On The 15th Anniversary Of Maura Murray's Disappearance, Is There A New Lead?

Fred Murray recently told reporters that he believes that Maura's remains may be buried in a basement.

February 08, 2019

Maura Murray [image from missing poster]

Maura Murray [image from missing poster]

By: Catherine Townsend

On February 9, 2004, a 21-year-old nursing student named Maura Murray disappeared without a trace while on a road trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Fifteen years later, no trace of her has been found – and her family and friends remain desperate for answers.

On the night she disappeared, Maura was navigating the twists and turns of Highway 112 when she got into a minor accident. Around 10 minutes later, police showed up to the scene and found Maura’s car abandoned.

The windshield was cracked, the doors were locked, and many of her personal effects were inside – but there was no trace of Maura.

Had she been abducted by a stranger? Walked into the freezing woods? Or, as some have suggested, called someone to pick her up in order to start a new life? These questions are still unanswered.

BACKGROUND

On the surface, Maura appeared to be living a normal and happy life. A native of Hanson, Massachusetts, she was a star athlete in high school.

She earned a spot at West Point, but two years later enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in order to pursue a nursing career. At the time of her disappearance, she was working two jobs and juggling a full class load.

And behind the scenes, trouble was brewing, and Maura had been struggling with personal issues. A work supervisor said that Maura had been deeply upset after an upsetting phone call she received on the Thursday prior to her disappearance.

Additionally, investigators later discovered that Maura had faced a charge of credit card fraud after allegedly using someone else’s card to buy around $80 worth of food.

The Saturday before she disappeared, her father, Fred Murray, drove to Amhurst to visit her. They had dinner, and after dropping her dad off at his motel room, she borrowed his car to head to an on-campus party. While driving back, Maura hit a guard rail and, according to family members, did $8,000 to $10,000 worth of damage to his car. According to Maura’s family, she was deeply disturbed by the incident.

WHY DID SHE GO? A TIMELINE


Investigators scoured Maura’s recent activity in order to determine her state of mind on the date she disappeared — and the evidence appeared to point to a woman planning a getaway.

They found that after midnight on Monday, February 9, Maura used her personal computer to search MapQuest for directions to the Berkshires and Burlington, Vermont.

At 1 P.M. that day, she emailed her boyfriend. The message read: "I got your messages, but honestly, I didn't feel like talking to much of anyone, I promise to call today though."

She then called a condo association in Bartlett, New Hampshire, to inquire about renting a property, a call that telephone records indicate lasted three minutes. But the owner did not rent the property to Murray.

At 1:24 P.M., Murray emailed a work supervisor of the nursing school faculty that she would be out of town for a week due to a death in her family. However, her family has confirmed that there was no family emergency, and no death.

At 2:05 P.M., Murray called a number which provides recorded information about booking hotels in Stowe, Vermont.

Thirteen minutes later, she called her boyfriend and left a voicemail saying that she would talk to him later.

Later that afternoon, Maura packed a bag, walked out of her dorm room, and drove away from campus in her black 1996 Saturn sedan.

At 3:40 P.M., Murray stopped at an ATM and withdrew $280 – almost her entire balance. Her next stop was a liquor store, where she bought Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, a bottle of vodka, and a box of Franzia wine. Surveillance footage showed that she was alone at the liquor store and the ATM.

The last recorded use of her cell phone, police say, was when she called it to check her voice mail at 4:37 P.M.

At 7:27 P.M., immediately after Maura's car accident, a local woman called police to report the accident on Route 112 adjacent to her home. A bus driver named Butch Atwood stopped to ask Maura if she needed assistance, which she declined.

Atwood later told investigators that Maura appeared unhurt, but was clearly cold and shivering. Once Atwood arrived at home a few minutes later, he called police. Around 10 minutes later, law enforcement arrived at the scene, but Maura had disappeared.

Her Saturn's windshield was cracked on the driver's side, both airbags had deployed, and the doors were locked. Inside the car, police found items including Maura’s duffel bag, school books, Mapquest directions to New Hampshire and Vermont, and an empty Coca Cola bottle containing remnants of red wine. There were also items missing – including her backpack, and the bottles of vodka and Kahlua.

THE INVESTIGATION

At 12:36 P.M. on February 10, a BOLO alert was put out for Maura. On February 11, New Hampshire Fish and Game, Maura’s family, and volunteers began to search.

A police dog tracked the scent from one of Murray's gloves, but lost the scent 100 yards east from where the vehicle had been discovered.

Early in the investigation, the police stated that they believed that Maura may have come to the area to run away or commit suicide.

Murray's boyfriend had turned off his cell phone during his flight to Haverhill – and later received a voicemail that he believed was the sound of Murray sobbing. The call was tracked to a calling card issued to the American Red Cross.

Fred Murray has publicly criticized the police investigation numerous times. He believes that by treating disappearance as a missing persons case and not a criminal matter, authorities missed many opportunities during the crucial first 36 hours after Maura disappeared. Eventually, he filed a lawsuit against the police department and demanded that his daughter's case file be released. However, the court ruled that the investigation was ongoing.

New Hampshire and Vermont police have also dismissed any connection between Murray's case and a second young woman, Brianna Maitland, who went missing in a nearby area.

In a press release, they stated they believed that "Maura was headed for an unknown destination and may have accepted a ride in order to continue to that location," adding that they had discovered no evidence that a crime had been committed – or that a serial killer was involved.

In 2012, a YouTuber using the name "Mr112dirtbag” posted a series of cryptic and disturbing clues regarding Murray's disappearance. But her family and experts have dismissed the videos as a cruel hoax.

In 2014, the New York Daily News reported that Fred Murray believed his daughter had been abducted on the night she went missing, met with foul play, and is now dead.

A NEW LEAD?

Fred Murray recently told reporters that he believes that Maura's remains may be hidden in a basement in Woodsville, New Hampshire. He made the comments to news channel WBZ after two different trained cadaver dogs responded to possible human remains in a residence near the site of Maura's accident.

Murray said that neighbors told him they believed someone had concealed a body there under a concrete slab around the time that Maura went missing — but revealed that the owners always refused to answer the door or let him inside.

Eventually, the home changed hands, and the new owners gave Murray access to investigate. WBZ reported that on three separate occasions, two cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar equipment all "pinged the exact location Fred had been tipped about."

Murray told the press in an interview, “I can’t even bring her home and bury her. I got to leave her in somebody’s cold, stinking cellar where she’s been murdered.”

In episode 94 of the Missing Maura Murry podcast, hosts Lance Reenstierna and Tim Pilleri speak with investigative journalist Maggie Freleng about the possibility of Maura's remains having been found. Freleng states that based on what she's been told by local law enforcement, this is not a "new" lead; it's only new to the public and to Maura's family. But the authorities told her that the location had been searched "at least three times, back in the day," with dogs. Freleng also states that, in her opinion, "the police don't seem to be making much of it" and are "very confident that it's nothing."

New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin told WBZ that Maura Murray’s case is still “open and active.”

In regard to the possibility of new evidence, he added that the area Murray described had already been searched — and that nothing of significant evidentiary value was found. He did concede, however, that they are "considering next steps."

For more on this case, watch the "Miles to Nowhere" episode of Investigation Discovery's Disappeared on ID GO now!

Read more: Boston Globe, WCAX

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