The Patriot Ledger

January 5, 2006

New eyes look for missing woman: 12 volunteers could act as ‘catalyst’ in search for student from Hanson

By Joe McGee

A team of private investigators is joining forces with the family of Maura Murray to help find the missing 22-year-old Hanson woman.

John Healy, a retired New Hampshire State Police trooper, is leading the 12-man group of volunteers. They are already focusing on a few leads police might not have looked into, Healy said yesterday.

‘‘There are a couple of remote parking areas and fishing areas two to three miles from the highway and those areas may not have been searched yet,’’ Healy said.

Murray disappeared on Feb. 9, 2004, after her car was involved in a minor single-vehicle accident on Route 112 in Haverhill, N.H.

Nearly two years later, the effort to find her has been re-energized, not only by the volunteer group but by national media attention and a recently filed legal petition.

The Murray case will be featured on the ABC-TV news program ‘‘20/20’’ next month. The segment will be titled ‘‘Vanished.’’

Murray’s family has been at odds with New Hampshire authorities. The family says police have not done enough to keep them informed about the investigation.

Murray’s father, Fred Murray, has filed a court petition seeking access to police records.

On the one-year anniversary of Murray’s disappearance, he hand-delivered a request for documents to New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch. It was rejected.

‘‘Essentially, he (Murray) has asked for the investigative file,’’ said Jeff Strelzin, New Hampshire’s senior assistant attorney general.

Strelzin said New Hampshire authorities consider the information confidential.

‘‘We’re going to oppose that request,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll lay out our argument in court that essentially this is a confidential file and not something that should be released.’’

Healy said his team includes retired state troopers, two former police chiefs, a former federal agent and sportsmen familiar with the White Mountains region.

Healy was put touch with the Murray’s through the Molly Bish Foundation and the Licensed Private Investigators Association of Massachusetts, an industry group that has been working on the case of missing Brockton woman Jennifer Fay.

The association’s executive director said the New Hampshire team will add a new set of eyes to the search and act as liaison between the Murray’s and police.

"They can pave the road because they’ve worked both sides of a case ... so they can act as a catalyst," White said.

Healy said Strelzin was informed that the private search team is working the case with the goal of assisting authorities.

The Fay case will provide a blueprint for the investigation, he said.

‘‘We’ll have dogs as well as ground-penetrating radar available,’’ he said.

Healy said he has worked on several missing-person cases in remote parts of New Hampshire. He said there is a long history of people getting lost in the densely wooded White Mountains.

‘‘Sometimes it’s suicide and sometimes it’s homicide, but those are rare. Mostly it’s people getting lost, especially in February, when hypothermia can set in really quickly.’’

Sharon Rausch, the mother of Murray’s boyfriend, said the family is hoping for a resolution.

‘‘We all still feel that the odds are that Maura isn’t living, but it’s important for us to bring her home,’’ Rausch said. ‘‘We loved her, and if someone harmed her, they ought to be brought to justice.’’

Joe McGee may be reached at