A New Hampshire cold case gets some clarity with a fresh look at victimology and forensic profiling.
This post examines the 2004 disappearance of Maura Murray, a 21-year old nursing student from Hanson, Massachusetts. The case has attracted widespread media attention and generated multiple theories: that Maura met with foul play, ran away to Canada to start a new life, took her own life, or perished in the wintery woods after her car crashed on a desolate road in rural New Hampshire.
Maura Murray, 21: February 9, 2004 (date of disappearance)
Friday, February 6, 2004
7pm: Maura reported to work at the UMASS Amherst student security center at Melville Hall. She was scheduled to work until 1:45am.
7:17pm: Maura called her boyfriend, Billy R. The call lasted 20 minutes.
9:56pm: Maura again called Billy. This call lasted 6 minutes.
10:10pm: Maura received a call on her cell phone from her older sister, Kathleen. The call lasted 28 minutes. Maura was not supposed to use her phone at work but it is known from her cell phone records that she frequently did use her phone while on duty. Kathleen relayed in a 2017 documentary on Maura’s disappearance that this phone call involved Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic, telling Maura that she had been discharged from a rehab facility earlier in the evening and stopped with her then-husband at a liquor store on the way home. Previously, Kathleen had stated that the phone call merely involved run-of-the-mill conversation, “this and that.”
12:07pm: Maura spoke via phone with her boyfriend for 7 minutes.
12:20am: Police responded to an accident scene when fellow UMASS student, Petrit Vasi, was hit by a car at the intersection of Triangle and Mattoon Streets as he was crossing the street near campus, 0.9 miles from where Maura was working at Melville Hall. Vasi was injured sufficiently to place him in a coma and the driver who hit him never stopped. This detail becomes relevant later as some armchair sleuths speculate that it was Maura who hit Vasi with her car and that this incident is what led to her emotional melt-down an hour later as well as her subsequent disappearance. The day Maura went missing was the same day the school newspaper published a story about the hit and run; the town newspaper published a story the morning after the accident. Vasi’s mother, Aphrodite, alleges that an investigation into the accident never took place. However, given that there is a phone record of Maura being on the phone with Billy from 12:07-12:14am, it appears this scenario is unlikely. Additionally, paint chips found on Vasi’s clothes and along the roadside did not match Maura’s car (a black 1996 Saturn sedan). For Maura to have hit Vasi she would have had to have been on the phone with Billy at the time of the accident, not been missed from her post at work, and have been in a car with different colored paint.
Sometime around 1am-1:30am: Maura’s supervisor, Karen M, was notified that Maura was at her work station, in tears. Karen went to check on Maura and found her in a “catatonic” state. Maura was staring straight ahead and allowing students into the building without checking their IDs. Karen decided to relieve Maura of her duties. Maura was so distraught that she was unable to sign herself out of work (Karen did it for her), was sobbing uncontrollably, and was only able to mutter “my sister” when asked what was wrong. Karen initially insisted on taking Maura to the campus counseling center but instead accompanied Maura to her nearby dorm. Maura then lied to Karen, saying that her ‘roommate’ was in the dorm room to keep her company so the supervisor was fine to leave. Maura resided in a single; she did not have a roommate.
3:40am: Maura called Domino’s for pizza delivery.
Saturday, February 7, 2004
Sometime during the daytime hours: Maura’s father, Fred Murray, withdrew $4,000 from multiple ATMs — he claimed this money was taken out to help Maura purchase a car. Fred arrived in Amherst and Maura went car shopping with him. No local dealerships have any record of Maura and Fred coming in to look at cars although it is possible they were shopping through private dealers such as on craigslist. Still, there is no corroborated report of them looking at cars to purchase. Friends claim that Maura’s 1996 Saturn was in fine condition — and it was in fine enough condition to make the 136-mile trek to New Hampshire the following day. Fred disputes this, claiming that the car was in poor enough condition to require a rag in the tailpipe. It is unclear why Fred would pay $4,000 to replace Maura’s car when his house in Hanson, MA was being foreclosed on. Some theorize he was replacing it because it had been involved in the hit-and-run on Vasi. I theorize that Maura’s car was not involved in the hit-and-run — and that it was Maura, not Fred, who withdrew the $4,000. I believe Fred was covering for Maura and claimed it was him because he didn’t want to admit that she was, again, stealing, and engaging in impulsive behavior.
Evening: Maura and a friend, Kate M, accompanied her father to dinner at the Amherst Brewing Company. Fred then drove Maura and Kate to a liquor store to purchase alcohol for a party later that night. Maura dropped her father off at a nearby motel, borrowing his car for the rest of the evening. Kate claims Maura and her father never spoke of car shopping during their evening together. Questions: why didn’t Maura take her own car to the party? Why take her dad’s new car? Especially since the party was walking distance from her dorm (the party took place at friend, Sara’s, dorm in Coolidge Hall. Maura lived in Kennedy)? Why didn’t Maura and Fred discuss the cars they’d supposedly viewed earlier in the day while at dinner?
