May 12, 2004
Missing woman's parents plead for FBI, local help
By Cicely Richardson
Woodsville -- On a sunny spring morning with a chill wind the parents of two missing young women held a press conference on May 8 outside American Legion Post #20 in Woodsville. They suggested the two cases may be connected and wanted local police to call in the FBI.
Bruce and Kellie Maitland of East Franklin, VT, and Fred Murray of Hanson, MA, had summoned newspaper and television representatives to keep alive the search for their daughters and raise the awareness of people throughout the area. They were joined by Charlotte and Michael Riley of Chester, NH, whose daughter Amie had disappeared last summer. Her body was found eight months later.
"Why are we here?" said Kelly Maitland. "We're all hoping someone out there knows something."
"We need help. We don't have our daughters," said Murray.
Maura Murray, a 21-year-old nursing student at the University of Massachusetts, had disappeared after running off the road on a sharp curve in Route 112 east of Swiftwater, on Feb. 9. A bus driver who lived near by reportedly came upon the disabled car around 7 p.m. and offered to help, be she declined. He then went home and called the police. The Haverhill police, who responded, did not find Murray.
Brianna Maitland, 17, disappeared on March 19 after leaving work at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery, VT. She was heading to Shelton, VT where she was living with a friend. Later that night, her car was found, backed into an abandoned house about a mile away from the inn.
While the Vermont and New Hampshire state police see no connection between the two cases, the parents think a connection is likely. They point out that both involved young women who were driving alone at night on rural roads. Kelly Maitland said that "accident situations" 90 miles apart in this area were "unusual."
If these cases are connected, said Murray, "The people of this area have a horrendous situation -- they could have a killer walking in their midst." Murray and the Maitlands would like to see the FBI brought in, to centrally coordinate and run all three cases -- the search for Maura Murray and Brianna Maitland and for the killer of Annie Riley.
"The State police work hard and they're nice guys. But they are restricted in their resources, and they've hit a stone wall," said Murray. He said the FBI had offered help, but local police refused. He pointed out that his daughter disappeared not far from the Connecticut River, but the New Hampshire State Police investigation cannot cross the river, the border with Vermont.
If the cases are unrelated, he continued, and "if a local bad guy from this area harmed my daughter, people here have to be uneasy."
Since February night, Murray has been searching fir his daughter, crawling through every bridge and culvert, pressing the police, checking bus stations and asking bus drivers if they saw his daughter. He has checked topographical maps to identify where a vehicle might have gone, checked with neighbors as to what was accessible, and searched.
Murray expressed particular frustration by the news this week that a second person had seen a young woman walking east on Route 112 about four or five miles east of the accident scene about an hour later. "I'm convinced it was my daughter," said Murray, adding, "so when the police arrived she was right around the corner. They could have taken a ride up the road and grabbed her."
A star in the windshield of the car indicated she may have hit her head, there was an empty beer can on the floor, and the outside temperature was 12 degrees, Murray said. "She was in danger." Why hadn't the police driven further or called the next town for help and why had it taken three months for another witness to come forward, he asked.
Addressing the people of the area, Murray pleaded, "Search your own property. Use your imagination. I can't possibly cover every single place." He also called on people to ask their local agencies to help. "If somebody here did something, he is still with you," he warned.
"I am asking the people of the north country to call the FBI," Murray concluded.
Murray joined the search for his daughter 36 hours after she disappeared, but the Maitlands did not even learn of their daughter's disappearance until four or five days after the car was found. Bruce Maitland said that, despite a slow start and bad weather, "We've essentially covered the area" of Franklin County. "It's blatantly apparent that she's not here," he continued, adding that the police do not have the resources to look further.
Kelly Maitland said that "awful rumors" that Brianna had been found and descriptions of how "broke out" almost immediately after their daughter's disappearance became public. Those have continued, but by now the Maitlands have learned not to believe anything until they hear it from police.
One problem, said Bruice Maitland, is that if anyone over 12 years old disappears, it is first treated as a runaway. "She wasn't living with us at the time, but she didn't run away," he said. Uncashed paychecks, contact lenses, clothes, jewelry and medicine she needed were all in her car, a sure sign to her mother that she had not run away.
"It feels like we've reached a wall," said Maitland. "There's no structure that helps lead us now." Her husband proposed that every state should have one or two officers who are trained to investigate accident scenes and disappearances. He said he had made that recommendation to Gov. Jim Douglas..
"Schools are coming to close, and your kids are going to be out there walking the roads," her husband added. "These people need to be found."
"Not one more beautiful girl -- they're talented, they're intelligent. We're not losing one more," vowed Kelly Maitland.
"My daughter was missing eight months -- her body was found," said Charlotte Riley. "You can't imagine what it feels like. We're as much victims as my daughter was." She said her daughter, a high school dropout, had disappeared from a bar, and "no one took it seriously."
Riley shared information on the organizations she had learned about that can help families of missing children and adults. The first step, she said is to get a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) number which must be assigned by local police.
Calling on the press to "make the public aware," Riley said had been no press coverage for their daughter until her body was found, and it had been three months for authorities to recognize her as missing. "The system isn't working -- its just isn't working," said Riley. "We need to make the system work for all of us."