SOCO Magazine

April 2011

2 of 7

The accident report contains a section where Smith was required to circle an answer from a list provided for descriptions like "type of accident," "fixed object struck," and the driver's "apparent physical condition."

From the provided answers to describe the "apparent physical condition" of the driver, Smith circled "had been drinking." Considering that Atwood stated to police that Maura did not appear intoxicated when he spoke with her and that Maura was obviously not at her car when police came upon it, as well as the fact that the Coke bottle had not yet been tested to see if Maura had been drinking from it, circling that particular answer could be considered questionable.

To answer the "fixed object struck," Smith circled the word "trees." He also noted in elsewhere in the report "evidence at the scene indicated the vehicle had been eastbound and had gone off the roadway, struck some trees .... "

However, during O'Connell 's investigation it was determined that Maura's car never hit trees, but rather a snowbank. O 'Connell worked with retired Massachusetts police officer Daniel Parkka, who did a reconstruction of the accident scene.

"The conclusion was that her vehicle never hit a tree because the damage was not even. Damage to the vehicle would have been even if it struck a rigid object, like a tree. The actual damage was uneven -- the hood was buckled and windshield was busted," O'Connell said.

Conway e-mailed SOCO in response to questions about her series of articles to assist with this story. In the second article in her four-part series, Conway retold the story of Faith Westman, the other person, along with Atwood, to call police to report Maura's car off the road. Westman told police she peered out her window and saw Maura's car lodged in a snowbank. This supports Parkka's conclusion that Maura's car did not hit trees.

Conway also recalled some information she didn't include in her series of articles. One item is that there was much speculation about where exactly Maura was headed. Her family attests that she was going to Bartlett, N.H, "Everyone seemed to assume she was driving toward Bartlett; that's something her father felt strongly about. They often vacationed there and Maura was familiar with driving that route. As for why her car was facing the wrong way, I don't know. I remember speculation that she maybe was turning around because of road conditions. But, from my memory, road conditions weren't so bad that night," Conway wrote.

North Haverhill resident Susan Champy, who drove by the scene of Maura's accident, also recalled the road conditions that night. "The weather was cold , 15-20 degrees and maybe light flurries, but I do not remember it snowing that night. Her car did not have any snow on it," Champy said.

When she drove by, Champy remembered noticing that police officers had one of the doors of Maura's car open. She recalled reading in the newspaper afterward that they'd obtained a search warrant the next day to search the vehicle, which made her wonder whether they should have had the door open without first getting a search warrant.

Champy was scheduled to finish work at 7 p.m. at the Loon Mountain Club the evening of Feb. 9, but she left late, at 7:20 p.m., and had a 30- to 35-minure commute home. She drove by the scene of Maura's accident around 7:50 p.m., she recalled, where she saw police and a couple of bystanders near the car.

After learning about Maura's disappearance in the news, Champy said she has always wondered if she may have seen Maura and perhaps been able to give her a ride somewhere or help her, had she only left work on time.