Disappearance of Maura Murray

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Maura Murray
MauraMurrayin2003.jpg
Maura Murray in 2003
Born(1982-05-04)May 4, 1982
Hanson, Massachusetts, United States
DisappearedFebruary 9, 2004 (aged 21)
Haverhill, New Hampshire, United States
StatusMissing for 9 years, 11 months and 30 days
NationalityAmerican
Known forMissing person
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)[1]
Weight120 lb (54 kg)[1]
ParentsFrederick and Laurie Murray
 
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Maura Murray
MauraMurrayin2003.jpg
Maura Murray in 2003
Born(1982-05-04)May 4, 1982
Hanson, Massachusetts, United States
DisappearedFebruary 9, 2004 (aged 21)
Haverhill, New Hampshire, United States
StatusMissing for 9 years, 11 months and 30 days
NationalityAmerican
Known forMissing person
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)[1]
Weight120 lb (54 kg)[1]
ParentsFrederick and Laurie Murray

Maura Murray disappeared on February 9, 2004, after a one-car accident on New Hampshire Route 112 in Haverhill, New Hampshire. Murray, a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, left campus on the afternoon of her disappearance after telling her professors and her work supervisor by e-mail that she was taking a week off because of a family emergency. Official investigators suggested that she may have wanted to disappear and initially considered her disappearance to be a standard missing persons case,[2] but her family and friends believe that she was abducted and her father has been critical of state investigators.[3] As of October 2013, nine years after her disappearance, there is no suspect and her whereabouts remain unknown.[4][5][6][7]

Events before her disappearance[edit]

In the days before her disappearance[edit]

On Thursday, February 5, 2004, Maura made a phone call in the evening to her older sister, Kathleen, while on break from her job at University of Massachusetts Student Security. Maura seemed normal to her sister.

The next day, February 6, 2004, Maura was at work at 1 am when she received a phone call that caused her to become upset. She was escorted back to her dorm room by her supervisor.[8]

On Saturday, February 7, 2004, Maura went shopping for a used car with her father, Fred Murray, and they later went for dinner with a friend of Maura's. Maura dropped her father off at his hotel room, and then borrowed his Toyota Corolla, returning to the UMass campus to a dorm party with her friend. She left the party at 2:30 am, and drove to her father's hotel room, hitting a guardrail on Route 9 in Hadley, causing $8,000 of damage, which would be covered by the insurance. Her father says she was shaken up and apologetic.[9] Maura called her boyfriend, who was stationed in Oklahoma, from her father's cell phone. Her father rented a car, dropped Maura off at UMass, and headed to Connecticut for work. In the evening, Maura agreed with her father that she would get the forms pertaining to the accident from the Registry of Motor Vehicles on Monday, and they would discuss the forms over the phone that evening.

Day of her disappearance[edit]

At 1:00 pm on February 9, 2004, Maura emailed her boyfriend. She said that she had not felt like talking to anyone, but that she intended to telephone him later that day. [9]

Between noon and 3:00 pm, Maura made several calls. In one, she sought information on how to rent a condominium in Bartlett, New Hampshire. Her family had vacationed there, annually, for many years. In another, she telephoned a UMass student and left a voice mail. She then telephoned a number which provides pre-recorded information about Stowe, Vermont. As indicated by telephone records, she listened to this information for approximately five minutes. At 2:18 pm, she telephoned her boyfriend. This call ended after one minute. According to police, a subsequent search of her computer demonstrated that, sometime that day, Maura had searched MapQuest for directions to Burlington, Vermont.[8][10]

At or about 4:00 pm, by email, Maura informed a work supervisor and some of her teachers that she would be out of town for several days due to a death in her family. In fact, there had not been a death in her family at the time. Before she left, Maura packed her belongings into boxes and removed the art from her room walls.[8] A dorm mate reported seeing Maura leave the UMass campus between 3:30 and 4:30 pm. Maura withdrew $280 from an ATM, and was alone as recorded by CCTV footage.[8] This withdrawal nearly emptied her bank account. She was due to receive paychecks in the coming days. She then bought $35–$40 worth of alcohol. She was alone when she made that purchase. Sometime after 4:00 pm, Maura left Amherst, presumably via Interstate 91 north. She checked her cellphone messages at 4:37 pm.

