John Monaghan Interview Part 1
Speaker 1: Don't be judging.
John: I'm not. I got a tattoo, when I left state police, below my shirt sleeve. Oh, I do. [crosstalk 00:00:17] That's why I'm a good fit for Frank [inaudible 00:00:16], the rebel chief. [crosstalk 00:00:22]
Speaker 1: So, I'll start off just asking what the background is.
Female Speaker: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Art: Tell the what we're doing here. [00:00:30] Kinda like how we did and see where it goes from here.
Maggie: Great. Hi.
John M: Hi, how are you?
John M: Good. I'm John Monahan.
Art: Art Roderick. Nice to meet you.
Maggie: Maggie. Nice to meet you.
Art: Good to see you.
Maggie: Hi, Maggie. Nice to meet you. [crosstalk 00:00:44]
Art: Good seeing you again. [crosstalk 00:00:43]
Maggie: Hi, nice to see you. [crosstalk 00:00:47]
Art: Well, Chief, uh -
John: Tom out there, Art?
John: It's all right. [00:01:00] It's the last little bit of [inaudible 00:01:04] that we'll have to do.
Art: This is the part I hate.
John: Okay. (laughter)
Art: Then you can really just talk.
John: Yep. Sure. [crosstalk 00:01:12]
Art: I have to get a whole, I have to get a whole other phone. I dropped it off the second floor of the hotel lobby -
John: Second floor of the hotel?
Art: Lobby. Smashed the whole screen.
John: Is that when you were getting ready to do a cannonball?
Maggie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.
Art: I think it was ... actually it was the night of the ...could've of been the night of the Pats's -
Maggie: It was around [00:01:30] then.
Art: - victory. Yeah, it was around then.
John: So, you've got grandchildren, huh?
Art: Yeah, yeah. I was up in Salem last weekend. And, uh, they did really well.
John: How old?
Art: He's 10 but he played in the 11/12 year old elite side of the --
Maggie: No, I'm good. I was a little too hot. (laughs) [inaudible 00:01:50].
Maggie: Okay, now we're good.
John: All right. So everybody's good still? Feel good Trent?
Trent: Yeah. I'm good.
John: OK, [00:02:00] we're not here. Arthur, you may begin.
Art: Yep. Oh Chief, glad you could take the time -
Maggie: Thank you.
Art: - to meet with us.
Art: We really appreciate it. I know you're busy. In Frankonia.
John: Some days.
Art: Yeah, some days. Um, but, ah, I know we talked a little bit on the phone.
Art: Um. And, I know you've talked to the AG's office and they've allowed you to talk to us, which is fantastic, because there's a lot of misconceptions out there and misinformation, both in [00:02:30] print and on the internet -
Art: - concerning Maura Murray's disappearance and, and, what we're trying to do here is clear up -
Art: - a lot of those misconceptions. Um, we actually attended the anniversary on February 9. They had a gathering on February 11. We actually listened to ... about 70 people attended ... I was -
Art: - shocked at how many people are interested in this case.
Art: [00:03:00] I think the main point being there's a lot of misinformation about what law enforcement did that first night.
John: Yes, there is.
Art: And, that's ... I'm glad that's the reason here ... we're -
Art: -- you know, got the opportunity to talk to you about it.
Art: Um, why don't you tell me a little bit about your background, Chief.
John: Uh, I've been a cop for almost 18 years. I, uh, started my career in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in 1999 and I worked there for about 3 years, before I went over to state police, working for the department [00:03:30] of safety. I worked there for about 10 years. I, uh, and during that time, I went back to school, got a Master's Degree and, um, and were, was interested in, uh, advancing my career and I looked into promotions and then the Chief's position started in Franconia so I was pretty excited to go work in a small town and be my own boss, so to speak. I answer to a board of selectmen but, I -
John: - took the opportunity to, uh, fill the spot [00:04:00] and I really enjoyed it. It's nice.
Art: How many years you been Chief in Franconia?
John: About 4. A little over 4 years now.
Art: Franconia is ... you said a little town. It's a little bigger than a little town, isn't it?
John: It's a, it's 1,100 people.
Art: OK, I thought it's much bigger than that.
John: Because it's in Franconia State Park. There is, we get visitors. We have 3-5000 people who come visit us on the weekends or during foliage season.
