New Hampshire Union Leader
February 20, 2004
Ground search ends for Bay State woman
By Lorna Colquhoun
HAVERHILL -- A second search of a rural part of Swiftwater for a woman who vanished from there after a car accident 10 days ago will be the last one, at least for now.
State police, Fish and Game conservation officers, three search dogs and a helicopter fanned out across a two-square-mile area along the Wild Ammonoosuc River and Route 112 yesterday in search of Maura Murray, 21, of Hanson, Mass.
But, officials said, the woods gave no clues as to what happened to the woman, who was last seen Feb. 9 at about 7 p.m., after she had a minor car accident in the area of the Weathered Barn on Route 112.
"Ground teams checked trails and roadways . . . there are no conclusive clues to continue," said Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus at a news conference yesterday.
It was disappointing news for the family of Murray, who have vigorously searched throughout the area for the past 10 days, traveling as far as Conway and Bartlett to put up posters asking for information about the woman, a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
"She loved her family and friends, and there is no way she would put the two most important people in her life -- her father and my son -- through this nightmare," said Sharon Rausch, the mother of Murray's boyfriend, Army Lt. Bill Rausch.
Her son must report back for duty in Oklahoma tomorrow, she said, and other family members who have put their lives on hold must also return to their homes. But, she said, that does not mean they are giving up trying to find her.
"There are countless friends clamoring to help," Rausch said.
Authorities are not going to stop trying to locate Murray, either, said State Police Lt. John Scarinza.
"We understand the family's frustration in not being able to find Maura," he said. "At this point, we do not see anything on a search on the ground, but it does not mean we are not searching for her. It's more appropriate now to look elsewhere and gather information."
New Hampshire investigators, which include the Haverhill police department, state police and Fish and Game, also have been working with Massachusetts law enforcement, including the UMass campus police. The FBI also has been providing assistance in Massachusetts in developing a timeline of Murray's actions in the week before her disappearance.
But the case is puzzling. Murray had e-mailed her professors telling them she would be out of classes for a week, while she tended to some family business. Rausch said Murray was in contact with her son during the day on Monday, leaving him a telephone message that said, "I love you, call me," she said.
Murray, who had spent many family vacations visiting and hiking in the White Mountains, also had packed a suitcase.
She had a minor car accident on Route 112 that night. Witnesses said she asked them to call a wrecker, but not the police. Police were called and an officer was on the scene in less than 10 minutes after the emergency call, Scarinza said.
In that time, however, Murray vanished.
"How or why is unknown at this point," Scarinza said. "We are reasonably confident that she did not enter the woods near the accident scene -- that area was searched several times."
While Haverhill police conducted a search of the area when they responded to the accident scene, nothing was found. Scarinza said it was Tuesday before the police were able to determine and contact Murray's father, the owner of the car, who then discovered that his daughter was missing.
A search of the area began that Wednesday, but nothing was found. Because there has been no snow or other weather to radically change the landscape, the second search went over the same terrain yesterday.
The accident scene was in sight of several homes, although the area becomes remote after that. Scarinza said she did not seek help from any of the homeowners, so it may be that she accepted a ride somewhere, but, he said, "there is no indication that anyone picked her up."
There is no evidence of foul play, either, he said.
"There is absolutely no indication that any harm has come to her," he said.
After more than a week of heartbreaking days, Rausch said the family can only conclude that Murray is unable to contact them.
"It's been a very long 10 days, and we are very worried," she said. "We are all convinced in our hearts that she is somewhere and someone is preventing her from contacting us."
Scarinza said that despite the posters seeking information and media coverage of Murray's disappearance, there has been little public response. He would not say if any of her accounts have been active since the disappearance.
Rausch and her husband must return to their Ohio home on Monday, but she said their efforts would continue to find Murray.
"Maura, we love you," she said. "We are never going to give up hope and don't you give up hope. We'll bring you home."
Anyone with information can contact the Haverhill police department at 747-2222.