Disappearance of Maura Murray
Maura Murray in 2003
May 4, 1982|
Hanson, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Disappeared||February 9, 2004 (aged 21)
Haverhill, New Hampshire, U.S.
|Status||Missing for 12 years, 8 months and 18 days|
|Known for||Missing person|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
|Weight||120 lb (54 kg)|
|Parent(s)||Frederick and Laurie Murray|
A nursing student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Murray left campus earlier that afternoon after packing her car and emailing her professors and work supervisor that she was taking a week off due to a family emergency. No family emergency existed. Due to her preparations and no evidence of foul play, police investigators suggested she may have wanted to disappear and treated her case as a missing person investigation, but some of her family and friends believe she was abducted.
Prior to disappearance
In November 2003, three months before her disappearance, Maura was arrested for using a stolen credit card. The charge was continued in December to be dismissed after three months' good behavior.
On Thursday, February 5, 2004, around 10:30 pm, Maura spoke on the phone with her older sister Kathleen while on break from her campus job. They discussed Kathleen's relationship problems with her fiance. Hours later, still on her shift, Maura broke down into tears. Her supervisor escorted her back to her dorm room around 1:20 am. Maura apparently did not share with anyone the reason for her breakdown.
On Saturday, February 7, Maura's father Fred Murray arrived in Amherst. That afternoon they shopped for a used car and later went to dinner with a friend of Maura's. Maura dropped her father off at his motel room and, borrowing his Toyota Corolla, returned to the campus to attend a dorm party with her friend. At 2:30 am, she left the party and drove the Corolla with the intention of returning it to her father. At 3:30 am, en route to his motel, she struck a guardrail on Route 9 in Hadley causing nearly $10,000 worth of damage to the car. The police questioned her but didn't file charges or administer a sobriety test. She was driven back to her father's motel and stayed in his room the rest of the night. At 4:49 am, she called her boyfriend in Oklahoma to discuss the accident.
Sunday morning, Fred Murray determined the auto damage was covered by his insurance. He rented a car, dropped Maura off at the university, and departed for Connecticut. At 11:30 pm that evening, Fred phoned Maura reminding her to obtain the forms pertaining to the accident on Monday from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. They agreed to talk again Monday night to discuss the forms and together fill out the insurance claim over the phone.
Preparations and departure
At 1:00 pm Maura emailed her boyfriend: "I got your messages, but honestly, I didn't feel like talking to much of anyone, I promise to call today though."
Around 1:00 pm she also made a phone call to inquire about renting a condominium in the same Bartlett, New Hampshire, condo association her family had vacationed at in the past. Telephone records indicate the call lasted three minutes. The owner did not rent the condo to Maura. At 1:13 pm Maura called a fellow nursing student for reasons unknown.
At 1:24 pm Maura emailed a work supervisor at the nursing school faculty that she would be out of town for a week due to a death in her family and that she would contact them when she returned. There was no family emergency at the time.
At 2:05 pm she called a number which provides prerecorded information about booking hotels in Stowe, Vermont. She listened to this information for approximately five minutes. At 2:18 pm she telephoned her boyfriend and left a voice message promising him they would talk later. This call ended after one minute.
In her car she packed clothing, toiletries, college textbooks, and birth control. When her room was searched later, campus police discovered most of her belongings packed in boxes and the art removed from the walls. It is disputed whether she packed them that day or if they were merely still packed from her recent return from winter break but police at the time asserted she'd packed between Sunday night and Monday morning and that the boxes were stacked on her bed. On top of the boxes was a letter to Maura's boyfriend indicating trouble in their relationship. Around 3:30 pm, she drove off the campus in her black Saturn sedan.
At 3:40 pm Maura withdrew $280 from an ATM. Closed-circuit footage indicates she was alone. This withdrawal nearly emptied her bank account although she was due to receive paychecks in the coming days. At a nearby liquor store she purchased about $40 worth of alcoholic beverages, including Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlúa, vodka, and a box of Franzia wine. Footage also shows she was alone when she made that purchase. At some point in the day she obtained Registry of Motor Vehicle accident report forms, as they were later found in her car.
Maura then left Amherst, presumably via Interstate 91 north. She called to check her voice mail at 4:37 pm, the last recorded use of her cell phone. To date there is no indication she had informed anyone of her destination or evidence she had chosen one.
