The Patriot Ledger

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Leads fruitless, police stalled in Murray probe

By Joe McGee

Police investigating the disappearance of Hanson native Maura Murray have discovered that the disturbing phone conversation Murray had four days before leaving the University of Massachusetts at Amherst was with her sister.

According to her family, Murray called her sister, Kathleen Murray of Hanover, at about 10 p.m. Feb. 5, four days before she packed her belongings and headed north to New Hampshire. But what was said should not have upset the 21-year-old, Kathleen Murray said.

We didn't really talk about much. I had been fighting with my fiance', and we talked about that, but I don't know why she would be upset about that, Kathleen said.

Maura Murray's Saturn sedan crashed on Route 112 near Haverhill in northern New Hampshire at about 7 p.m. Feb. 9, hours after Murray left campus. She was gone when police arrived about 10 minutes later.

There were no footprints in the snow, and search dogs could not pick up her scent.

With the investigation well past the search-and-rescue phase, police are at a standstill trying to determine why Murray, a promising student and athlete, appears to have walked away from her college life.

A number of fresh leads have developed during the past three weeks, but none have proved fruitful, according to New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Bret Beausoleil. Nobody knows if Murray wandered into the woods and perished or if she was kidnapped.

The more time that goes by, the more concerned you get, but there is nothing we have found to point one way or the other, Beausoleil said.

Murray left UMass on the afternoon of Feb. 9. She cleaned out her dorm room as if she were leaving for good; did a MapQuest search for directions to Burlington, Vt.; took $280 in cash out of her bank account; and E-mailed her bosses and professors to say she would be away for personal reasons.

Kathleen Murray said she talked to her sister regularly to chat. Like all of their phone conversations, the one on Feb. 5 was about regular stuff, just-trying-to-get-through-the-day' kinds of things, she said.

When I heard she was crying after that, I couldn't understand why, especially because it's not like her to cry, she said.

Last week, Kathleen Murray and her brother Fred found a pair of women's underwear on a roadside in Haverhill. DNA testing had not been completed as of yesterday.

Sgt. Beausoleil said another tip, from a woman who was walking on Route 112 in Bath, N.H., on Feb. 9, also could not help investigators develop a criminal case.

The woman reported a suspicious man in a red pickup truck with Massachusetts plates eyeing her near the Stage Stop general store in Bath at about 7 that night.

According to the woman, the man left when she went into the store and headed east toward the accident scene. Ten minutes later, the woman saw Haverhill police go by in the same direction, responding to the accident.

She didn't have a license plate number, so that doesn't give us anything, Beausoleil said. We don't feel confident it's connected.

Joe McGee may be reached at