(I'm adding this because this question comes up frequently; if anyone has any additional details or has the text of these emails, I will add/edit this post).
On the day of her departure 2/9/04, Maura sent emails to 1) the nursing faculty professors and 2) the art gallery. The email to the nursing faculty at 1:24PM indicated that she was heading home for the week due to a death in the family and would be in touch when she returned. I have no specific information about the email to the art gallery. I have it listed as the same time (1:24PM) on my own timeline. I don't know if the art gallery email used the same wording "death in the family". It's also possible that it was the same email sent to all recipients but I don't believe so.
Here is an article also mentioning the email to the nursing faculty and the reference to the wording "death in the family" (see bold):
Massachusetts Daily Collegian February 17, 2004
Missing student a mystery to police, classmates Erica Lovley and Ferron Salneer
Police are investigating the disappearance of a University of Massachusetts student who was last seen at the site of a car crash on Monday, Feb. 9.
According to the Boston Globe, Maura Murray, 21, of Hanson, Mass. crashed her car into a snow bank last Monday in Haverhill, N.H. The accident was her second in three days; Murray had recently crashed her father’s car on Saturday of the previous weekend.
Murray disappeared from the site of the crash after a resident tried to help and who had called the police, despite Murray asking him not to, the Globe reported. Murray was gone upon arrival of police, her car left abandoned and undrivable, the Globe said.
Chief Jeff Williams of the Haverhill Police Department does not think foul play was involved.
“Our concern is that she’s upset or suicidal, something the family was concerned about,” he told the Globe on Friday.
The accident took place along Route 112, about five miles away from Wells River, Vt., and a mile away from Swift Water Village by the Connecticut River.
Police used dogs, a helicopter and Fish and Game Officers to perform an immediate search around the crash site area and found nothing. The search has since been called off.
Murray is a junior nursing major, a Dean’s List student who works in a local art gallery.
Two UMPD officers, Detectives Chris Thrasher and Brian Davies and two counselors from Mental Health Services visited a junior nursing class, Parent-Child Nursing, on Friday afternoon. Joan Cully, administrative director of the Office for the Advancement of Nursing Education and Eileen Breslin, dean of the school of Nursing were also present at the meeting.
In addition, an email was written by Breslin, and released to the UMass nursing community. According to the email, Murray sent an email to her faculty Monday afternoon at 1:24 p.m. indicating she was heading home for the week due to a death in the family and that she would contact everyone when she returned.
Lindsay Pemberton, a junior nursing major, has the same class schedule as Murray and was present for the meeting on Friday. Pemberton told The Massachusetts Daily Collegian that staff in the nursing department spoke to Murray’s family, and were told that there were no recent family deaths.
“Also, her dorm room was all packed up, like she was planning on moving out,” said Pemberton.
The email to the nursing community also stated that Murray called her boyfriend, Army Lieutenant Bill Rausch, Tuesday morning. At the Friday meeting police said that Rausch only heard someone breathing on the other line. The police were unable to trace the call.
According to Sharon Rausch, the boyfriend’s mother, Murray had e-mailed her boyfriend on Monday afternoon, saying she needed to speak with him.
Murray’s family, including Rausch, and his parents, have flown to New England and are passing out fliers along the New Hampshire-Vermont state boarder, hoping someone will recognize Murray.
“She was really quiet and didn’t hang out with any of us,” said Pemberton. “She was a sweet person, but she didn’t get personal with anyone.”
Murray and Rausch met at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. As of yesterday afternoon, the Haverhill police have had no leads in the case and hope that Murray will try to contact a friend or family member.
“The case is under investigation and we are not discussing it at this time,” said the Haverhill Police Department.