Art: Okay. Um, I think we should just dive right into [00:04:30] it -
Art: - and go back to February 9 of -
Art: - 2004 -
Art: - and what was happening prior to ... I don't know if you heard the call, we know that Grafton County had dispatched -
John: They did. They did. So, I was a patrol 5 trooper is, was my area. And that covered from Piermont all the way up to Lisbon, at the Middletown town line. And, so, I was driving North on Route 302 and I was in Lisbon (door closing). Right around the area of the Wire [00:05:00] Mill. I was gonna go meet up with my patrol partner, Brian Doyle, and right in that area, I heard a call come in for a car crash on Route 112, and they gave it in the area of what they call the Weather Barn, which is the sharp corner -
John: - where, where eventually, we were to discover, she crashed.
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: Um, I knew my patrol area and I know that the town-line changes like 6 times, 5 or 6 times in that short span. So, what I was thinking was, Murphy's Law being Murphy's [00:05:30] Law, there's no way it was gonna be in Havorhill so I should probably head to the scene because they have like 500 feet of the road there and the rest is state police territory. So, I turned around and I started to head back. And, um, while I was headed there, I heard Cecil Smith call off that he'd arrived on the scene. And, so I continued on and um, because I heard ... there was also like a play-by-play that dispatch was telling him as we were both [00:06:00] going to the area, and I could overhear Grafton County talking to him and it was the caller saying, well, I don't see her anymore. They initially I believe said, there's a woman by the car and then I think they said, she's not there anymore. Or, when Cecil got there ... I don't really recall that part ... said she's not here anymore. But, I hadn't even hit Route 112 yet, at that point.
John: So, when I got to Route 112, I, uh, as cars were coming toward me, there was only 1. It was a Subaru [00:06:30] and I flashed my lights and flagged them down, and spoke to the driver and I just said, hey, did you see a woman walking or hitch hiking. Did you pick anybody up? And, she said no. So, I said okay, thanks and continued on my way. And, when I got into the area they would call Swift water, it's this little section of Bath -
John: - I saw a woman, Wilma Robinson, walking. And, I know Wilma, because I had to deliver at death notification to her a year or two before that. So, I rolled down my window and I said, Wilma, [00:07:00] how's it going and she said good. And, um, she had just finished working at the Swift water Store, so I said, uh, there was a car crash further up the road and did you see anybody and she said no and so I said okay. If anybody comes knocking on your door or whatever, could you give us a call. And, she said yes and I continued on. And, uh, went to the scene. So. Um.
Art: So that direction of travel is -
John: I'm going from West to East.
John: So, when I got to the scene, [00:07:30] I pulled up and Cecil Smith was already there and I saw the car kinda smashed into the tree, on the side of the road. And I rolled down my passenger side window and said, hey, what's up? And he goes, I don't know. There's a box of wine in here and it looks like she's been fillin up a soda bottle with wine. Um, and so I said OK, uh, do you need me to do anything and he said well, Butch, I believe Butch is the name of this bus driver, who, uh, had said that he had stopped to check on her. Um, his checking up in the Mountain [00:08:00] Lakes area. And, I said, well I'll, I'll look around and I'll, I'll check some of the back roads. So I did. I drove, um and if you want the play-by-play, I can give you. I reread my reports. So, my path of travel, I'd turned around and I went back towards Swift water. I took a right onto what's called Porter Road and checked this area called The Big Eddie, it's a parking lot. In the summertime, a lot of people swim there. And then I took, um what is the name of that road. I took ... will you excuse [00:08:30] me for a second?
Art: No. No. Absolutely. Whatever you need.
John: Can we cut and paste this? So, uh, let's see. (mumbles). So, I took Plains Road. So I went, from Route 112, I took a right on Porter Road and took a left on Plains Road and drove that to Route 302. So, I was back where I had come from.
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: And, I drove that into Woodsville and then I drove Swift water Road back into the area of Swift water, [00:09:00] from Woodsville, where Cottage Hospital is. It ends up there. And, then I took a right on French Pond Road and drove out. Because, there's a whole bunch of side roads -
John: - for sort of this Mountain Lakes area, there, and didn't see anyone, didn't see any footprints so. At that point I think the tow trucks had arrived. I think dispatch had dispatched 2 tow trucks by mistake, um, so I heard they were on the scene so I just cleared. I left. About an hour later, I think [00:09:30] I was over in Pike at Becket school, helping Haverall talk a suicide kid down off the power lines, so. That was my night.
