The Caledonian-Record

Friday, February 9, 2007

Notes: A variation appearing in an unknown publication italics

Mass. Woman Disappeared 3 Years Ago

No Lack Of Of Theories About Disappearance

Investigators Not Giving Up Search For Maura Murray

By Gary E. Lindsley

HAVERHILL, NEW HAMPSHIRE - Three years since a Massachusetts college student disappeared after a car accident, theories abound as to what may have happened to her. It was three years ago today that Massachusetts college student Maura Murray disappeared in northern New Hampshire. There has been no sign of her since, but there also has been no lack of theories as to what happened to her.

It was reported three years ago, on Feb. 9, 2004, that Maura 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. It was February 9, 2004, that word came that Murray of Hanson, Massachusetts, lost control of her car on Route 112 in Haverhill and crashed into trees. A resident said Murray declined his offer of help, and when he returned, she was gone.

John Healy, who is a member of the 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. John Healy, a private investigator, said a team of investigators working with the family isn't ruling out that scenario, but they also have other theories. For instance, he said he and other investigators believe the woman the neighbor saw may not have been Murray and that the accident scene may have been staged.

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 may have have committed suicide, or was abducted and killed.

It was originally thought that Atwood came upon Murray's Saturn when he was returning home aboard his bus after taking students on a ski trip.

Atwood said he offered to help Murray, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst nursing student, but she refused his assistance, saying she had already called AAA.

Atwood said he drove to his nearby home, parked his school bus and went into his house to phone police and emergency workers. It was the last anyone saw of her.

Healy is hoping someone will come forward with information about what really happened that Monday night, Feb. 9, 2004.

"Someone up there must know something," he said. "We are talking to several people and following up on leads that have not been done by state police."

Healy and the others of the investigative team are coming back in the spring with dog teams to follow up on some information they gleaned from their two-day search with dog teams in October.

Regarding Atwood, Healy said he tracked him down to Homossa, Fla., where he is living in a "nice" home and has a 19-foot boat. Healy said Atwood would not talk to him about what he may have seen that February night.

Maura Murray Web Site

Helena Murray, who is related to Maura and runs a Web site (Home) dedicated to Maura and finding out what happened to her, cannot believe it is three years later and family and friends are no closer today to learning what happened to Maura than they were right after she disappeared.

"I don't think we can rule out anything until we learn something," Murray said. "Do I think Maura took off over that mountain (Mount Kancanmagus)? No I don't."

She said a lot has happened during the time Maura has been missing. Maura's sister, Kathleen, got married and Maura's boyfriend and unofficial fiance, Billy Rausch of Fort Sill, Okla., was promoted to captain and sent to Iraq.

Also during those three years, the New Hampshire State Police Major Crimes unit has reportedly been working on Maura's case. However, the unit and the state's Attorney General's Office are fighting Maura's father, Fred, in court about having any of the records released, including the accident report.

While he may believe police are not doing anything to find his daughter, Murray has not stopped making the trek north to New Hampshire on the weekends to look for her.

What has really frustrated Fred Murray is that he says he has turned over potential evidence to state police with nothing resulting.

One example is that a man came forward and told him that the man's relative may have been involved. The man also turned over a possible weapon.

Murray drove to state police headquarters in Concord, N.H., to turn it over to state police, but he said they refused to accept it. So, he mailed the potential evidence to them and said he has not received any response or acknowledgement.

From the time Murray first talked to the media in Bethlehem, N.H., just a couple days after his daughter's disappearance, he definitely believed something had gone very wrong.

"I had an uneasy feeling at that time some local dirt bag grabbed her," he said Thursday night. "She was supposed to call me. That is what gave me the uneasy feeling. She always called when she said she would. I am still struggling to find out what everyone saw that night."

Anyone with information about the Maura Murray case should contact the New Hampshire State Police Major Crimes Unit at 603-271-2520.