February 20, 2004
Air, Ground Search Futile - FBI Called Into Case
By Gary E. Lindsley
Nancy Lyon and her canine partner, a 3-year-old malinois, Quicklie, spent most of Thursday morning scouring a section of Route 112 for a missing 21-year-old Hanson, Mass., woman.
Lyon and Quiklie are members of the New England K-9 Search and Rescue group. They were one of three canine teams taking part in the search for Maura Murray, a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
They were unable to turn up any sign of the missing college student.
A ground and air search coordinated by New Hampshire Fish and Game failed to turn up any clues in Murray's disappearance Thursday.
Murray unexpectedly left her college and her job at an art gallery Feb. 9 and headed to New Hampshire in her black 1996 Saturn.
She was traveling on Route 112 around 7 p.m. in Haverhill when she failed to negotiate a sharp left-hand curve past The Weathered Barn and crashed into a stand of trees on the right side of the highway.
The front end of the car suffered extensive damage upon impact. The car's radiator was pushed back into the fan, making the vehicle inoperable.
Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus, in a press conference at the Haverhill Police Department Thursday afternoon, said the three canine teams, two of which were part of the New England K-9 Search and Rescue group, and the other from the state police, were unable to come up with any clues. Two of the canines were air scent dogs.
"The results today were non-conclusive," Bogardus said. "We were unable to locate anything within a 2-mile square radius."
Between the air and ground searches, he said there weren't any conclusive clues to enable a continuation of the search.
"Tracks are prevalent out there, but none connected with Maura," he said. "So, now our ground search is suspended."
Lt. John Scarinza of New Hampshire State Police Troop F said police know Murray had e-mailed her employer she was taking a week off for a family emergency.
"How and why she ended up in Haverhill is unknown," he said.
However, Maura's father, Fred Murray, has said the family used to camp in the area and Maura was familiar with New Hampshire.
"We are reasonably confident she did not enter the woods near the crash scene," Scarinza said.
He also said police don't have any indication any harm has come to her.
"There is no indication someone picked her up," Scarinza said. "At this point, I have no reason to believe that (she was taken against her will)."
The FBI, he said, is now involved with the case and is conducting a background investigation in Massachusetts.
"We have not asked them to do that," Scarinza said, referring to checking her computer for any information which would help move the investigation along. "We have been working with the University of Massachusetts police at Amherst. They have been a tremendous help."
Police have checked bus companies and questioned bus drivers to see if Murray had caught a bus somewhere. Nothing has proven that was the case.
Authorities are also conducting background checks of "people of interest" in the area.
When asked why a second ground and air search was conducted Thursday, nearly a week and a half after the accident, Scarinza said, "We wanted to make sure we had done everything twice. We have a very good feeling we have done everything we can do at the crash site."
Police in the meantime have been tracking Murray's credit cards and bank accounts. But they aren't revealing anything they have learned.
Sharon Rausch, the mother of Bill Rausch, who is Murray's fiance-to-be and a second lieutenant with C Battery, 119th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, Lawton, Okla., was present at the press conference.
"It's been a long, long 10 days," Rausch said. "We are very worried. We believe she is somewhere and someone is preventing her from contacting us.
"She loved her family and there is no way she would put her father and my son through this."
Rausch, who is from Marengo, Ohio, wanted to send a message to Murray.
"Maura, we love you," she said. "Don't you give up. We will never give up. We will find you."