Art: Did um, so you, there at the scene you were only there for ... when you talked to Cecil?
John: Just briefly to kinda get his gist on what happened. I never got outta the car. I just rolled down the passenger side window and said hey, what's up. You know and he, he gave me the play-by-play. I wish he was here to tell you what he recalls -
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: - of the conversation but it wasn't more than a minute or two.
Art: [00:10:00] So you didn't, you didn't see ... did you see like airbags deployed? Did you see this -
Art: - reg in the tailpipe issue?
John: No. I don't recall any of that.
Art: And, Cecil's car was pulled -
John: I'm not, I'm trying, I don't recall where he had parked. He was either in front or behind it, over on that side of the road. Um, yeah.
Art: Had EMS shown up yet or -
John: I don't -
Art: - fire?
John: - even know if they went. I'm not sure about that.
John: I don't think so. As far as I recall, it was just me [00:10:30] talking to Cecil at the time and then, uh, I turned around and checked the side roads.
Maggie: Do you know, did you, I know you said you went and checked side roads, you didn't see footprints. Do you know if Cecil checked the surrounding area for footprints and stuff?
John: I don't know if he did. I don't know if he did, yeah.
Art: Now, did Wilma, she worked at the ...
John: I believe she had left her shift at the Shiftwater Store -
Art: OK. So she worked.
John: - and was walking home.
Art: And, she was walking -
John: She was walking toward me. So she was walking East to West.
John: [00:11:00] So, I hadn't arrived at the Swifwater Store yet. Um, she doesn't live in that house anymore. She's moved to Haverhill or Woodsville area.
Art: OK, all right. You know, there's a lot of talk about -
John: [inaudible 00:11:15] what's that? [inaudible 00:11:19] Right.
So, there's a lot of followup investigation that happened. That was really it for me that night.
Art: That night.
John: Basically, when I spoke with Cecil, it appeared that it was a ... somebody was probably [00:11:30] drunk that crashed their car and, uh, in every case we've ever had before and every one we've had sense, usually they just take off because they don't wanna get caught for drunk driving and then show up the next day with some sort of story about why they weren't there, you know?
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: So, uh, so I do recall going back to Havoril PD a day or two later and sayin, hey, did they ever show for their car and he said no. And, I was like, wow, that's really weird. So, um, and then a day or two after that is when my lieutenant called me and he's like, hey, did [00:12:00] you help Havoril with a car crash? And I said, yeah. And he said is there a report? I said no, I did what we call the General Service Report -
John: - just assisted another department. And, he said well I think we're gonna need to pull a report on it and write a better narrative so, I did, and then it became what it is now -
Art: What it is now.
John: - a pretty sizable case.
Art: When you, when you talked to Cecil, did Cecil give an explanation as to, I mean there's [00:12:30] obviously some controversy about the rag in the tailpipe issues. I mean, did you ever talk to Cecil about -
John: No, not at all.
Art: - [inaudible 00:12:40].
John: I didn't see that.
Art: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: I don't recall him saying anything about that but, it's possible. I guess it's possible that there was one. I just didn't spend enough time. I didn't get out of the car and look around and that kinda thing to help him out. I don't know anything about it (laughs).
Art: Did your patrol partner [00:13:00] do any ... did you guys put out like a area bollo or something like that?
John: No, because it wasn't our call. You know, we were just there ...
Art: It was Haveril, PD.
John: It was Haveril PD's call. So, um, had it been 100 feet in the other direction, it woulda been mine but it wasn't.
John: So I didn't interfere with their investigation.
Maggie: A neighbor supposedly said that they heard 2 officers arguing about jurisdiction.
Maggie: Do you know anything about that?
John: I don't because, uh, I was actually [00:13:30] glad not to have another case thrown on top of my caseload at the time. So, I was like, good for me, I don't have to cover an accident so. What I do recall being told about is that 2 tow trucks got dispatched when they only needed one and from what I understand, it was Lavoys in Northland Auto and the two tow truck drivers had a big argument about who was gonna get the tow. That's the only argument I know about and if, I don't know, [00:14:00] I don't believe anybody else showed up that would've argued but I was certainly not gonna argue about whose jurisdiction it was whatsoever.
Art: Yes, I understand that.
John: Right. Yeah.
Art: The, the, so you were probably there a total of a minute, two minutes?
John: Less than five. Two or three minutes. You know, just talking through a window to Sergeant Smith.
