The Patriot Ledger / The Enterprise
February 8, 2014
Search for Hanson woman missing since 2004 continues - Still Missing Maura
By Christian Schiavone
Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of 21-year-old Hanson native Maura Murray. Her father is still trying to answer the question that has stumped police and a team of private investigators: What happened to Maura?
HANSON – Not long ago, Fred Murray replaced the bright blue bow on a tree next to a sharp turn on Route 112 in Haverhill, N.H.
It's a spot he's visited hundreds of times in the decade since one of his daughters, Maura Murray, was last seen there before vanishing into a snowy night in Haverhill, a mountainside community of about 4,800 people near the Vermont border. Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the Hanson native, who was 21 when she went missing. Her father is still trying to answer the question that has stumped police and a team of private investigators: What happened to Maura Murray?
"You never give up hope," Fred Murray, formerly of Weymouth, said. "I have to uncover every possible chance I can and attempt to find her. I can't stop looking for my daughter."
On Feb. 9, 2004, Maura Murray packed up belongings in her dorm at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and headed north in her car. She lied to her professors in an email, saying she would be gone for a week because of a death in the family. She told neither her friends nor family members that she was leaving or where she was going.
At about 7:30 that night, Maura's car was going east on Route 112, a rural highway, when it went off the road, hit some trees and came to rest back on the road, facing west. A neighbor asked if she needed help, but she declined and asked him not to call the police.
He called them anyway, as did several other neighbors. When the first officer arrived, about 10 minutes later, he found the car locked. The windshield was cracked on the driver's side, and there was a spilled box of wine inside. There was no sign of Maura.
"Whatever happened happened in a very short time," said John Healy, who heads a team of private investigators volunteering on the case. "It was the wrong person, the wrong time. It's a weird set of circumstances where everything comes together."
Searches were conducted on the ground and by helicopter. Members of Maura's family took part in searches. Maura's boyfriend, an Army lieutenant whom she'd met while attending West Point before transferring to UMass, flew in from Oklahoma to help.
Fred Murray, who now lives on Cape Cod, believes his daughter was heading to Bartlett, N.H., a spot in the White Mountains they had frequently visited during her childhood. Why she left no longer matters, he said, and he believes she was abducted after her car crashed. "Somebody grabbed her," Murray said.
Today, Maura's disappearance is considered a missing-person case and is being investigated by the cold case unit in the New Hampshire attorney general's office.
Jeff Strelzin, senior assistant attorney general and the lead prosecutor for the case, said it's still an active investigation. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether investigators think Maura may be alive. "It's technically a missing-person case. We can't assume someone is dead unless we have evidence to draw that conclusion," he said. "Every credible lead is followed up on. Unfortunately, we just don't have definitive answers to what happened to Maura or where she is."
Healy, the private investigator, was blunt: He believes there is "zero" chance Maura is alive. He thinks she was abducted and murdered, and he's confident that one day the case will be solved.
"Everything is pretty much on hold and at a standstill. When we get a tip or idea, we will still be on it," Healy said. "Really, the next step is we're hoping somebody somewhere knows something and will come forward."
Fred Murray has long been critical of the New Hampshire State Police, the attorney general's office and Healy's group, saying they have botched the investigation – claims they deny. Murray unsuccessfully sued in an effort to get access to police records on the case.
The FBI has helped New Hampshire investigators follow leads around the country, and with forensic testing, a bureau spokesman said.
Murray wants the FBI more heavily involved. He is also continuing his own investigation, following tips he receives.
Family members maintain a website, mauramurraymissing.com, with information about the case.
Maura's mother, Laurie Murray, died in 2009.
Fred Murray believes Maura would have contacted the family if she were alive. Until the mystery is solved, he says he'll keep putting up the blue bows in Maura's memory at the site where she was last seen and hope for a break.
"You might get lucky and somebody will get mad at somebody else and use what they know about my daughter's case to hang over somebody's head. Or someone might get loaded in a barroom and let something slip," he said. "I'm just hoping to get lucky."
PHOTO/ Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger
Fred Murray outside the Hanson home where daughter Maura grew up. He is frustrated that the New Hampshire State Police will not release reports about its investigation into Maura's disappearance. The photo was taken on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.
Christian Schiavone may be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.