Some time after 7:00 pm, a Woodsville, New Hampshire resident heard a loud thump outside of her house. Through her window she could see a car up against the snowbank along Route 112, also known as Wild Ammonoosuc Road. The car pointed west on the eastbound side of the road. She telephoned the Grafton County Sheriff's Department at 7:27 pm to report the accident. At about the same time another neighbor saw the car as well as someone walking around the vehicle. She witnessed a third neighbor pull up alongside the vehicle.
That neighbor, a school bus driver returning home, noticed the young woman was not bleeding but cold and shivering. He offered to telephone for help. She asked him not to call the police (one police report says "pleaded") and assured him she'd already called AAA. (AAA has no record of any such call.) Knowing there was no cell phone reception in the area, the bus driver continued home and phoned the police. His call was received by the Sheriff's Department at 7:43 pm. He was unable to see Maura's car while he made the phone call but did notice several cars pass on the road before the police arrived.
At 7:46 pm, a Haverhill police officer arrived at the scene. No one was inside or around the car. The impact had pushed the car's radiator into the fan, rendering it inoperable. The car's windshield was cracked on the driver's side and both airbags had deployed. The car was locked. Inside and outside the car he discovered red stains that looked to be red wine. Inside the car the officer found an empty beer bottle and a damaged box of Franzia wine on the rear seat. In addition, he found an AAA card issued to Maura Murray, blank crash report forms, gloves, compact discs, makeup, diamond jewelry, two sets of MapQuest driving directions (one to Burlington, Vermont, another to Stowe, Vermont), Maura's favorite stuffed animal, and Not Without Peril, a book about mountain climbing in the White Mountains. Missing were Maura's debit card, credit cards, and cell phone, none of which have been located or used since her disappearance. The police later reported some of the bottles of purchased liquor were also missing.
At 8:00 to 8:30 pm, a contractor returning home from Franconia saw a young person moving quickly on foot eastbound on Route 112 about 4 to 5 miles (6 to 8 km) east of where Maura's vehicle was discovered. He noted that the young person was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood. He didn't report it to police immediately due to his own confusion of dates, only discovering three months later (when reviewing his work records) that he'd spotted the young person the same night Maura disappeared.
The responding officer and the bus driver drove the area searching for Maura. Just before 8:00 pm, 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. A rag believed to have been part of Maura's emergency roadside kit was discovered stuffed into the Saturn's muffler pipe. Authorities would only refer to Maura as missing the next day, almost twenty-four hours after she was last seen.
The following day, February 10, a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) for Maura Murray was issued at 12:36 pm. Maura was reported as wearing a dark coat, jeans, and a black backpack. 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. 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. At 5:17 pm, Maura was first referred to as "missing" by the Haverhill police.
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. This suggested to police she'd left the area in another car. 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 they believed Maura came to the area to either run away or commit suicide, although her family believed this was unlikely.
Maura's boyfriend has turned off his cell phone during this flight. At some point he received a voice mail message that he believes was the sound of Maura sobbing. The call was traced to a calling card issued to the American Red Cross.
Maura's father and her boyfriend held an evening press conference in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, on February 12, and the next day the first press coverage was published. At 3:05 pm the police reported Maura may be headed to the Kancamagus Highway area and was "listed as endangered and possibly suicidal." The police report also stated Maura was intoxicated at the crash site, although there's no indication who may have witnessed this; the bus driver never said she was impaired. The Haverhill police chief said, "Our concern is that she's upset or suicidal."
Maura's father and boyfriend were interviewed by CNN's American Morning a week after her disappearance. Maura's family expanded their search into Vermont, dismayed that authorities there had not been informed of her disappearance.
Although missing person cases are normally handled by local and state police, the FBI joined the investigation ten days after she disappeared. The FBI interviewed some of Maura's friends and family from Massachusetts, and the Haverhill police chief disclosed that the search for Maura was now nationwide. 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. 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 February 26, but DNA tests found that the underwear did not belong to Maura.
At the end of February, the police returned the items found in Maura's car to her family. On March 2, Maura's family checked out of their motel, exhausted from the search. Fred Murray returned nearly every weekend to continue the search. In April, Haverhill Police informed him of complaints of trespassing on private property.