Art: And you, you didn't get out an interview any of the neighbors?
John: No. Not that night. We did do a bunch of followup investigation but, um, that evening, no. Nobody [00:14:30] was talked to. By me at least. Other than my initial driving in.
Art: And when did it like, move from Haveril PD to the state police?
John: I don't know exactly when. Um, but it was probably 2 or 3, 4, 5 days later. Somewhere in that time frame that it became kinda a bigger deal than it was. Um, so, and at that point. Lieutenant Skorinza became involved and um, and [00:15:00] it, you know, they got major crime involved and the detectives from troop F and then it became kind of an investigation, not just me assisting Haveril police department.
Art: And that's usually ... do you guys do that on general request from the like the Chief at the time to take it over?
John: He, he would've ... with any major incident usually because the state police has more resources. A small town police department would, would ask for assistance from, at least the local troop and then the local troop, if they decided [00:15:30] that this was bigger than their investigative services could handle they would contact major crimes down in Concord and ask them to come up and help out. Um, they've got more resources with crime vans and that kinda thing, if they need to start doing more high-tech investigation.
Art: It, it. You know, there's also been talk about a possible, suspicious female hanging around at the Swift water weigh station at some point.
John: [00:16:00] I don't ... that doesn't ring a bell to me. I don't follow the people who have done people who have done the podcasts and the website stuff because there's so much bad information out there.
Art: Yes, there is.
John: Um, its human nature to fill voids with whatever information you can. It's where rumors and gossip all come from. So, and I read it, and occasionally did you see you were mentioned here and I'd look and I'd be like ah, geez, I can't believe they just said that. Um, so, [00:16:30] I don't read it. Because it's not realistic, you know, and it doesn't do anybody any good so, and I actually think does a disservice probably to the family who is missing their daughter that they have some bad information and it doesn't bring any peace to their lives.
Art: One of the people that have put out probably some speculative information is an author by the name of James Renner.
Art: Did he ever talk to you?
John: He called [00:17:00] me and I can't recall if I was a trooper or if I had just started with state police but he wanted to interview me and I called the lieutenant at troop F, who was Todd Landry, and I said, listen, are we talking about the case yet or are we still keeping it quiet because it's an open investigation and he said that we were still keeping it, whatever was happening quiet because it was an open investigation so this is really the first time I've been able to openly talk about my piece, which is actually smaller than speculated [00:17:30] (laughs).
Art: Yeah, but it's important because -
John: It is important.
Art: - there's been a lot of speculation about what you supposedly did and didn't do that particular evening. Now so, you didn't walk Renner through like a blow-by-blow -
Art: - description of what you did so you basically ...
John: No, I never. I said I'll talk to my lieutenant and if I can talk to you and I'll talk to you and I asked and he said no so I said I'm sorry but I can't talk to you about this. That was it. I never spoke to the man. I didn't read his book. I don't know if he said he spoke to me but if he said he that, then [00:18:00] he would be lying.
Maggie: Well, he said you walked him through ...
John: Really. Yeah, well, not correct.
Art: In fact, just the other day.
Maggie: It's posted yesterday. He said you walked him through.
Art: He mentioned your name and said he spoke to you ...
John: I've never met him. I've never spoken to him. I think it was an email exchange between he and I. I don't even know if it was a phone conversation.
John: I'm not ... I mean, I told him I'd be happy to, if I can but we weren't so I didn't. That was [00:18:30] it. I followed orders.
Art: Right. I understand that. Is the ... I mean, what do you ... and I'm sure this case has been bubbling and steaming around here because it's amazing to me that just about everybody in this area, general area, knows about this case in one form or another. We've heard all kinds of weird stories about her car being 80 yards into the woods, and there's even a theory out there about alien abduction and [00:19:00] then, you know, it runs the gamut. I mean -
John: That's the thing (laughs).
Art: - what do you actually think happened? What is your ...
John: Right. I, it could be, I don't know. I really don't know. I wish I ... my hope amongst hopes is that we'll get a phone call in a year, in 10 years, and she'll say hey, I'm in Cancun, married, I got 10 kids. I don't know but, I don't know what coulda happened. I know if follow up interviews, [00:19:30] um, we interviewed people that who had been driving on the road. People I interviewed said we didn't see anybody. Um, so, um, it's, I don't know. I really wish I had a better answer for that. So that it seems to me that either she got picked up and went somewhere, you know or ran off on her own somehow and some reason has not come back. And, I don't know the answer to that question. I wish I did. I wish I did, for the family's sake. [00:20:00] I have kids of my own and I can't imagine -
John: - what it feels like to be missing somebody you love.
