Police Use Smart Water Meters As Evidence In Murder Investigation
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) — A local murder case is making national headlines this week and the interest was sparked by a search warrant filed for data that may have been captured by Amazon’s Echo speaker.
Bentonville police are also using data from a smart water meter as evidence in the case.
Investigators said James Bates cleaned up the scene because of the amount of water he used in a two-hour window.
Police said they got that data from the smart water meter at his home which, according to the city utilities department, takes a measurement every hour of how much water is used.
We spoke with the executive director of Springdale water utilities which uses meters similar to those in Bentonville.
Heath Ward said Springdale’s meters can read data continuously or do a spot reading and then send back that information to a central server.
“If a customer has a problem, a specific problem and suspect they have a leak, we do have more technology that actually monitors and takes a reading 24-hours a day for 30 days and you can see the habits, the water habits of the house,” Ward said.
Ward said there is always a possibility the time readings on these meters could be inaccurate but doesn’t think it’s likely.
“It’s one out of tens of thousands of chances…this technology is very reliable. The odds of you having a mechanical failure on a meter are much higher than the electronic portion failing,” Ward said.
But James Bates’ attorney Kimberly Weber said experts have found smart meters to be very unreliable in this case.
“When it comes to the timeline we’ve created that we’ve used our experts scientific, water aquatics experts, we’ve used hydro geologists to show that the timeline is incorrect,” Weber said.
Weber said right now police only have data from a water meter and other devices but don’t have any DNA evidence or a motive.
“We will be able to prove that there is a 12 hour difference in the water usage that they out in the affidavit of probable cause and the uses of my client using the water to fill up the hot tub the day before,” Weber said.
Bates next court hearing is in March and a trial date has not been set.