Steve Huff's Crime Blog

July 21, 2005

(3 of 3)

What occurred to me as I looked at maps tonight, both online and off, and tried to incorporate the idea that perhaps Brianna Maitland and Maura Murray both might have met up with a legacy older than anyone living along the border between those small New England states may understand, was that Interstate 91 parallels the Connecticut River—until St. Johnsbury, where I-93 splits off from 91 and the Connecticut River appears to wend northeastward while I-91 continues a more northerly track. If you continue on I-91 you eventually merge on to U.S. Highway 5 heading west, toward Montgomery, Vermont. And of course in March of 2004, just a little over a month after Maura Murray disappeared, the mystery of what happened to Brianna Maitland began in that very town. A mystery that is, if considered apart from any theories about the Valley Killer, still disturbingly similar to the one surrounding Maura.

So, Dr. Lecter asked Clarice, what does he do, this man you seek?

Consider the one who got away from the Valley Killer, Jane Boroski. Here is her experience as recounted in Michael Newton’s Encyclopedia of Serial Killers—Borowski was at a country store on Route 9 south of Keene, New Hampshire on August 6, 1988, when:

An unknown man approached Boroski in the parking lot, dragging her out of her car, and pulled a knife when she fought back. At one point in their scuffle, when she asked why he had chosen her, the man replied, “You beat up my girlfriend.” Boroski denied it, and the man appeared confused. “Isn’t this a Massachusetts car?” he asked. Boroski pointed out New Hampshire license plates, and the stranger hesitated, began to turn away, then rushed at her with the knife again… ~ The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers by Michael Newton, pages 229-230.

Boroski was able to give the only description available of the killer—a thin-lipped man with pale eyes and hair. Most interesting to me as I put this entry together was the odd exchange Jane Boroski had with her killer—“Isn’t this a Massachusetts car?”

Of course, it could have been just part of a ruse, or evidence of a truly disordered killer acting out of motivations making sense only to the voices in his head. Keene is close to the Massachusetts border, about sixty miles or so up I-91 and 14 miles or so east of the interstate down Highway 9. Maura Murray would have driven by on I-91 that February 9th, coming from Amherst and UMass, where she was studying to be a nurse.

Consider, then:

Serial killers are frequently the most mobile of criminals. Many of them drive habitually—Ted Bundy [ link], is just one example of a serial killer who self-reported as much.

With the typical wanderlust of the serial killer in mind, consider it then as possibly being much more significant that Interstate 91 runs along the border between New Hampshire and Vermont than that the original Valley Killer murders took place in the Connecticut River Valley. The original crimes tended to center around the Claremont, New Hampshire area, but again, the killer appears to never have strayed much further from one of those interstate routes than when he killed Cathy Millican.

What could the connection between many of these victims and the nursing profession possibly be? Could it be significant that Maura Murray studied nursing at UMass Amherst, just south of the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border? Did any of the other victims from more than 20 years ago study at UMass?

The killer seemed non-plussed after seeing that Jane Boroski’s car was not from Massachusetts, to the degree that he seemed ready to back off. His final attack on the woman seemed like a second thought, since she’d seen his face, perhaps. Why would it matter if her car was from Massachusetts? Was there some esoteric criteria in the murderer’s head that dictated he look for cars crossing the state borders—to confuse authorities, and take advantage of “linkage blindness?”

All the victims were, as best as I can tell—fine details of the Valley Killer murders are not easy to come by—white women under 40. Three worked in some capacity as a nurse, Maura Murray was studying to be a nurse.

As demonstrated by what we now know about BTK, Dennis Rader, serial killers can slow down the pace of their murders and change their method of operation at will. The previous Valley Killer victims were mostly found some time after their deaths, indicating active efforts to hide the bodies in many instances. Neither Brianna nor Maura have been found—if we factored in the idea of the Valley Killer, would he have simply refined his methods at this point to the degree that he found a foolproof place to dispose of victims’ remains? If he has had all this time to practice, that is a logical conclusion.

Assuming for the moment there might be a connection between Maura, Brianna, and the Valley Killer; if there really did appear to be a lull between 1988 and 2004, where did the killer go? An examination of unsolved murders elsewhere in the U.S. that match up with what we know of the Valley Killer’s murders might not be a bad idea.

What happened to Brianna Maitland? To Maura Murray? At the moment we simply don’t know. We don’t even know if the similarities between the ways these girls disappeared are simply bizarre coincidences, or not. A twenty-something student and girl in her late teens, both attractive, one studying to be a medical professional, the other working as a waitress. Both of them appear to have single-car accidents, and both disappear completely, leaving their cars and questions behind.

Seven women in the 1970s and ‘80s attacked, six brutally murdered. Some of them connected across the years to Maura Murray by pursuit of a medical profession. Snaking through all of these questions the twin rivers of asphalt and water marking the borders of states, Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River.

The closest I can come to an answer in the midst of all this speculation at the moment is the idea that the truth, if it is ever found, will have much more to do with the highway than the river.