like spotlights on your light bar, you can see everything in the area, and there was no one around the vehicle. So, uh, I went first to the first 911 caller, uh, Westman's house. Said "Where's the girl?" He said "We don't know. N-nobody's been here so we don't know. We, we haven't seen anything, [00:04:30] n-nobody leave."
I went and talked to Mr. Atwood. He said "I just talked to her a couple minutes ago. She's right there at the car." I said "No, she's not there." Uh. He described her for me, he said "It's a pretty young lady, uh, shoulder-length brown hair. She was the only one I saw." Uh. I said "Was she, did she look like she was hurt, 'cause the wh-when I made a quick, uh, check of the vehicle both airbags were deployed and there was [00:05:00] a crack on the windshield, driver's side." He said "Nah. She looked shaken up but she didn't look hurt, but I think she'd been drinking because she slurred her speech and, uh, she had to lean on somethin' while she was standin' there." Uh, he said "I asked her if she wanted me to call the police. 'Nope. No. Please don't call the police.'" And, uh, as soon as he left there he went and apparently made another 911 call, which, uh, for some reason went through the Hanover [00:05:30] dispatch and took a lot longer to get back to me then, uh, what it normally would've taken. So that's what I saw when I first go there. And the vehicle was locked.
Maggie: It was locked. Um, when did you find the rag in the tailpipe?
Cecil Smith: I don't remember exactly, um, if it was th-the initial inspection around the vehicle or if it was when it was going up onto the flatbed. Um. I don't remember.
Art: You said, you said, you said you, th-that [00:06:00] there were tire impressions.
Cecil Smith: (clears throat)
Art: Were these skid marks?
Cecil Smith: Uh, yeah. Pretty much.
Art: Like we usually-
Cecil Smith: You could, you could see where the car had come around that corner-
Cecil Smith: ... missed it and gone straight into the tree and then spun around.
Cecil Smith: And there was front-end damage to the vehicle also.
Art: But there were skid marks across the, like across the road, because we've heard she mighta hit the inside of that corner a little bit.
Cecil Smith: No. Th-the road was bare. There was a lot of snow on the ground-
Cecil Smith: ... maybe a foot or so. The road was bare. Th-there were no skid [00:06:30] marks. There was just tire impressions in the snow-
Cecil Smith: ... that went from the, the tar to those trees and then back around to where the vehicle was facin' me.
Maggie: And is this common? Do you, were, at the time were you responding to calls of abandoned vehicles with no driver at it?
Cecil Smith: (laughs) You ask any policeman that's been a patrol officer more than three days and I'll bet you they will tell you they've been to an accident, [00:07:00] gone to a scene, there's an accident here, found a vehicle with beer cans all over the place, nobody around, um, next day somebody will show up at the station and say "Did you guys find my car? It was parked in my driveway last night." Yeah, sure it was. It's right where you crashed it (laughs) last night. So. (clears throat)
Maggie: Um. Were you at all concerned, thinking that there was a, a girl who was maybe drinking out in the cold?
Cecil Smith: Yes. [00:07:30] Uh, so, wh-wh-wh-when there's a car crash, um, the dispatch normally automatically sends the fire department and EMS, um, and I asked. I called the dispatch office and I said "Could you tell the responding units to keep their eyes out for a cute, uh, five foot seven lady with shoulder-length hair 'cause she's, she was apparently drivin' [00:08:00] the car and she's not around." Um. While I was waiting for other people to arrive on the scene, like the flatbed, um I did walk up and f-forward on, uh, I, east it would've been, uh, checkin' both sides of the road. I saw n-no indication that anybody went across the snow. Uh, came back down the other side of the road, checked there, passed Butch's house, Westman's and then back across. Um, granted I didn't get to, [00:08:30] get to go a, a great distance but I did check in the immediate area and I saw no indication that somebody had gone through the snow.
Maggie: Hm. What did you make of Butch when you spoke with him?
Cecil Smith: I-I didn't speak to him very long. I-I just probably less than a minute, I would say. And I, I didn't know him before, so ...
Maggie: And this-
Art: What, yeah what k-, what vehicle were you in?
Cecil Smith: I was in [00:09:00] the, uh, the Explorer 4x4. Um, a-and the reason that would've been, um, it was around this time of year, winter-
Cecil Smith: ... you know, February, snow on the ground. Our town is 50 square miles and there's probably a couple hundred miles of roads. Um. Some of 'em, there's three main state roads but most of 'em are rural dirt roads and if you ever driven on a dirt [00:09:30] road in the winter time, they don't become bare like the tar. That, they're icy and, uh, normally if you're on duty by yourself in the winter time in those conditions you'd take the 4x4 'cause I've been stuck in a cruiser before, alone on a shift and you only do that once and then you take the 4x4.
