The New Hampshire Union Leader

January 27, 2006

Dad denied access to records on daughter

By Lorna Coloquhoun

Haverhill -- A superior court judge has denied a request by the father of a missing Massachusetts woman seeking the disclosure of records pertaining to the investigation into her disappearance.

Grafton County Judge Timothy Vaughn issued a five-page decision yesterday, a little more than a week after Frederick Murray sought an injunction for the release of papers relating to the disappearance nearly two years ago of his daughter, Maura.

Murray's attorney, Timothy Ervin of Chelmsford, Mass., said yesterday he would not comment on the decision until he conferred with his client.

Maura Murray, 21, a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, disappeared after a minor car accident Feb. 9, 2004, on rural Route 112 in Swiftwater. By the time police arrived at the scene, the woman was gone and has not been seen or heard from since that night.

In the nearly two years since his daughter went missing, Frederick Murray has sought, and been denied, various logs, accident reports and other information from a number of state agencies, including State Police and the Attorney General's Office.

Last month, he filed for an expedited hearing on his request for an injunction that would order the agencies to disclose the information and that hearing was held Jan. 18. Ervin argued that the information is not exempt from New Hampshire's right-to-know law. The state argued that releasing the information would impede the ongoing investigation.

Vaughn sided with the state.

"(The state) maintain(s) that release of the records could result in the destruction of evidence, chilling and intimidation of witnesses and the revelation of the scope and nature of the investigation," Vaughn wrote.

Murray has been critical of how the investigation into his daughter's disappearance has been conducted. He contends that the information gathered over the past two years could help his own efforts in finding his daughter. A group of private investigators is looking into the case.

"Considering that it sometimes takes several years -- even decades -- for the state to prosecute major crimes, a lapse of two years is not a long period of time," Vaughn wrote. "Release of the records could jeopardize the investigation and lead to, among other things, destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses and loss of communications with entities providing confidential information."

Preserving the integrity of the continuing investigation, Vaughn concluded, outweighs Murray's interest in obtaining records.