February 9, 2008
Maura Murray Still Missing - On Anniversary Of Her Disappearance
By Gary E. Lindsley
Four years ago, Maura Murray left her University of Massachusetts-Amherst campus, drove north into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and disappeared. Fred Murray, Maura's father, said it is long past time for federal authorities to enter the investigation because no progress has been made.
Police say Maura crashed a 1996 black Saturn on Route 112 in the town of Haverhill near the Weathered Barn around 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and either fled the scene or was picked up by someone.
They even went so far as to say she was suicidal.
During the past four years, not only has she not been seen or found, her credit card and cell phone have not been used.
Nor has her bank account. And family and friends have not heard from her.
Not even a $75,000 reward offered the latter part of 2007 by the Arkansas-based group, Let's Bring Them Home, was able to entice someone to come forward to provide any information about what happened to the then 21-year-old nursing student.
Butch Atwood, then a First Student school bus driver who happened upon Murray's car not far from his house while on his way home, said he had spoken with her and offered to get her help, but she asked him not to contact police. Atwood said she told him she had already contacted AAA.
Atwood then drove to his house, parked his bus and went to his house to call 911. He then went back to his bus to do paperwork. Less than 10 minutes later, he said Sgt. Cecil Smith of the Haverhill Police Department came to the door of his bus and asked if he had seen someone at the car. Murray had disappeared.
What is puzzling to Murray's family and friends is police did not notify Murray's family about the crash until nearly 24 hour later … and conducted a search, led by Fish and Game, 36 hours later.
They said Smith told them he thought the driver of the Saturn was Murray's father, to whom the car was registered.
They want to know why he asked neighbors the night of the crash, "Where was the girl?"
Because of the way the investigation has been handled by Haverhill police, the state police and even the state's major crimes unit, Fred Murray wants outside law enforcement involvement. He cannot fathom why police will not bring the FBI and its resources into the investigation.
"I think it is time for the feds to take a look," he said. "Of course, I wanted that to happen in the beginning, but the state police said they could handle it. They couldn't. It's four years later ... time for someone else to take a crack at it."
Four years later, Murray is still torn about finding out what happened to his daughter. He has spent endless, countless hours searching the rural, wooded areas of Grafton County.
"Every time I come out of the woods, I am relieved," he said. "I have been hanging onto an impossible dream [of finding her alive]."
In talking Thursday night about the lack of movement after the $75,000 reward did not turn up any worthwhile information, he believes at least one key element is in play.
"People are in fear of the dirt bags," Murray said. "It is time for someone to stand up. People, I think, are living on the edge of fear. Maura had an accident in the wrong area."
He believes if Maura's accident had happened in Massachusetts, professionals would have investigated it and the case would be closed.
Jeffrey Strelzin, a New Hampshire senior assistant attorney general, said Thursday afternoon Maura's disappearance is still an open case.
"Obviously, we have not determined what happened to Miss Murray," Strelzin said. "We are still receiving information about Miss Murray. It is being followed up on."
He said he could not comment about the information nor say whether it was viable. He did say it was a criminal investigation.
"It is fair to say the longer a person is missing, the more likely [she] has fallen to foul play," Strelzin said.
He said the investigation is still being led by state police Troop F in conjunction with the state's major crimes unit. He also said "hundreds of thousands" of man hours have been spent on the case.
Helena Murray, one of Maura's relatives, is surprised, like Fred, that the $75,000 reward for information did not lead to any useful tips or information.
"It's getting harder and harder," said Helena Murray, who is the administrator of the Web site, www.mauramurraymissing.com, which was formed in November 2006. The forum currently has nearly 200 registered users from all parts of the country and Canada. "We had hoped the reward would have brought someone forward, but it did not happen."
Anyone with information about Maura is asked to call the Investigative Services Bureau Major Crimes Unit … Missing Persons, Lt. Mark Mudgett, at 603-271-2663. For anonymous tips, call 1-866-479-5284.