Maggie: So you were in an SUV, that night?
Cecil Smith: Y-yes. SUV. Th-the Explorer. Correct.
Maggie: And [00:10:00] have you heard the, the theory that there was another officer on the scene before you? Th-th-the report by Witness A?
Cecil Smith: I-I've heard of that but there was, there was no one there when I got on the scene.
Maggie: Do you remember what route you took to get to Maura?
Cecil Smith: Yes.
Maggie: 'Cause she said that an SUV 001 passed her two times.
Cecil Smith: That's possible. Where did sh-, where did they pass her?
Art: Uh, I think it was on Swiftwater Road comin' outta Woodsville-
Cecil Smith: Okay-
Art: ... area.
Cecil Smith: ... th-that makes perfect sense. Okay, so [00:10:30] if this is my town-
Cecil Smith: ... it's 10 miles long, five miles wide. Route 10 follows the Connecticut River-
Cecil Smith: ... north and south. Okay? And then at the far northern end, Route 112. And I-I've been told you drove on that.
Cecil Smith: That's a state road. So the fastest way to get there it's in this far northeast corner is to go down Route 10 to 112. Uh, having grown up there I also know [00:11:00] that if you go all the way to where Route 10 and 112 intersect-
Cecil Smith: ... uh, you're just gonna add another couple miles to your trip 'cause you can go up past our hospital, which is Swiftwater Road-
Cecil Smith: ... and then m-maybe a mile or so up there's a small road, Sawyer Hill Road, that drops down and connects back up with 112. That the route I took-
Cecil Smith: ... uh, for several reasons. Number one, you might've noticed when you were out, [00:11:30] there's frost
heaves out there.
Maggie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cecil Smith: (laughs) One or two.
Art: Yes. We did notice that. That's a rough road. (laughs)
Cecil Smith: So. Yeah. And so you can't, I was goin'-
Art: (clears throat)
Cecil Smith: ... Code 3 but you, I wasn't goin', I mean a 4x4 on, with those roads. So if, I don't know where she saw me first but if she saw me on Swiftwater Road-
Cecil Smith: ... and where'd she see me the next time?
Art: I think up by French Pond, just down from-
Maggie: [crosstalk 00:11:56]
Art: ... the Swiftwater Way Station.
Cecil Smith: Okay. Well that's perfect [00:12:00] because-
Art: [crosstalk 00:11:59]
Cecil Smith: ... that's, that a, there's another sharp corner right there-
Cecil Smith: ... and, yeah. If she could've beat me up to that intersection, yes. I would've passed right by that.
Maggie: Hm. Wow.
Male: (sighs deeply)
Art: Um, the, the, so when you, when you arrived at the accident scene, um, you parked-
Cecil Smith: Nose-
Art: ... like nose-to-nose-
Cecil Smith: Yes. Yes.
Art: ... and then put your lights [00:12:30] on, obviously.
Cecil Smith: Correct. Yeah.
Art: Um, (clears throat) at that point there did you call in immediately, you know, you're off at the scene I'm callin' ...
Cecil Smith: I don't, I don't remember because once I got there and I didn't see anybody in the scene-
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cecil Smith: ... I mighta hopped out and, to see if somebody was hurt in the bushes. I-I so I, I don't know the answer to that question.
Cecil Smith: I know I had just spoken to them, dispatch, before I ca-, got off, uh, to make sure that that accident was, in fact, in [00:13:00] Haverhill because the Bath line is 100, 200 feet from where that accident is. You-you probably saw that-
Cecil Smith: ... [crosstalk 00:13:08] yeah.
Art: So what does, what does, what does that mean that the Bath line is ...
Cecil Smith: It means if that accident was on the other side of that post that would've been, the state police woulda had to take that scene instead of me.
Art: And did a, did a, a state trooper swing by there, or ...?
Cecil Smith: I-I believe, yeah. A, uh, Monahan was there. Yep.
Maggie: [00:13:30] Hm.
Art: And what was your interaction with, with, uh, Chief Monahan?
Cecil Smith: He was a state trooper, sir.
Art: Yeah, at the time, yeah.
Cecil Smith: Right. Oh that's right, he's a Chief now. Um. He asked if I needed any help and I said, uh "If you could just
check d-down the roads to see if that girl's out walkin' around somewhere." Um, and I believe he went east toward Lincoln, uh, and checked that part [00:14:00] of 112.
Cecil Smith: I-I'm not sure because I had firemen also, I-I mean I didn't direct 'em "You go check that road, you go check this"-
Cecil Smith: ... I said "Can you guys go just, just ch-, look around for this girl." And, uh, and that's about it. I-I didn't
talk to him very long.
Maggie: And the neighbor, Butch. He also went out and searched.
Cecil Smith: Yes, he did.
