The New Hampshire Union Leader
May 14, 2004
Dad can't give up search for daughter
By Mike Recht
HAVERHILL -- There are 48 mountains in New Hampshire at least 4,000 feet high, and Fred Murray has climbed them all -- many of them with his daughter Maura. They snowshoed together, ran road races together.
When she was in high school, then at West Point and later at the University of Massachusetts as a nursing student, they would go away on camping weekends.
He coached her in softball and basketball, and in her early years, he picked her up from school every day.
"This kid is my buddy," he said.
But he hasn't seen her since early February.
Maura Murray disappeared after she failed to make a curve on rural Route 112 and hit a snowbank while driving the night of Feb. 9 in northwest New Hampshire. She escaped serious injury and asked a nearby resident who came by not to call police. He did anyway, but by the time they arrived, she had vanished into the wintry night, leaving her car and belongings behind.
She also left behind her mother and two sisters, one a police officer and the other a West Point graduate stationed at Fort Bragg, who might soon be sent to Iraq. And she left behind her father.
It's been three months and he hasn't given up hope of finding her, even if she is dead.
"Do I want to find her? Not really. I keep looking, but I don't want to be successful. It's a horrible position to be in," he said.
Murray said his daughter might have been distraught because she had another accident two days earlier. She also apparently planned to get away because she lied to professors about a death in the family and said she would be gone from class for the week, then packed her belongings as if she was moving out.
However, Murray believes she might have been the victim of foul play, although police said there is no evidence pointing in that direction.
Almost every weekend since Feb. 9, he has made the eight-hour round-trip drive from his home in Weymouth, Mass., to the Woodsville section of Haverhill. He searches the vast forest or knocks on doors and questions neighbors who might have seen something. He also hands out fliers with Maura's picture.
His daughters and Maura's boyfriend, who is in the military, were able to help at first, and occasionally some volunteers join him. Last weekend, a couple from Vermont, the Maitlands, whose own daughter disappeared in March, searched with him.
But most of the time, he's alone, arriving Friday night, searching until dark Saturday and into late afternoon Sunday and then driving home.
He doesn't even think about whether he will make the trip.
"There's no decision to make. There's no option," he said. "As a father, I don't think about it. It's automatic.
"How am I able to stand this? I don't know. I make myself do it. It's got to be done. I don't want to be here.
"Some mornings I hate to wake up; I hate to open my eyes."
Last weekend was particularly difficult. The Maitlands were coming, and so were the Rileys of Manchester, whose daughter disappeared last August and was found dead in Manchester. The media was invited to call attention to their desperation.
"I knew I was going to have to talk about it," Murray said.
The searching is easier.
During the winter, he searched the snow for footprints. The snow is gone now, so he searches the woods alongside the road. He even climbs through culverts under the road, head down, looking for any clue.
"I don't want to look up, afraid of what I might see," he said. When he finds nothing, "it's a great relief," he said. "Not finding her (body) is encouraging."
He even searched the Kancamagus Highway -- one of her favorite places about 25 miles away -- should she have contemplated suicide, though he is quick to point out, "I don't think she did."
He doesn't know how long he will keep coming back, but there always is another area to search. Only recently, a man came forward and said he saw someone who matched Maura's description about five miles up the road from the accident scene. Maura, a runner and hiker, easily could have covered the 18 miles to Woodstock, or the five miles back into Woodsville and across the Connecticut River into Wells River, Vt., where a bus leaves at 11 every night.
"I don't think about how long I'll keep going," he said. "I search it and can put my mind at ease that I looked there."