Sometime after dinner until ~2:30am: Maura attended the dorm party
Sunday, February 8, 2004
2:30am: Maura left the party and was headed to her father’s motel when she crashed her father’s brand new Toyota Corolla into a guardrail on Rte. 9 in Hadley, incurring $8,000 in damages — so much damage that the insurance company later considered the car totaled. No charges or citations were filed by the responding officer and there is no notation of field sobriety tests being conducted. Many theorize that Maura was drunk at the time of the accident, given her history of heavy drinking and the time of night the accident occurred, following a party Maura attended.
4:29-4:45am: Maura was driven by the tow truck operator to her father’s motel, The Quality Inn, where she stayed until morning.
4:49am (or 5:38am — timelines differ): Maura (or possibly, Fred) used Fred’s phone to call her boyfriend, Billy, in Oklahoma
Sometime in the morning: Fred learned that his car insurance would cover the damages
11:26pm: Maura spoke to Fred by phone and he reminded her to pick up the accident reporting forms from the RMV on Monday
Monday, February 9, 2004
12am: Maura searched on her personal computer for directions to the Berkshires, Lancaster, VT, and Burlington, VT.
12:55pm: Maura looked into renting a vacation condo in North Conway, NH that her family frequently vacationed at. The call lasted 3 minutes and the owner did not rent the condo to Maura.
1pm: Maura emailed her boyfriend stating “I got your messages, but honestly, I didn’t feel like talking to much of anyone, I promise to call today though. Love ya, Stud”
1pm: Maura contacted a Wakefield couple to inquire about renting their Bartlett, NH condo, The Seasons at Attitash Resort.
1:05pm: Maura called 1-800-GO-STOWE. The call lasted ~5 minutes; she did not rent a room. It was later learned that the phone systems were not operating properly and Maura likely heard an automated recording when she called.
1:13pm: Maura called a classmate and left a voice message
1:24pm: Maura emailed her nursing school supervisor that she would be out of town for a week due to a death in the family (this is a lie; there was no death in the family, however the detail may become important later) and says she will contact them when she returns.
2:18pm: Maura called her boyfriend and left a message promising they would talk later. The call lasted 1 minute (Billy did not answer because he was on the phone with Maura’s friend, Kate).
2:21pm, 2:22pm, 2:24pm: Billy called Maura’s phone three times. She did not answer.
3:00pm: Maura left campus in her black Saturn, headed toward the White Mountains in New Hampshire, just over the Massachusetts border
<<Note: Police would later state that Maura’s dorm room appeared packed, that her belongings were in boxes, that art had been removed from the walls and drawers emptied, and that there was an email to her boyfriend indicating trouble in their relationship (that Billy had cheated on her) which had been printed and left on top of the boxes. Some sources argue that it may be that Maura never unpacked her boxes upon moving into the dorm, given that it was the beginning of the semester. It has also been noted that Maura returned a lab coat to a fellow student prior to leaving campus.
3:30pm: Maura withdrew $280 from an ATM (nearly all the money in her account, leaving $16 behind) and stopped at a liquor store. Surveillance images indicate that Maura was alone at these stops. Maura purchased $40 worth of liquor including Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, Vodka, and a box of Franzia wine. (This part of the timeline is fuzzy — law enforcement has stated on record that Maura withdrew money from the ATM “before 3:40pm”).
3:43pm: Maura leaves the liquor store
<<Sometime during the day, Maura picks up accident report forms from the RMV. It is possible that this stop accounts for the 1-hour lag in time noted in the documentary “The Disappearance of Maura Murray” which noted that it took the documentary crew an hour less time to complete the drive than Maura took.>>
To date, there is no evidence that Maura ever told anyone about the actual destination for her road trip or its purpose. One possible explanation is that she was headed to a UMASS cabin located in Bethlehem, NH. The cabin is ~1/4 mile hike from a parking lot but there is also, reportedly, an access road that one could drive up. Directions on the UMASS Outing Club’s website state that the cabin is 0.9 miles down Highway 142, on the right-hand side, marked by two timber posts.
4:37pm: Maura called to check her voicemail. This was the last known use of her cell phone.
~5pm: Maura’s phone pinged a nearby cell tower indicating that someone called her. The call originated within 20 miles of Londonderry, NH
7:27pm: Resident phoned in report of an accident on Rte. 112. She reported that she saw a man smoking a cigarette in the car. She later recanted this statement and said that she could not tell if it was a man or a woman in the car and that it is possible the red light she saw (which she presumed was the lit end of a cigarette) was actually the light from a cell phone. It is a fact that Maura’s cell phone at the time produced such a light.
7:33pm: Local neighbor Butch Atwood arrived on scene in his school bus and spoke with Maura for 2-4 minutes, asking if she’d like him to call police. Maura declined and stated she had already called AAA (one police log states that Maura “pleaded” with Butch to not call police). Butch knew this could not possibly be true as there was no cell phone reception in the area. Butch drove 100 yards to his home. He noted that Maura appeared intoxicated and was shivering and cold. She did not appear injured to him.
