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story.lead_photo.caption James Bates

BENTONVILLE -- Amazon has agreed to turn over any material on its server from a murder suspect after he consented to the release of the information.

James Bates is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. He has pleaded innocent to the charges.

Bates is accused of killing Victor Collins, 47, of Centerton on Nov. 22, 2015. He is also accused of tampering with evidence by using a garden hose to wash away blood from his hot tub and patio area, according to court documents.

Collins was found dead in the hot tub. He died from strangulation, with drowning as a secondary cause, according to the documents.

Bates owns Amazon's Echo device, which was in his home at the time of Collins' death.The Echo is a hands-free speaker that users control with their voice. It uses a processor to identify a "wake word" and, in response to the word, connects to Amazon's cloud-based Alexa voice service to receive and respond to voice commands.

Bentonville police and Benton County prosecutors want any information from the Echo that may be on Amazon's servers from the night of Collins' death.

Attorneys for Amazon filed a motion objecting to turning over the material.

Circuit Judge Brad Karren had scheduled a hearing for Wednesday morning concerning the issue.

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The hearing probably will not take place since Bates consented to Amazon providing any related information to prosecutors. According to court documents, prosecutors have received the information from Amazon.

"I am pleased we will have access to the data from the defendant's Echo device since the defendant consented to its release," Nathan Smith, Benton County's prosecuting attorney, said. "As with any case, our obligation is to investigate all of the available evidence whether the evidence proves useful or not. Since this case is ongoing I cannot comment on the specifics of the recording or whether it will be used in court."

Bates told police that three men -- Collins, Owen McDonald and Sean Henry -- went to his house Nov. 21, 2015, to watch football. Henry left at 11 p.m., and the other three went to the outdoor hot tub, where they drank beer and vodka, according to an affidavit.

McDonald told police he left at 12:30 a.m. to walk home, but a person picked him up and gave him a ride, according to the affidavit. Dispatch records show a 911 call from a nurse who spotted a man near Southwest Cabernet and Southwest Elm Manor and went back to pick him up because of the cold.

Later that day police and medics found Collins, who appeared to have a black eye, dead in the hot tub, according to a probable cause affidavit. The rim of the hot tub and concrete patio appeared to have been sprayed with water.

Police found Collins' broken prescription eyeglasses, his wedding ring, a broken shot glass and several jet head covers when they drained the hot tub.

Bates had bruises and scratches on his shoulder, back and stomach, according to court documents.

A trial date has not been set, and Bates is scheduled to appear in court for a discovery hearing at 1:30 p.m. April 26.

Bates is free on $350,000 bond.

Metro on 03/07/2017

At a glance

James Bates of Bentonville is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. If convicted of the murder charge, he faces from 10 to 40 years or life imprisonment. The tampering charge is punishable with up to six years in prison.

Source: Staff report

Print Headline: Amazon will turn over any data recorded in man's hot-tub death

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