In April and again in June, New Hampshire and Vermont police dismissed any connection between Maura's case and that of Brianna Maitland, a Vermont woman who disappeared one month after Maura was last seen. In a press release they stated they believed "Maura was headed for an unknown destination and may have accepted a ride in order to continue to that location," adding they had discovered no evidence a crime had been committed. They also dismissed the possibility of a serial killer being involved.
On July 1, police retrieved the items found in Maura's vehicle from her family for forensic analysis. On July 13, a one-mile radius search was performed by nearly 100 searchers, including state troopers, rescue personnel, and volunteers. It was the fourth search around the crash area and the first search performed without snow on the ground. Authorities were most interested in locating the black backpack Maura had in her possession but not found in her car. Police stated the search discovered "nothing conclusive."
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.
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. 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." The Arkansas group Let's Bring Them Home offered a $75,000 reward in 2007 for information that could solve her disappearance.
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, but results were never released. In July 2008, volunteers led another two-day search through wooded areas in Haverhill. The group consisted of dog teams and licensed private investigators.
Maura's father has repeatedly criticized the police investigation for treating the disappearance as a missing persons and not a criminal matter and has called on the FBI to join the investigation. 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."
On February 9, 2012, eight years since Murray's disappearance, a video was uploaded to Youtube by a user named "112dirtbag" depicting an old man in a dimly lit room laughing uncontrollably at the camera for just over a minute, before concluding with the title "Happy Anniversary". Several other videos began appearing around the same time, including one showing an image of a pass for the Bretton Woods Ski Resort dated 2 days after the disappearance. Whilst James Renner of Fox News believed they held some significance, Murray's family dismissed them as "cruel and hideous". The New Hampshire Attorney General's office also said that the videos did not add anything to the investigation. The majority of them were quickly removed.
In 2014, on the tenth anniversary of Maura's disappearance, Strelzin stated, "We haven't had any credible sightings of Maura since the night she disappeared."
Maura's disappearance is often compared to the disappearance of Brianna Maitland one month later, who apparently abandoned her car near Montgomery, Vermont, 66 miles (110 km) away from Maura's last sighting in Woodsville. State police have stated there are no links between the two cases.
- Disappearance of Brianna Maitland, a woman who disappeared a month later in a similar manner 66 miles (110 km) away (speculated to be a related case).
- List of people who disappeared mysteriously
- "Maura Murray". New Hampshire Department of Safety. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- Conway, Maribeth (June 21, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART I: The Departure". Hanson Express. 6 (25). Archived from the original on December 1, 2010.
- Associated Press (April 4, 2004). "Parents push search for student". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Associated Press (February 8, 2009). "Five years later, case frustrates family". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "New developments in search for missing UMass student". The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. January 31, 2006. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
- Schiavone, Christian (February 8, 2014). "Search for Hanson woman missing since 2004 continues". The Enterprise. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
- "Maura Murray, Cold Case Unit, NH Department of Justice". NH Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- Hamel, Heather (February 5, 2014). "10 years later, mystery of Maura Murray persists". WCVB. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- "JAMES FENNER REQUEST 01272012-1". Maura Murray arrest record. James Renner. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- Joe, McGee (3 March 2004). "Leads fruitless, police stalled in Murray probe". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- McGrory, Brian (March 2, 2004). "Where could Maura be?". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Jensen, Bill (February 2014). "Will the Internet Find Maura Murray?". Boston. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
- DeMarco, Peter (February 21, 2004). "Map clue spurs search for student in Vermont". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Missing student's parents angry over police investigation". The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. January 26, 2005. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
- "Missing student a mystery to police, classmates". The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. February 17, 2004. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
- "UMass student still missing since winter". The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. 9 Sep 2004. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- Conway, Maribeth (June 27, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART II: The Accident". Hanson Express. 6 (26). Archived from the original on February 17, 2010.