Disappearance[edit]

"At a hairpin turn, she went off the road. Her car hit a tree. At that point, a person came along who was driving a bus. It was a neighbor. He asked her if she needed help. She refused. About 10 minutes later, police showed up to the scene and Maura Murray was gone."

—Joe McGee, The Patriot Ledger[4]

At 7:29 pm, a Woodsville, New Hampshire resident telephoned police dispatch to report an accident on Route 112 near her house. At 7:43 pm, another Woodsville resident reported a black Saturn partially in the road. Later, a bus driver said that he had spoken with a girl at the scene of the accident, and that he had offered to telephone the police. In response, she told him that she had already telephoned AAA. However, there was no cellphone reception in the area[5] and AAA has no record of any such call.[11] The bus driver subsequently identified the girl as Maura Murray.

At 7:46 pm, a Haverhill police officer arrived at the scene. The car, which faced westbound in the eastbound lane, had a cracked windshield and both airbags had deployed. The car was locked and Maura Murray was gone. [11] The officer found a damaged box of Franzia wine on the rear passenger seat. In addition, he found an AAA card issued to Maura, blank Crash Operator Report Forms, gloves, compact discs, makeup, two sets of driving directions (one to Burlington, Vermont; another to Stowe, Vermont), Maura's favorite stuffed animal and a book about mountain climbing in the White Mountains titled Not Without Peril.[5][12] Later, a rag was found in the Saturn's muffler pipe. Reportedly, it was from Maura's emergency roadside kit .[11]

Just before 8:00 pm, the EMS and a fire truck arrived to clear the scene. By 8:49 pm, the car had been towed to a local garage. At about 9:30 pm, the responding officer left. At some point, a New Hampshire State Police trooper had been at the scene; the nature and extent of his involvement have not been disclosed. The Murray family has reported that they have discovered that there was no radio communication between the State police officer and his station for approximately two hours after he had arrived at the scene.[11][13] The Haverhill police department did not search for Maura Murray that night. The department subsequently defended its inaction, explaining that it was initially believed that Maura had chosen to leave the scene.[4] To this day, her debit card, credit cards, and cellphone have neither been located nor used.[8]

Search efforts[edit]

Disappearance of Maura Murray is located in New Hampshire
Woodsville
Stowe
Bartlett
White Mountains
Woodsville, where Maura's car was found, and places she may have been headed.
Disappearance of Maura Murray is located in Massachusetts
Amherst
Hadley
Hanson
Amherst, Hadley (where she crashed before), and Hanson, her birthplace

Early investigation[edit]

The following day, February 10, a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) for Maura Murray was issued at 12:36 pm to Grafton County, Littleton, Haverhill, and Lisbon. A voice mail was left on Maura's father's home answering machine at 3:20 pm stating that the car was found abandoned. He was working out of state and did not receive this call until later in the day. At 5:00 pm, Maura's older sister contacted her father to tell him that Maura's car had been found abandoned. He contacted the Haverhill Police Department and was told that if Maura was not reported safe by the following morning, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department would start a search. Maura's family members contacted the University of Massachusetts Police Department at 6:46 pm, and requested that her dormitory room be checked.

On February 11, Maura's father arrived before dawn in Haverhill, New Hampshire. At 8:00 am, New Hampshire Fish and Game, the Murrays, and others began to search for Maura. A police dog tracked the scent from one of Maura's gloves 100 yards east from where the vehicle was discovered, but lost the scent.[12] At 5 pm, Maura's boyfriend and his parents arrived in Haverhill. He was interrogated in private, and then was joined by his parents for questioning. At 7 pm, the police said that they believed Maura came to the area to either run away or commit suicide, although her family believed that this was unlikely. That evening, Maura's boyfriend allegedly received a voice mail message, since deleted, that he believes was the sound of Maura sobbing. His cellphone had been turned off during his flight. The call was traced to a card issued to the American Red Cross.[14]

Maura's father and her boyfriend held an evening press conference in Bethlehem, New Hampshire on 12 February, and the next day the first press coverage was published. The Haverhill police chief said that "Our concern is that she's upset or suicidal."[12][15][16][17] Maura's father and boyfriend were interviewed by CNN's American Morning a week after her disappearance.[18] Maura's family expanded their search into Vermont.