Maggie: Do you often think about this case?
John: Not very often. You know, just when you said that, there was a memorial service the other day and I could hear Haveril on the radio ... I think they were doing traffic control -
Art: They actually were very helpful.
John: - and I said oh, it's the anniversary of Maura Murray. So, the further away I get from it, as far as, I'm not a state trooper so I'm not tied into the investigation anymore [00:20:30] and the more distance that comes from it, I don't think about it as much. You know, but every time I drive by that tree, I think about it for, you know, that kind of thing.
Male Speaker: [inaudible 00:20:43] truck driver?
John: So, one part of what I did in my follow up investigations is I went to the Havoril DOT shed and I spoke to Wayne Bigalow, who's the head guy, and his people and I said listen, there's was this car crash and the woman's missing and it's been quite awhile and you guys plow that road and you're up and down it all the time, and you're up high, [00:21:00] so, can you kinda be my eyes for me? If you can see something that I can't see, because I'm in a cruiser with snowbanks up to my eyeballs, gimme a call and let me know. And, they never called. And I would check in periodically and say did you see anything weird or different and they, they never said that they did.
Art: Was this shortly after?
John: It would've been pretty shortly after. You know, probably within that first week or two of when, when, the detectives started to get involved with the case.
Art: Right. So, [00:21:30] it sounds like you probably got more snow up there after this particular incident unlike now.
John: I don't recall exactly. But -
John: - we had the opposite this year so ...
Art: Right, right. You know, the, the ... was there any reason why the search wasn't more to the East?
John: No, that evening you mean?
Art: Yeah, that evening?
Art: It sounded like everybody came.
John: Yeah, we all came from the West to there.
Art: The West.
John: And uh, I think [00:22:00] because Sergeant Smith was saying well Butch is checking up over in there and I said I'll go check some of the back roads here, knowing that really, that stretch of road back then, I think there was like one maybe two residences on it. The rest are kinda hunting camps. It's pretty barren and it just didn't make any sense that you would head that direction. It made sense that you would go back to where you would come from. Not, probably perfect logic in 20/20 hindsight but at the time, it just seemed [00:22:30] to me that you would head back to where there's more civilization rather than out into the wilds of the Amanusic area out there.
John: So, I confined by search area to where I knew there were people and stores or you could go back toward Woodsville cuz it appeared that's where the car must've come from, somewhere over in that area.
Maggie: You mentioned the followup investigation. Can you tell me a little bit about what was done in the followup investigation?
John: I can tell you my part -
Maggie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: - and hopefully I won't [00:23:00] leave anything out by mistake. So, um, I, I, and a number of people went along Route 112 and basically checked every residence and if people lived there we'd talked to them and asked them if they'd seen anything. If anything appeared odd or suspicious. And, nobody did. And so, we also went into the um, the hunting camp areas just to see if anybody had kicked in door or busted a window and none of those had been broken into and then I was [00:23:30] also asked to go to ... I think I went to Cumberland Farms, Shaws and DP Quick Stop, I believe? Those are the 3 places that had surveillance cameras -
Maggie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: - and I pulled the tapes. I didn't review the tapes but I pulled the tapes. Um, just to see if perhaps she had stopped there on her way through. Those were just turned over and detectives would've reviewed those, not me. Um, and then I think later on I had also gone and checked ... the Mountain Lakes area is sort of this ... somebody [00:24:00] had an idea that it would be a great resort area at one point and it really never took off so ... But, there's a ton of houses out there. Some are lived in, some aren't. So, I went and ... I have a map and I would checked off every residence that I checked. If it was occupied I'd talk to the owner. If it was unoccupied, I'd make sure nobody broke in. If I found an unoccupied structure that had an open door, I would check the inside and, uh, again, didn't find anything.
Art: How [00:24:30] shortly after the accident was that? [inaudible 00:24:38]
John: I think that was, that was a month or two later. I believe those reports are dated like April. Um, and these things that I did, I did at the request of whoever was leading the investigation. Usually, Lieutenant Skorenza would call me and say John, are you busy and even if I was, here's what you're gonna go do so, so I would just be assigned these followup investigations to do.