February 5, 2014

10 Years later, mystery of Maura Murray persists

By Heather Hamel

HAVERHILL, N.H. —Ten years ago, nursing student Maura Murray crashed her car on a road in North Haverhill and was never seen again.

Her father, Fred Murray, said he is still desperate to know what happened.

"It's like it was yesterday to me, and it always will be, I guess, until I find out what exactly happened," he said.

Fred Murray said he will never forget the night he got life-changing news. His 21-year-old daughter had crashed her car in North Haverhill, but she wasn't at the crash scene when police arrived.

The mystery of what happened to her has plagued him ever since.

"My initial thought is still what I think," he said. "Somebody locally grabbed her who knows the area, knows where to go, knows how to get into some place and out of some place without being seen."

A decade later, Fred Murray still makes regular trips to the area on Route 112 where Maura Murray was last seen.

"I go up when there is something to look for or when I have an idea or I have heard something or when there is someone to talk to," he said.

A blue ribbon wraps the tree that his daughter's car hit. The family put a new one up this week.

Many theories, no answers

The constant media attention has stopped, the searches have ended, but those who were living in town in the winter of 2004 still remember.

"There were no tracks in the woods, so she had to have stayed on the road," said resident Steve Loud.

"I never had that feeling that it was a local person," said resident Jeanne Foley. "I always felt she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone came along."

Many others believe Maura Murray is still out there, alive and well, having orchestrated her own disappearance. An Internet search turns up a number of blogs about her filled with theories and speculation.

"Our office and the state police do receive information from people," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin. "Unfortunately, none of that has turned out to be fruitful. We haven't had any credible sightings of Maura since the night she disappeared."

That night was Feb. 9, 2004. Police received two calls from two residents reporting a car off the road. The first call came at 7:27 p.m. A local bus driver later told investigators he saw a woman standing outside the black Saturn.

An officer arrived at 7:46 p.m. and found the car locked with nobody around.

Nobody is sure why the University of Massachusetts-Amherst nursing student left college and was traveling north in the first place.

"I don't know why she went," Fred Murray said. "I don't know the cause or combination of circumstances of events. I probably will never know. I probably won't."

Fred Murray was in Amherst visiting his daughter two days before she vanished. She borrowed his car to go to a party and struck a guardrail. No tickets were issued, but there was $8,000 in damage to the car.

Three months earlier, Maura Murray was arrested for using a stolen credit card number for fast-food orders. That charge was dismissed as long as she maintained good behavior.

Her father said he doesn't believe speculation that either incident had anything to do with her disappearance.

Recreating the timeline

The day before she left campus, Maura Murray searched for directions to Burlington, Vt., which were found in the car. On Feb. 9, she sent an email to teachers saying there had been a death in the family and she would be away.

Maura Murray packed her car, withdrew money and bought alcohol, including a box of wine that was found in the wrecked car.

She made a call to Stowe, Vt., but never made reservations. She also called for information on a condominium in Bartlett where she had stayed with her family.

Her father thinks that's why she was on Route 112.

"It is a road to Bartlett, which I am sure she was going," he said. "She knows it like her backyard. We were in New Hampshire so much, at least four times a year. She was up there every year of her life."

Fred Murray has been publicly critical of the investigation and has taken the state to court to get access to the case file. Most of the documents still remain sealed.

"I have been asking for the FBI for 10 years to enter the case," he said. "I am still asking as I sit here right now to enter the case. It is the only way this will be solved."

"The case has been investigated by the Attorney General's Office and the state police," Strelzin said. "There hasn't been a need to bring in another agency full time, although the FBI has lended assistance in the past."

That night, police cleared the scene one hour and 40 minutes after arriving. Fred Murray thinks they waited too long to start a full search, something neighbors agree with.

"There was no one looking for her along the roadway during the daylight hours for several days," Foley said. "I never saw anyone come down this way, not ever."

"I want to know what happened in the first 36 hours," Fred Murray said. "I want to know what the state police officer at the scene did."

With so many questions unanswered, Fred Murray said that most of all, he wants his daughter back.

"I think if Maura were alive, she would have called me, and if not me, one of her sisters or one of her really good friends," he said. "I think she would have called me.

"I want to know what happened to my daughter. I want to know who did it. That's what I want."

The Attorney General's Office said not all adult missing persons cases are concerning, but given the circumstances, this one is very concerning, and that's why there has been an ongoing criminal investigation.

They said that while it's possible that Maura Murray is still out there somewhere, it's not very likely.