Journalist, others, still in search of missing Hanson woman
By Jessica Trufant
The Patriot Ledger
May 23, 2018 at 8:23 PM
Investigators know that Hanson native Maura Murray left her dorm at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on Feb. 9, 2004, and drove north. They know she made it at least as far Haverhill, N.H., a mountainside town near the Vermont border.
Residents reported seeing the 21-year-old along a sharp turn on Route 112 after her car had gone off the road and slammed into a snow bank. One passer-by said he offered help, but Murray said road assistance was on its way and she was all set.
The man drove home and called police. When officers arrived a short time later, Murray had vanished, leaving no footprints in the snow and only scattered clues.
No one has heard from Murray since then, and investigators and family members have spent more than 14 years trying to find out what happened to her.
Public radio producer Maggie Freleng and former U.S. Marshal Art Roderick set out to try to answer that question in the Oxygen true crime TV series “The Disappearance of Maura Murray.” They worked with Lance Reenstierna and Tim Piller, who host a podcast about Maura Murray’s disappearance, and James Renner, who wrote a book about the case.
Freleng also recently attended CrimeCon — a convention in Nashville for true crime enthusiasts — and shared Murray’s case with hundreds of people.
“We’ve had lots and lots of people come forward with information after the show aired, especially from October to February,” said Freleng, who attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst years after Murray was a student there. “We’re constantly passing information off to the cold case unit.”
Freleng said she’s heard from people as far away as Australia and London who follow the case and care about Murray’s story.
The case is full of inconsistencies and maddening questions.
Murray notified her professors that she wouldn’t be in class due to a death in the family, which had not actually occurred. She packed, took cash out of her bank account, purchased some alcohol and set off from Amherst. She didn’t share her plans with anyone, but her father, Fred Murray, who now lives on Cape Cod, has said he believes his daughter was heading to Bartlett, N.H., a spot in the White Mountains they had previously visited.
Maura’s car was going east on Route 112, a rural highway, when it went off the road at about 7:30 that night. Several witnesses reported seeing her outside her car after the crash, but police said Murray was gone when they arrived about 15 minutes later. Searches were conducted on the ground and by helicopter, but Maura never turned up. The New Hampshire State Police, the attorney general’s office and the FBI all worked on the case, which remains open but has gone cold.
While some people have speculated that Murray chose to disappear and start a new life somewhere else, Freleng said she discounts that theory after visiting the site.
“As soon as I went out there and stood in the dark, as a young woman, I can say I’d never run into those woods. She didn’t do that,” she said, adding that experts she spoke to for the docu-series stressed that it would take a criminal mastermind to run away and stay hidden for 14 years.
“It seems she was stressed and had a lot going on in life and she needed a break, and something unfortunate happened on her way up there,” Freleng said.
Freleng, Roderick, Reenstierna and Piller created an online fundraiser to raise reward money, and have collected nearly $6,000 to try to get people talking about the case. Freleng said both the Murray family and the New Hampshire State Police approved of the reward fundraiser.