The Caledonian-Record

April 30, 2004

Ceremony Planned For Murray Accident Site Public Urged To Attend

By Gary E. Lindsley

Family and friends of missing University of Massachusetts at Amherst nursing student Maura Murray will hold a special Circle of Hope ceremony simultaneously throughout parts of the country at 1 p.m., Sunday.

Murray, who is from Hanson, Mass., has been missing since she was involved in a one-car accident on Route 112 in the town of Haverhill, N.H., the night of Feb. 9.

Her father, Fred, will be joined by Jennifer Henry of Essex, Vt., and Leslie Grima of Franconia, N.H., for a ceremony at the accident site Sunday.

Simultaneous ceremonies will be held by Maura's boyfriend, Billy Rausch, in Lawton, Okla.; Rausch's parents, Bill and Sharon, in Marengo, Ohio; friends and family in Hanson; friends at UMass at Amherst; and by her sister, Julie, in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Twenty-two blue balloons, signifying Maura's 22nd birthday Tuesday, will be released at each site.

There also will be blue ribbons, buttons and a large laminated photograph of Maura.

Sharon Rausch said blue ribbons and balloons are being used because blue is Maura's favorite color.

At the accident site, there will be a large laminated photo of Maura. And Henry hopes to tie a blue ribbon around the tree where Maura had her accident.

Maura left her Amherst dorm the afternoon of Feb. 9, driving a black 1996 Saturn, which Rausch said was not operating on all of its cylinders.

As Maura rounded a sharp left-hand curve past The Weathered Barn in the town of Haverhill, she lost control of her car and went off the right side of the highway into some trees, causing minor damage.

Butch Atwood, a school bus driver, was returning home from taking students on a skiing trip when he spotted Murray's car.

He offered her assistance and said he would call police and emergency medical services for her, but she asked him not to.

Atwood, who lived about 100 yards east of the accident site, said Maura did not appear intoxicated.

He drove up to his house to call police and EMS. Between the seven to nine minutes he left Maura and Haverhill Police Sgt. Cecil Smith arrived, Maura disappeared. She has not been seen nor heard from since.

May 9 will mark three months since Maura disappeared.

Her father said he will be releasing the blue balloons and "hope for the best."

He said the balloon casting and Circle of Hope ceremony is going to be symbolic. He is hoping others, including area residents, join him for the ceremony.

However, he also is asking people not to park in the driveway of The Weathered Barn nor people's driveways.

The Rev. Lyn McIntosh will be leading the Circle of Hope ceremony at the accident site.

Grima said she has become involved in the ceremony and search because she is a nurse.

"It's just something I believe in," she said, referring to the search for Maura. "I think it's awful things aren't happening quicker."

Her sister, Jennifer Henry, also is a nurse.

Henry will be bringing ribbons not only symbolic of Maura, but also of Brianna Maitland, 17, Sheldon, Vt., who disappeared after her own car accident in Montgomery, Vt., the night of March 19.

Henry also has been involved in trying to help find Maura. She laments the fact she disappeared so far from home.

"If one of my children went missing in another town, I wouldn't have the hometown advantage ... support," she said.

She noted how hundreds of people have come out to help search for Brianna, which has not been the case for Maura.

"We want to get the local people involved," Henry said.