Maggie: What did you make of that?
Cecil Smith: A small town like that? I, not much to tell you the truth. I mean ... sorry.
Art: No. [00:14:30] I hit, I hit Jeff's foot there. (laughs)
Cecil Smith: Oh. Okay. Uh, yeah. I-I mean a lot of people they know that I'm, I'm one officer in 50 square miles. Uh. My nearest backup is the state police, who, Monahan happened to be in the area and he responded. But other than that it's just me, so, uh, lots, lots of times citizens will, will offer to help you out.
Maggie: Hm. Yeah 'cause a lot of people said it seemed like he was maybe establishing an alibi, driving up and down the road, something like [00:15:00] that.
Cecil Smith: Y-Y-You know that didn't even occur to me at the time because, like I said, when I see a vehicle crash and I see alcohol spilled on the inside of the vehicle and open vehicle, uh, open containers I'm thinkin' that this person doesn't wanna get arrested and I'll see 'em tomorrow.
Maggie: Did you ever get the car doors of that vehicle open that night?
Cecil Smith: I did not, no.
Art: And the, the, uh, I mean did you, [00:15:30] y-you mentioned alcohol, um, how did you come to that conclusion?
Cecil Smith: I could s-, when I looked in the vehicle I could see, b-besides the airbags deployed and all that, I could see
something red had been splashed on the driver's side door-
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cecil Smith: ... and then I also saw somethin' splashed on the ceiling of the vehicle. As if you have somethin' in your hand and you hit a tree with your car and you went ... Um. [00:16:00] I couldn't tell you what it is but I could make a educated guess that it was wine from the box of wine that was sitting behind the driver's seat.
Cecil Smith: And I can also make an educated guess that it was wine because, when that vehicle was towed off the scene onto the flatbed-
Cecil Smith: ... underneath the car, on top of the snow, was a Coke bottle with some red liquid in it that smelled like an
alcoholic beverage to me.
Cecil Smith: So.
Maggie: [00:16:30] Did anything about the scene strike you as odd when you first arrived?
Cecil Smith: Not really, no. I mean it's a sh-, 90 degree corner where the accident was, um, the vehicle was, I mean not a lot of damage but the vehicle was there, locked, which to me that's probably the on-, the major odd thing about it. Normally they don't lock their car before they take off. Um. Other than that it was just a normal scene [00:17:00] except the driver wasn't there.
Art: Are there many accidents on that corner?
Cecil Smith: Pff. I don't know the answer to that, sir. I know there's a lotta accidents (laughs) in the town of Haverhill.
Cecil Smith: But-
Art: That's a hairpin corner-
Cecil Smith: It is. Yes.
Art: ... that is, I'm ...
Maggie: Oh, we forgot to ask at the beginning how long were you part of the Haverhill PD?
Cecil Smith: At the time, um, I was in my ninth year and I was the Sergeant, so ...
Art: And you eventually-
Cecil Smith: Became the Chief.
Art: ... rose to the rank of Chief?
Cecil Smith: Yes, sir. [00:17:30] Right.
Maggie: Hm. You're familiar with the area. Um-
Cecil Smith: Yes.
Maggie: You know, looking back, 13 years later, and knowing now this person has been missing for that long, Maura's been missing for 13 years, is there anything you look back on and wish, maybe, you had done differently or, or had been done differently, period?
Cecil Smith: (clears throat) With the, with what I knew of the scene? No. I mean, now I wish I would've called out everybody-
Cecil Smith: ... and done [00:18:00] a search like they did, th-the troopers did a month or a couple weeks later with 100
guys, but at the time, no. That, that was some, like I said, that's somethin' that every patrol officer has seen, I'm sure.
Cecil Smith: Um ...
Art: You know, there was, there was, there's also speculation about how long it took the report to be written.
Cecil Smith: The accident report?
Art: Uh, yeah.
Cecil Smith: Oh, that's an easy one to answer.
Cecil Smith: Well you were, you were a-
Cecil Smith: ... law enforcement guy-
Art: I know, I know.
Cecil Smith: ... so I have-
Art: [00:18:30] I think, I think I pretty well have the answer to that question but I-
Cecil Smith: So I still have, in my bag if you wanna see it, it's a little leather notebook that I had when I was a police officer. And, when you get there, you'll say "Car into tree and, you know, tire impressions in the snow, and locked," and you scribble all those in there, um, then wh-when it calms down you take your pictures. Uh, nowadays I have, I guess they have computers that you can do that right from the car, [00:19:00] but-
Cecil Smith: ... back in the olden days that's, that's what you had-
Art: [crosstalk 00:19:03]
Cecil Smith: ... so, yeah, and then when you get a chance, you put that onto your accident report and that can take however long. Yeah. So ...