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What Happened to Maura Murray? - A Missing Person Case With More Questions Than Answers
by Kerry Miller
Route 112 is a dark, lonely, and uninviting road that runs across New Hampshire to the Vermont border.
Why a young college student was traveling toward the small ski town of Lincoln on a winter night in 2004 remains a mystery. What thoughts were racing through her mind as she negotiated the twists and turns of the road we can only guess. And what evil she faced remains unspoken, even though someone knows her fate, but won't give it up.
Before her disappearance in 2004, Maura Murray was a 21-year-old nursing student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with her whole life in front of her. Not only did she have close, loving family and friends, she was also a talented runner on the track and Cross-country teams at school and an academic achiever, having made the dean's list one semester. Maura was also planning to become engaged to her longtime boyfriend. Things were looking good. However, things changed drastically for Maura and her loved ones on the evening of Feb. 9, 2004, when she drove her car off the road in Haverhill, N.H. She hasn't been seen since.
Seven years later there are far more questions than answers for Maura's parents, Fred and Laurie, for her siblings, extended family, friends, and her college boyfriend, Billy Rausch.
"It doesn't take me long when I get up (to think about Maura). My daughter is missing. We don't know what happened to my daughter," said Fred Murray.
Police reports and some news stories at the time suggested that Maura was running away or wanted to commit suicide, but those who knew her say Maura wasn't the type to do either of those things. Cape Cod-based lawyer and investigator Terrance O'Connell, who is conducting a private investigation on Maura's disappearance at the request of Fred Murray, believes that Maura was abducted and then murdered not far from where her car went off the road.
North Haverhill resident Susan Champy, who was driving by the scene of Maura's accident while police were investigating, said she also believes Maura was a victim of foul play.
Some, who prefer not to go on the record, have claimed that whether Maura was a victim of foul play or not, the investigation into her disappearance by the New Hampshire State Police has not been conducted professionally or objectively. They say that had the state police acted differently, perhaps Maura would have been found alive or at least the mystery of her disappearance would have been solved.
Because Maura's disappearance is being treated as suspicious and is still an open case, little information can be accessed by the public.
Her friends Liz Drewniak and Katie Jones both said during interviews for the program "Disappeared," which airs on Investigation Discovery and highlights missing-person cases such as Maura's, that Maura had a close circle of friends and if she was having problems she would have turned to them for help. She certainly would not have committed suicide, they said. In addition, from reports that have been made available, there is no physical evidence that she had a plan to kill herself. While she had packed up belongings from her dorm room, it looked more like she was moving away for awhile -- or perhaps had a plan to meet someone. On her way to New Hampshire, police said, Maura had stopped off for bottles of liquor and a box of wine. These actions could be consistent with someone planning a party or to meet up with others.
While many questions surround Maura's disappearance and much information is uncertain, some things have remained clearer than others, according to the Haverhill Police Department accident report, the "Disappeared" program, and a series of articles, "Maura Mauray, is Missing," from The Express, a newspaper covering Hanson, Pembroke, and Whitman, Mass., written by staff reporter Maribeth Conway in 2007. (The series was also printed in The Littleton Courier, a sister paper of The Express.) Conway was also featured as an information source for "Disappeared."
Sources say that on Monday Feb. 9, 2004, Maura left the UMass-Amherst campus between 3:30 and 4 p.m. She was driving a 1996 black Saturn and went off the road along Route 112 (also known as Wild Ammonoosuc Road) in Haverhill, N.H., at around 7 p.m. (Maura's car had been experiencing mechanical problems before this evening and she was in the process of buying another vehicle). Haverhill is in Grafton County, and one Wild Ammonoosuc Road resident who saw the car off the road called Grafton County dispatch, while another passerby called Hanover dispatch to report the accident. According to the accident report, Haverhill Police Sergeant Cecil Smith was dispatched at 7:29 p.m. from the Haverhill Police Station after the first call was received reporting the car off the road; he was the first officer to arrive on the scene, at 7:46 p.m. The vehicle was facing eastbound in the westbound lane on Route 112, the driver's side of the windshield was cracked, the vehicle had sustained front end damage, and both airbags were deployed. Smith was at the site for a hour two hours before he was dispatched to investigate another incident in the area.
The passerby who called Hanover dispatch was school bus driver Butch Atwood. Atwood had dropped students off at a nearby school following a field trip and was returning home. Atwood lived 100 feet from where Maura's car had gone off the road. He stopped and asked Maura if he could call the police for her. He said she appeared shaken up but wasn't injured, and did not appear intoxicated. She told him she'd called AAA on her cell phone and he didn't need to call police, Atwood left and called police anyway when he got home because he knew cell phone reception was bad in that area and didn't think Maura was able to reach AAA.
From this point on, information is uncertain and speculation abounds. Sergeant Smith noted in the accident report that spots or red liquid were on the driver's side door and ceiling of the car. The report discusses the liquid, with Smith noting, "When the vehicle was towed from the scene ... I recovered a Coke bottle that contained a red liquid with a strong alcoholic odor." Also, according to Helena Murray, a member of the extended Murray family who manages the website http:\mauramurraymissing.com, a damaged box of Franzia wine was said to be in the passenger seat, but Smith's accident report states that the wine was in the back seat of the car. (Its been suggested that the wine was the red liquid in the Coke bottle, as well as the red liquid Smith found on the car door and ceiling.)