The New Hampshire Union Leader
July 14, 2004
Searchers again look for clues in Murray case
By Lorna Colquhoun
HAVERHILL -- Search teams fanned out through fields, woods and drainage ditches yesterday on another search of the area where a Massachusetts woman was last seen more than five months ago.
Nearly 100 people, including 60 state troopers from as far away as Exeter, conservation officers, and volunteers from search-and-rescue organizations, spent the day on line searches, painstakingly looking for any clue that would shed new light on the disappearance of Maura Murray.
The 22-year-old nursing student has not been seen since she had a minor accident with her father's car on Route 112 near the Weathered Barn. Murray disappeared minutes before Haverhill police responded that evening to a call about the accident.
Investigators have not had any breaks in the case since that cold night in February.
This was the fourth search of the area, and teams yesterday spread out to cover a mile radius of the accident.
The first searches were conducted while there was snow on the ground, and teams found no tracks leading from the road into the woods or nearby Wild Ammonoosuc River.
Throughout yesterday, state police detectives could be seen removing materials from areas along the road.
"We've located several items, but there is nothing conclusive related to Maura or our investigation," said Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus. "Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to raise eyebrows."
Nor was there any particular reason why the search was conducted yesterday, said state police Lt. John Scarinza.
"There is no real reason," he said. "We have searched this area four times previously; the first ones were conducted when there was 2½ feet of snow on the ground. We have a 90 percent confidence level that she is not in this half-mile radius. We're just trying to eliminate as much as we can."
Bogardus said the items retrieved yesterday are what can typically be found on any roadside this time of the year and what investigators took away might not be related to the case, but they will be checked out.
Authorities are, however, still looking for one item, Scarinza said. Murray's friends said that when they last saw her in February, she was carrying a black backpack.
"There are some items that were in her possession that were not located in her car," Scarinza said. "She had a black backpack, which has not been found. If we could find it, that would be important."
At the site where Murray was last seen, a bright blue ribbon hangs, along with a picture of her and a poster offering a $40,000 reward for information about her whereabouts.
Police won't speculate about what they think might have happened to Murray, but Scarinza said there has been no banking activity on her accounts. The few leads that have come in over the past five months have not yielded any answers. Just last week, Scarinza said, two Rochester women called investigators, after they saw an article and picture in The Union Leader, to say they had been out at a bar there and saw a woman who looked like Murray.
"That hasn't panned out," Scarinza said.
Investigators have outlined what Murray did in the last few days before she went missing.
They know that:
Four days before her disappearance, she received a phone call at work that left her so distraught, she was walked back to her dorm at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst by a supervisor.
Two days before the accident, she crashed her father's new car into guardrails along a road in Hanson, Mass.
By the morning of Feb. 9, she had packed up all her belongings in boxes and left a note for her boyfriend.
She went on the Internet to look up driving directions to Burlington, Vt., and withdrew most of the money from her bank account.
She sent an e-mail to her work supervisor and a professor saying she would be absent from school for a week due to a death in the family. Scarinza said there was no death in her family.
"The next certainty is the accident, and what happened after that is unknown," he said. There is no evidence that foul play was a factor, he said.
Investigators have spent "thousands of hours" trying to find Murray.
Anyone with information can contact state police at 846-3333.