Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Law Enforcement Source: "dog track in Maura's case one step up from useless"
Wednesday - June 19, 2013
In recent weeks, via this blog, we have developed a value law enforcement source. He is quite knowledgeable about Maura's case, although he is in a different jurisdiction. He has many contacts close to the case and is especially knowledgeable about the the types of dog tracks and dogs used in New Hampshire and has handled them himself in a professional capacity as an officer. He considered the facts of Maura's case with another colleague of his who is a recognized expert on dog-based tracking and came to some conclusions.
According to our LE source, the dog search in Maura's case is "one step up from useless." At most it indicates that she did not leave the roadway into the woods within the first 100 yards east of the scene, but even that is unlikely. This primarily because:
(1) On a flat wide surface subject to air being kicked up along the surface (by cars) the scent will disappear faster. Although some anecdotes and practitioners have indicated that searches can be successful after 72 hours, most experts put that at 48 hours, under ideal conditions, such as over tall grasses in dry weather during the summer. The conditions during Maura's track were very adverse. It is very unlikely that the dogs could have followed Maura's track over a roadway in the winter with cars going over it, two days later, because if she left one at all it was gone by then.
(2) The result of the track suggests that what the dogs actually followed was an officer's scent. If the officer who conducted the track also retrieved the gloves, the dogs - in doing their jobs - might have simply followed his scent. It also could have happened if the first responding officer was ever in the car or touched the gloves. This would have occurred had the same officer walked that distance at some point, either immediately before the search or on the night of the accident (for example to talk to Atwood). The dogs are trained to evaluate all the scents on the gloves, which would have included every scent in the car, along with the officer's scent if he went in the car to get the gloves or handled the gloves. They then look for one they can follow. There is a very good chance that they may have followed the handler's or the first responding officer's scent.
Note that NH uses two types of tracking canines. I did not bother with the distinction here, but the conclusions apply to the specific dogs used in Maura's search and in fact both kinds of dogs used in the state.
Posted by John Green at 10:46 PM