Although missing person cases are normally handled by local and state police, the FBI joined the investigation ten days after she disappeared.[19] The FBI interviewed some of Maura's friends and family from Massachusetts,[20][21] and the Haverhill police chief disclosed that the search for Maura was now nationwide.[22] Ten days after her disappearance, New Hampshire Fish and Game conducted a second ground and air search, using a helicopter with a thermal imaging camera, tracking dogs and cadaver dogs.[23] Maura's older sister discovered a ripped white pair of women's underwear lying in the snow on a secluded trail near French Pond Road on 26 February,[24][25] but DNA tests found that the underwear did not belong to Maura.[26]

At the end of February, the police returned the items found in Maura's car to her family, and on March 2 Maura's siblings checked out of their motel, exhausted from the search, her father also checking out after three weeks of searching, returning nearly every weekend. In April, Haverhill Police informed him of complaints of trespassing on private property.[27][28] In May, based on a tip, New Hampshire Fish and Game conducted a ground search near where a young person was seen running the night of Maura's disappearance, but no scent or leads were reported from the search. Her father petitioned New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson for help in the search.[21][29][30] and appeared on The Montel Williams Show in November 2004 to publicize the case.[5]

Ongoing investigation[edit]

Toward the end of 2004, a man allegedly gave Maura's father a rusty, stained knife that belonged to the man's brother, who had a criminal past and lived less than a mile from where Maura's car was discovered. His brother and his brother's girlfriend were said to have acted strangely after Maura's disappearance.[20]

On the anniversary of her disappearance, a service was held where Maura's car was found, and her father met briefly with New Hampshire Governor John Lynch. In June 2005, police dismissed any connection between Maura's case and that of Brianna Maitland,[31][32] and retrieved the items found in Maura's vehicle from her family. In July, another search was conducted around the area in which Maura's car was discovered. In late 2005, Maura's father filed suit against several law enforcement agencies, with the aim of seeing files on the case.[33] The New Hampshire League of Investigators, ten retired police officers and detectives, and the Molly Bish Foundation started working on Maura's case in 2006.[20][34][35] Tom Shamshak, a former police chief and a member of the Licensed Private Detectives Association of Massachusetts said "It appears ... that this is something beyond a mere missing persons case. Something ominous could have happened here."[4][36]

"Based on what I know, I believe Maura was killed... Somebody knows something. Whether Maura's alive and got a ride or whether Maura is dead, somebody knows something."

—Helena Murray, Maura's cousin-in-law who runs Mauraismissing.com, in December 2009[37]

In October 2006, volunteers led a two-day search within a few miles of where Maura's vehicle was found. In the closet of an A-Frame house, cadaver dogs allegedly went "bonkers," identifying the possible presence of human remains. A sample of the carpet was sent to the New Hampshire State Police.[20] The Arkansas group Let's Bring Them Home offered a $75,000 reward in 2007 for information that could solve her disappearance.[38] In July 2008, volunteers led another two day search through wooded areas in Haverhill. The group consisted of dog teams and licensed private investigators.[39] Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said in February 2009 that the investigation is still active. "We don't know if Maura is a victim, but the state is treating it as a potential homicide. It may be a missing-persons case, but it's being handled as a criminal investigation."[3][5]

Possible sightings[edit]

There have been several reported sightings of Maura since her disappearance, but none have been confirmed. The family dismissed a claim in April 2004 by psychic Carla Baron that Maura had been murdered.[40]

Significance[edit]