- Blackman, Jeremy (March 31, 2013). "A decade lost and the spotlight gone, a father searches for his daughter". Concord Monitor. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
- Hunter, Donna (21 September 2009). "Vanished: Two Coeds, Two Horrifying Mysteries, One Finally Solved". pp. ABC News. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Lindsley, Gary E. (9 Feb 2009). "Five Years Later, Maura Murray Still Missing After Driving To Haverhill, N.H.". Caledonian-Record. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Air, Ground Search Futile". Caledonian-Record. 20 Feb 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Fred Murray Appeals To Governor Benson". Caledonian-Record. 26 May 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- DeMarco, Peter (February 15, 2004). "A student vanishes, and questions mount". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Police Have New Lead In Maura Murray Case". Calendonian-Record. 6 May 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Police Secure Murray Items For Evidence". Caledonian-Record. 1 Jul 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- Conway, Maribeth (July 12, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART IV: The Aftermath". Hanson Express. 6 (28). Archived from the original on December 1, 2010.
- Abel, David (May 7, 2004). "New lead is reported in search for student". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Rosinski, Jennifer (May 7, 2004). "New lead gives hope to missing girl's kin". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Search For Missing Woman Extended To Vermont". 21 Feb 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Did Maura make the mysterious phone call?", "Whitman & Hanson Express", July 3, 2007.
- Conway, Maribeth (July 5, 2007). "MAURA IS MISSING PART III: The Search". Hanson Express. 6 (27).
- Associated Press."Hanson Woman, 21, Missing After Crash", The Boston Globe, February 14, 2004.
- "Mass. woman missing after N.H. car crash". Boston Herald. February 13, 2004. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- O'Brien, Soledad (February 17, 2004). "Mystery Disappearance". American Morning. CNN. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- DeMarco, Peter (February 20, 2004). "With no new leads, FBI joins search for missing student". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Lindsley, Gary E. "Police Chasing Regionwide Leads", Caledonian-Record, February 18, 2004.
- McGrory, Brian (February 27, 2004). "Footprints in the snow". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Relatives May Have Found A Clue". Caledonian-Record. 28 Feb 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- Szaniszlo, Marie (March 2, 2004). "Missing woman's sister finds underwear near crash site". Boston Herald.
- "Potential Evidence Discounted". Caledonian-Record. 24 Mar 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Family, Friends Warned About Trespassing". Caledonian-Record. 14 Apr 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Residents Dispute Claims They Want Trespassers Arrested". Caledonian-Record. 20 Apr 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Vermont, N.H. State Police Rule Out Connection Between Disappearances". Caledonian-Record. 9 Apr 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- "Another Search For Maura Murray Turns Up Little". Caledonian-Record. 14 Jul 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
- Murray, F. J. "Fred's Letters to Governors". Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- Szaniszlo, Marie (February 10, 2005). "Mass. dad asks N.H. gov for help finding daughter". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- West, Nancy (October 28, 2007). "Missing Maura Murray - Four years and countless questions". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Father of missing woman sues N.H. for records of case" (29 December 2005). The Boston Globe. Associated Press. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- Nichols, Russell (January 29, 2006). "Father seeks data on a lost daughter". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "The Lineup". Fox News. January 13, 2006. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Fargan, Jessica (January 4, 2006). "PIs working for free to find UMass Student". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Private Investigators Renew Search for Missing Woman". The Boston Channel. January 4, 2006. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Associated Press (August 7, 2007). "Group helps search for missing student". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "K-9 Teams Search For Student Who Disappeared In 2004". Caledonian-Record. 23 Oct 2006.
- Conkey, Don (9 February 2008). "Four years later, Maura Murray's family still driven by hope". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- "Mass. man and father of Maura Murray takes quest to high court". Associated Press. 20 Dec 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- "Vanished: Missing Co-eds". 20/20. MSN. July 15, 2009. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- Mikkilineni, Rupa (December 9, 2008). "Vermont teen vanishes on way home from work". Retrieved March 19, 2014.
- Garbitelli, Beth (18 March 2014). "Vt. police mark decade since teen's disappearance". Associated Press. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- "Miles to Nowhere". Disappeared. Season 1. Investigation Discovery.
- "Vanishing In Vermont". Disappeared. Season 4. Investigation Discovery.
- Kimble, James A. (May 1, 2009). "NH may get cold case unit". The Eagle Tribune. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
- "Maura Murray". New Hampshire Department of Justice Cold Case Unit. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
- Renner, James. True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. 2016. ISBN 978-1250089014