SOCO Magazine

April 2011

3 of 7

"I just might have seen her. I always get out of work on time. That night I didn't; I couldn't leave that job without relief," she said.

From the very beginning of the investigation by New Hampshire State Police into Maura's disappearance, her father has been frustrated by how slowly he feels the investigation is being conducted, the lack of cooperation he's experienced from individual officers, and police theories that his daughter wanted to commit suicide or run away.

Maura disappeared on Feb. 9, but because police did not call him until the following afternoon (even though Maura's car was registered in his name), Fred Murray, a Weymourh, Mass., resident, did not arrive at the scene of his daughter’s accident until Feb. 11 at dawn, about 36 hours after she'd gone off the road. A voice message was left on his home phone at. 3:26 p.m., on Feb. 10.

From the moment he arrived at the scene of his daughter's accident, Murray began to ask about the first New Hampshire State Police officer who responded (not Cecil Smith, who was the first officer to respond from the Haverhill Police Department). The New Hampshire Police were called in to assist because Route 112 is a state highway and under its jurisdiction. Murray wanted to know what this officer did, what he concluded, what were the conclusions about where Maura was. Murray still seeks answers to these questions today.

It is uncertain whether the state police officer who responded was off duty or not, and allegedly he never produced a police report.

"What did your guy do?" Fred recalled asking state police repeatedly. "If you let a case get 36 hours cold, you've lost the case. Your guy was my daughter's only chance. I've never had an answer to this question I asked in the first two minutes."

Murray recalled that during the "Disappeared" program the now-retired lieutenant John Scarinza of the New Hampshire State Police. who was assigned to the case in 2004, says Maura left a final note, hinting that it was her suicide note. Murray said the note Scarinza mentioned was actually a two year-old letter written to Maura from her boyfriend and definitely not a suicide note. Scarinza also said that among the belongings left in Maura's car -- aside from school books, directions to Burlington, Vt., and running clothes -- was Not Without Peril, a book about hikers who had trekked the Presidential Range in the White Mountains and had either never returned or been badly injured. Maura and her father enjoyed hiking together and had read the book before. At the time police thought the book meant perhaps Maura was planning to run away into the mountains.

"To make matters worse, they deferred attention from themselves by saying she committed suicide, that she was a hypothermia victim. They're blaming my daughter -- suicide is the most popular theme," said Murray. "What keeps me from falling apart is this is what I get mad about."

Murray discovered after doing some searching of his own in the Haverhill area that nearby residents hadn't been interviewed by police, and this was 9 to 10 days after Maura had disappeared, he said. Those people were eventually interviewed on the 11th day, Murray said, because he asked police about it.

"At that moment, my heart just sank," he said. "The best chance my daughter had wasn't extended to her."

New Hampshire State Police Detective Sergeant Sheldon Belanger said he cannot comment on specific details of this case because the investigation is still active. In response to Fred Murray's concerns about the handling of rhe case, Belanger said they're doing the best they can. When asked when was the last time police investigated any new leads, Belanger responded, "It's being actively pursued. We get calls once or twice a week referencing different things. When a legitimate lead comes in, we are still following up."

Belanger also said that New Hampshire State Police have worked with other agencies on this case whenever possible, including the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit (a division of the New Hampshire Department of Justice), following up any leads they get.

"It's an all-hands kind of thing," Belanger said.

The FBI has never been actively involved, Murray said, something he has continually pushed for.

Belanger said the FBI was never involved because the FBI requires that missing-person cases, such as Maura's, must meet certain parameters in order for them to get involved, and that this case does not meet those requirements.