Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Missing Woman Investigation
Potential Evidence Discounted
By Gary E. Lindsley
Maura Murray's friends and relatives were breathing a bit easier Tuesday after learning underwear found off a road in the town of Haverhill did not belong to her.
Murray, a 21-year-old nursing student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, turned up missing the evening of Feb. 9 after she was involved in a one-car accident on Route 112 in Haverhill. The accident scene was about one mile east of Swiftwater.
"The DNA (tests) came back yesterday ... negative," Sharon Rausch said. "We are very glad. We are very hopeful." Rausch is the mother of Billie Rausch, Murray's fiance-to-be.
Murray's sister, Kathleen, found a white pair of underpants lying on top of the snow on a secluded trail off of French Pond Road Feb. 26.
Kathleen turned them over to the Haverhill Police Department who in turn handed it over to the New Hampshire State Police.
Maura's hair brush and a toothbrush were provided to the state police crime lab in Concord along with the underwear for testing.
Although it turns out the underwear did not belong to Murray, and that provides a glimmer of hope, Rausch said the family is also realistic. "None of us believe she is willfully in hiding," she said. "But we are hopeful."
Rausch said Murray has money in her bank account. However, that money has not been touched. Her credit cards have not been used. Nor has her cell phone since the accident at around 7 p.m. Feb. 9.
Rausch said she will never give up hope. She said she was praying on her way home from work Tuesday that something would help lead them to Murray.
She recalled the miraculous story of how Elizabeth Smart had been found and returned safely to her family in Salt Lake City, Utah, in March 2003 after being held captive by a couple since June 5, 2002.
"I lost my father when I was 9," Rausch said. "My mother died when I was 31. Both of those events were very hard. But nothing has been as hard as this."
Although Murray and her son had not yet married, Rausch, with her voice quivering, said Murray's disappearance is even more difficult because she is like a daughter to her.
Whenever Murray enters a room, she said, her big, dazzling smile just brightens it up.
According to Butch Atwood, a First Student school bus driver who lives about 100 yards from where Murray lost control of her 1996 black Saturn after rounding a sharp left-hand curve near The Weathered Barn on Route 112, Murray refused help from him when he stopped.
In a renewed effort to get the word out about Murray's disappearance and jog people's memories, Rausch said 15,000 8- by 10-inch color posters of the 21-year-old have been made up.
Bethlehem Fire Chief Jack Anderson, who is also the president of the Twin State Mutual Aid Fire Association, tentatively has agreed to have firefighters throughout the twin states help distribute about 1,000 of the posters. "We will try and help through our 26 towns," Anderson said. "It's a good cause. We have to find that girl." He said he feels for Murray's family and friends.
Rausch said she also has enlisted the help of Beth Drewniak of Hanson, Mass., to help distribute the posters. She said Drewniak's daughter grew up with Murray. "We are hoping $40,000 will (jog) someone's memory," she said.
The posters show a picture of Murray with her classic big smile and dimples. It says $40,000 will be paid for any information leading to her safe return.
She is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighs 115 pounds, has blue-green eyes and curly brown hair.
People with any information should call the New Hampshire State Police at 603-271-3636. Anyone who may have see Murray can also call the Haverhill Police Department at 603-787-2222.