Maura's case was compared in an episode of 20/20 to that of Brooke Wilberger who went missing within a few months of Maura's disappearance, and was later found murdered. The two families have become close.[4][43] There are more than 21,500 active missing person cases involving people between the ages of 18 and 29.[44] Maura's case was one of those cited by proponents of a cold case unit for New Hampshire.[45] Her case was added to the newly established cold case unit in late 2009.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Maura Murray". New Hampshire Department of Safety. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  2. ^ Associated Press (4 April 2004). "Parents push search for student". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  3. ^ a b Associated Press (8 February 2009). "Five years later, case frustrates family". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Hunter, Donna (21 September 2009). "Vanished: Two Coeds, Two Horrifying Mysteries, One Finally Solved". pp. ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  5. ^ a b c d e West, Nancy (28 October 2007). "Missing Maura Murray - Four years and countless questions". Union Leader. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  6. ^ Lindsley, Gary E. (2 February 2009). "Five Years Later, Maura Murray Still Missing After Driving To Haverhill, N.H.". Caledonian-Record. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  7. ^ Palpini, Kristin (6 February 2010). "Cable channel highlights mysterious case of missing UMass student Maura Murray". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d e McGrory, Brian (2 March 2004). "Where could Maura be?". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  9. ^ a b Conway, Maribeth (June 21, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART I: The Departure". Hanson Express 6 (25). 
  10. ^ DeMarco, Peter (21 February 2004). "Map clue spurs search for student in Vermont". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  11. ^ a b c d Conway, Maribeth (June 27, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART II: The Accident". Hanson Express 6 (26). 
  12. ^ a b c DeMarco, Peter (15 February 2004). "A student vanishes, and questions mount". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  13. ^ West, Nancy (October 28, 2007). "Missing Maura Murray: Four years and countless questions". New Hampshire Union Leader. 
  14. ^ "Did Maura make the mysterious phone call?", "Whitman & Hanson Express", July 3, 2007.
  15. ^ Associated Press."Hanson Woman, 21, Missing After Crash", "The Boston Globe", February 14, 2004.
  16. ^ Conway, Maribeth (July 5, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART III: The Search". Hanson Express 6 (27). 
  17. ^ "Mass. woman missing after N.H. car crash". Boston Herald. 13 February 2004. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  18. ^ O'Brien, Soledad (17 February 2004). "Mystery Disappearance". American Morning (CNN). Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  19. ^ DeMarco, Peter (20 February 2004). "With no new leads, FBI joins search for missing student". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g Conway, Maribeth (July 12, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART IV: The Aftermath". Hanson Express 6 (28). 
  21. ^ a b Lindsley, Gary E. "Fred Murray Appeals to Governor Benson", "Caledonian-Record", May 26, 2004.
  22. ^ Lindsley, Gary E. "Police Chasing Regionwide Leads", "Caledonian-Record", February 18, 2004.
  23. ^ McGrory, Brian (27 February 2004). "Footprints in the snow". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  24. ^ Lindsley, Gary E. "Relatives May Have Found A Clue", "Caledonian-Record", February 28, 2004.
  25. ^ Szaniszlo, Marie (2 March 2004). "Missing woman's sister finds underwear near crash site". Boston Herald. 
  26. ^ Lindsley, Gary E. "Potential Evidence Discounted", "Caledonian-Record", March 24, 2004.
  27. ^ Lindsley, Gary E. "Family, Friends Warned About Trespassing", "Caledonian-Record", April 14, 2004.
  28. ^ Lindsley, Gary E. "Residents Dispute Claims They Want Trespassers Arrested", "Caledonian-Record", April 20, 2004.
  29. ^ Murray, F. J. "Fred's Letters to Governors". Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  30. ^ Szaniszlo, Marie (10 February 2005). "Mass. dad asks N.H. gov for help finding daughter". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  31. ^ Chase, Stacey (3 February 2008). "Return to me". Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  32. ^ Heslam, Jessica (6 May 2004). "Families of missing women want cops to search for link". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  33. ^ Nichols, Russell (29 January 2006). "Father seeks data on a lost daughter". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  34. ^ "The Lineup". Fox News. 13 January 2006. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  35. ^ Fargan, Jessica (4 January 2006). "PIs working for free to find UMass Student". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  36. ^ "Private Investigators Renew Search For Missing Woman". The Boston Channel. 4 January 2006. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  37. ^ a b Sanders, Ron (11 December 2009). "Missing UMass Student Listed On NH Cold Case Site". WBZ TV (Boston). Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  38. ^ Associated Press (7 August 2007). "Group helps search for missing student". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  39. ^ "News". Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  40. ^ DeMarco, Peter (11 April 2004). "Missing student's kin skeptical of psychic". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  41. ^ Abel, David (7 May 2004). "New lead is reported in search for student". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  42. ^ Rosinski, Jennifer (7 May 2004). "New lead gives hope to missing girl's kin". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  43. ^ "Vanished: Missing Co-eds". 20/20. MSN. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  44. ^ Hunter, Donna (18 August 2008). "4 Years Later, Coeds' Cases Still Cold". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  45. ^ Kimble, James A. (1 May 2009). "NH may get cold case unit". The Eagle Tribune. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 

Coordinates: 44°07′09″N 71°56′11″W / 44.119272°N 71.936278°W / 44.119272; -71.936278

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]