August 6, 2007
Reward Increased In Search For Maura Murray
By Gary E. Lindsley
It has been three years and nearly seven months since Maura Murray's black Saturn went off a rural road on a cold, dark wintry night in the town of Haverhill.
Murray, who at the time was a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, was nowhere to be found when police arrived and has not been seen nor heard from since.
Now, an Arkansas-based group, Let's Bring Them Home, is trying to bring to light what happened to Murray, who was an accomplished athlete in track. The missing person's advocacy group is offering a $75,000 reward to help accomplish its goal.
"I have been compelled by circumstances of Maura's case," said Let's Bring Them Home Director LaDonna Meredith on Sunday. "I am a young person. I drive alone a lot. This could be me. This could be my sister. This moved me."
It was reported on Feb. 9, 2004, that Murray of Hanson, Mass., then 21 years old, lost control of her black 1996 Saturn on a curve on Route 112 near the Weathered Barn and crashed into a stand of trees.
John Healy, who is a member of a team of investigators working on the Murray case in concert with the Molly Bish Foundation, said the team has come up with other theories about what happened that dark February night.
Healy said although police have said Murray crashed her car into the trees, he and the other investigators do not believe it to be true.
He said, based on the damage to the Saturn, that it appears as if the car was traveling at a slow speed when it may have struck the underside of another vehicle; the actual crash site may have taken place somewhere else. Not only that, they believe Murray may not have been the young woman then-First Student school bus driver Butch Atwood saw. They believe the scene where the Saturn was found by Atwood may have been staged.
This does not mean investigators have absolutely ruled out that Murray was at the Route 112 site and simply fled. And they are not ruling out that she was abducted and killed.
Meredith is hoping the $75,000 reward will help bring answers to what happened to Murray the night she disappeared.
"Our hope," Meredith said, "is that this reward will generate the information that will help us locate Maura. We know that someone, somewhere, has information about her whereabouts and we implore them to come forward.
"Sometimes, people feel more comfortable talking to people not associated with law enforcement," she said.
"We knew the reward had to be significant because of the time span [since Maura was last seen]. We do see a big jump [in tips] when a big reward is offered."
Meredith said her group decided to take Murray's case after Murray's family asked for help. The reward is good to the end of the year because, Meredith said, tips usually only come in for a few months after being offered.
Helena Murray, member of Maura's extended family, is hoping the $75,000 reward will help spur people to bring information forward about what happened to Maura and tell where she is now.
"If you have information, now is the time," she implored. "I don't know [if the reward will draw people out]. Maura's not here and nobody is in jail."
Maura Murray's father, Fred Murray, could not be reached for comment. Neither could Sharon Rausch, the mother of Maura's boyfriend, Bill Rausch.
Besides the reward, Let's Bring Them Home is also offering a toll-free tip line: 1-866-479-5284 for people to call in with tips about Murray's whereabouts.
"We are here to support the families' efforts to recover Maura, and we believe that issuing this reward is the first step," Meredith said.
The reward is for the recovery of Maura Murray and the arrest and conviction of those responsible for her disappearance.
For more information on Maura Murray's disappearance or on Let's Bring Them Home, please visit www.letsbringthemhome.org or call 479-966-0471.