On Monday, February 9, 2004, 21 year old Maura Murray of Hanson, Mass. crashed her car into a snow bank in Haverhill, N.H.
This was her second car accident in three days. The first accident was the Saturday of the previous weekend when she crashed her father's car after going out to a party with friends.
A resident of the area saw the crash and stopped to help Maura, he claims she refused his help. The witness, named Butch, is a large burly man with a mustache and he and his wife feared that Maura refused his help that dark and cold night due to his appearance, it seemed a dangerous invitation for a young scared girl. He called police anyway and within ten minutes the police were on the scene.
When police arrived they found her car, but not Maura. Police waited 39 hours before searching for Maura in the surrounding wooded area, believing that she willingly walked away. After helicopters and searched dogs reached a dead end, the search was called off two days later.
It is important to note that search dogs picked up her scent for 100 yards on a dirt road and then stopped between two homes. It is also important to know that it was freezing in this area and had she walked into the woods, the elements were not in her favor.
Maura Murray was about to be engaged, she met and was dating Army Lieutenant Bill Rausch. She was a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts and was academically sound on the dean's list. She was athletic and extremely close to her family. She had everything going for her, so where was she headed that cold night in February? Almost 5 years later and still no one can tell you for sure where Maura was going.
Here are some details I was able to find online from several news reports and comments:
- In her car they found clothes, snacks, athletic gear, alcohol, her purse, keys and wallet.
- She emailed her teachers that monday, explaining there was a death in her family and she would be gone for a week. Although her family states there was no such death.
- She had enough food in her car to show she may be going away for a while.
- Everything in her dorm room was packed up and she was planning on moving out.
- She withdrew $280 from her ATM card that night.
- She was seen purchasing alcohol alone at a liquor store before the crash. This was the last record use of credit card or ATM cards.
- The witness who saw the crash says she seemed intoxicated.
- A few nights before she went missing, she received an upsetting phone call, she was so upset she had to be escorted back to her dorm room. Her father suspected that the call was from one of her sisters who had a monstrous fight with a boy friend and he didn't think the call was a significant factor.
- She had a book in her car called "Not Without Peril" a story about people who died hiking New Hampshire's Presidential Mountain Range. This is the area where she was last seen and where she went camping with her dad as a child. This book was given to her by her father.
- Her father was visiting the prior week.
- The last two calls from Maura's cellphone were never investigated by police, instead her family learned 8 months later after going through her phone records, that Maura had phoned a couple who owned and rented out a condo in an area where she often vacationed with her family as a child, this was an area she appeared to be heading. By the time the couple was called, they could not remember their conversation with Maura.
- Maura's boyfriend received an email from her telling him she needed to talk to him.
According to police they believe she either walked away from her life due to the stress of being a perfect student or due to some other factors, or that she went into the woods to commit suicide. The residents in the area claim that not many cars came by that night and that most people in the area know each other and crimes there were non existent. However I can name another young girl who went missing 10 days later 6 hours away also at the scene of her car being crashed, Brianna Maitland http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18519247/ .
Could these be linked? Could there have been a murderer on a road trip?
How do the authorities decide someone is not worth looking for? Is it when they believe the person caused the situation themselves? Is it when the person seems suicidal? When is it okay to assume someone walked away and then close the door without proving such a fact?
It is never okay to stop looking for someone who may be in trouble.
It sounds like Maura may have had a drinking problem recently and maybe this was due to a problem she had yet to reveal to her family and friends.
It seems to me that authorities made a huge mistake arriving within ten minutes of the call telling them a girl was in trouble and then failing to search for her immediately. They waited 39 hours to begin the search! The weather was against her, she could have fallen into the icy waters within the mountains, she could have slipped to her death.
Even if Maura was planning to walk away from her life, the chance that she may have taken a ride from a stranger and may have been intoxicated is still a factor that can't be ruled out, especially considering the search dogs lost her sent and there were no footsteps in the snow. This tells me she was taken in a car. Whose car? Why not take the ride from Butch when he offered it? It may have been because Butch seemed dangerous. Who then came along after and seemed like a better choice? Was it a chance encounter with killer?
The fact that they did not investigate her phone records is beyond words. It seemed Maura was on her way to getaway from it all, not to kill herself and never return.
If you have information, please contact: Trooper Russell HubbardTroop F NHSP(603) 846-3333