February 9, 2009
Five Years Later, Maura Murray Still Missing After Driving To Haverhill, N.H. "Nothing has changed over five years." - Fred Murray - Questions Still Remain Five Years After Maura Murray's Disappearance
Gary E. Lindsley
Five years ago today, then 21-year-old Maura Murray left her University of Massachusetts-Amherst campus, drove north into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and disappeared. After five years, Fred Murray, Maura's father, is still trying to find out what happened Feb. 9, 2004.
Police say Maura crashed a 1996 black Saturn into some trees along Route 112 in the town of Haverhill near the Weathered Barn at about 7:30 p.m.
She either fled the scene or was picked up by someone else. They said she may have been suicidal.
During the past five years, not only has she not been seen or found, her credit card and cell phone have not been used. Nor has her bank account. Family and friends have heard nothing.
Butch Atwood was a First Student school bus driver who happened upon Murray's car, not far from his house, while on his way home that night. Atwood said he spoke with Murray and offered to get her help, but that she asked him not to contact police. Atwood said Murray told him she had already contacted AAA.
Atwood then drove home, parked his bus and went inside his house to call 911. Less than 10 minutes later, he said Sgt. Cecil Smith of the Haverhill Police Department came to the door of his bus and asked if he had seen someone at the car. Murray had disappeared.
What still puzzles Murray's family and friends is that police did not notify Murray's family about the crash until nearly 24 hours later … and did begin a search for 36 hours.
Murray's family said Smith told them he thought the driver of the Saturn was Murray's father, to whom the car was registered. Mysterious to them, though, is why Smith asked neighbors, the night of the crash, "Where is the girl?"
Since 2004 Murray has wanted FBI involvement to address the mysteries of the case.
"Nothing has changed over five years," he said.
When Murray was finally notified of his missing daughter, he was relieved to learn a state police trooper was at the crash site. "The state cop is more highly trained," he said. "These are career officers."
His relief was short lived, though, after he arrived in Haverhill.
"Evidently, they had not done anything," he said. "My first question was, 'You had an officer at the scene. What did your guy say?' Five years later I have the same question. He was the best chance Maura had. Why can't they say?"
The Saturn's windshield had a spider crack in it, which Murray said might have been caused by Maura's head striking it. Also, she was in danger of hypothermia.
"She had nowhere to run, nowhere to ask for help," he said. "There has been an accident and the driver has abandoned the car. It's his [trooper's] responsibility to get the person."
Murray said when he asked New Hampshire State Police Troop F commander, Lt. John Scarinza, what his trooper had done, Scarinza looked down at his feet and said nothing.
"He said zero," Murray said. "To this day, they have not said what he did. The only guy who can pull her bacon out of the fire, he didn't do it. I want the state police to tell me what happened Feb. 9, 2004. I want to go back to square one.
When they did not answer my question … 'What did your guy do?' … my heart sank."
During the last five years, Murray fought all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court to have the accident records released. The court ruled in the attorney general's favor not to release the information.
"The judge asked the assistant attorney general what was the percentage of bringing charges, and he [Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin] rolls his eyes, looks at the floor and then says, '75 percent.' He pulled it out of his back pocket," Murray said.
"My question now to the [assistant] AG is, what is 75 percent of nothing?
You said 75 percent two years ago. You made that up. Nothing has happened," he said.
Murray said the Grafton County dispatch logs also bother him.
"You see dispatches for the same time period and they are different," he said.
"Times and information from the dispatches are not the same, later. These are official documents. Why don't they match?"
Murray is also bewildered about why the private investigators working on Maura's disappearance have not turned over evidence they found during a search on property at Mountain Lakes Estates in October.
"I think as of last summer they had not tested it or turned it over to state police," he said.
The evidence, Murray said, is being refrigerated.
"Everything is legal," he said. "It is valid."
John Healy, president of the New Hampshire League of Investigators, said in an e-mail, "We are still active.
We did a search last July, our third. We brought a medium up to the area last week. This one is the real deal, has done this before and first told us so much about ourselves it was scary. We passed her observations on to the police."
Healy said his group would meet again later this month to get back on track.
"We are in this for the long haul," he said. "The observation of the psychic and dog handlers from the search were given to the state police. Since it is oneway communication, we do not know if we found anything useful, but they were interested in our findings and asked for them."
Wants FBI Involved
Because of what he perceives is a lack of movement on the case, Murray is again calling for the FBI to be involved.
Maura's trip Feb. 9, 2004, took her through three states, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
"Plus, you have her marching into the federal forest," he said. "You have three states and federal property. The FBI should enter the case because of irregularities. The FBI should enter because of the amount of violence in the area.
"Firemen ask for help when they can't put a fire out," Murray said. "But firemen aren't hiding anything."
Helena Murray, who is one of Maura's relatives and is the site administrator for mauramurraymissing.com, has not given up in her search for Maura.
"It's a long time," she said. "It's unbelievable to me. It's five years and my heart goes out to Fred and Laurie. I don't know how people do it. You want to have hope, but there is nothing. I don't think she is still with us."
Strelzin did not return several telephone calls last week; Scarinza was unavailable for comment; and Haverhill police are referring any questions about Maura's disappearance to state police.
Photo By Gary E. Lindsley
Fred Murray hangs a new bow on a tree Saturday near where his daughter, Maura, crashed her car on Route 112 in Haverhill, N.H., Feb. 9, 2004.