~7:26pm or 7:37pm (depending on the report): Witness A saw Police SUV #001 parked “nose to nose” with Maura’s car (the time of this sighting is approximate. The witness did not see any persons inside or around either vehicle. This sighting has led to speculation that there is a police coverup that one of their own may have abducted and harmed Maura.
7:43pm: Butch Atwood’s wife called the police to report Maura’s car accident on Rte. 112. Butch backed his school bus into the driveway at his home, which is not the way he normally parked it, but he later stated he wanted to keep an eye on the accident site and Maura from this vantage point until police arrived. Butch noticed several cars pass on the road during the interim.
7:46pm: The first police officer, Sergeant Cecil Smith, arrived on the scene. He found Maura’s car doors locked and EMS responders noted a white rag shoved in the tail pipe but Maura was nowhere to be found.
7:54pm: A BOLO (“be on the lookout”) was issued for a female “about 5’7″ on foot.”
~8-8:30pm: reported sighting of person fitting the description of Maura. A contractor returning from work saw a person moving quickly on foot eastbound along Rte 112, approximately 4-5 miles east of the crash site. The person appeared young and was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and light-colored hood. The sighting was initially not reported because the contractor confused his dates but later realized the dates coincided when he was reconciling his work records.
- Both airbags were deployed indicating sufficient collision and force to potentially cause injury
- The driver’s side windshield was cracked from the inside, indicating that Maura may have hit her head on it. The point of contact may have been too high for Maura’s head to have reached leading some to believe that a different person was driving
- There was a rag stuffed in the tailpipe, which Fred later stated he instructed Maura to do to prevent her from being pulled over by police for excessive fumes
- All car doors were locked
- The crash had pushed the radiator into the fan rendering the car inoperable
- Red wine stains were found inside and outside the car. Specifically, there was an area of red liquid found underneath Maura’s car which appeared as if someone had poured some wine out. Law enforcement confirmed this spot was identified but refused to speculate on how or why the puddle of wine got there.
Items Found in Maura’s Car
- Alcohol: an empty beer bottle and a damaged box of red wine which had been previously opened (Tab 1 was missing from the box, Tab 2 was still intact)
- AAA card issued to Maura
- Blank accident reporting forms (presumably to detail the events from her prior accident in her father’s Toyota)
- Black leather gloves
- Diamond jewelry
- A book about mountain climbing in the White Mountains (her presumed destination)
- 2 sets of driving directions printed from MapQuest (1 for Burlington, VT and the other for Stowe, VT)
- College textbooks
- Birth control pills, some used
- Sleeping pills, reportedly Tylenol PM
- Maura’s favorite stuffed animal, a monkey
- The book “Not Without Peril” about hiking in the White Mountains, given to her by Billy
- Suitcase filled with clothes
- Diet Coke bottle reportedly containing red wine
Items Presumably Missing from Maura’s Car
- Cell phone
- Credit and debit cards (there was never any further activity on these cards)
- Car keys
- Most of the liquor previously purchased
- Black backpack
Maura Murray was born on May 4, 1982 in Hanson, Massachusetts to Frederick and Laurie Murray. The Murray family consisted of 5 children (Freddie Jr., Kathleen, Julie, Maura, and Kurt — who was not biologically-related to Fred Sr. but present as a sibling nonetheless). The family was Irish Catholic and Maura’s parents divorced when she was 6-years old. Maura resided primarily with her mother after the divorce.
In high school, Maura was a standout athlete on her school’s track team. Upon graduating from Whitman-Hanson Regional High she was admitted to West Point — a highly-competitive US Military Academy located in New York which accepts less than 10% of their applicants. At West Point, Maura studied chemical engineering for three semesters before transferring to UMASS Amherst to study nursing.
In November, 2003 Maura was charged with improper use of a credit card under $250. While at UMASS, Maura wrote down the credit card number for one of her dorm mate’s cards from a receipt she found in the garbage. She then proceeded to use the card’s digits to order multiple pizza deliveries. The criminal charge was continued in December, 2003 with the stipulation that Maura stay out of trouble for 3 months. Some reports suggest that the amount of food ordered in these deliveries indicates Maura may have had a binge/purging eating disorder. Maura had also stolen makeup (less than $5 worth) from a commissary at Fort Knox during her time at West Point while on a training expedition. This resulted in an honor code violation and Maura was allowed to leave West Point without getting officially expelled, which thereby allowed her to transfer to the UMASS Amherst nursing program.
Maura was in 2 accidents in 2 days’ time. WOW. This to me says a lot more than almost anything else in this case.
We ultimately do not know if a crime was even committed in the Maura Murray case. For all we know, Maura walked off into the woods and perished, ran away (as adults are legally-allowed to do), or took her own life. Given that it is unknown whether or not a crime actually took place, it can be helpful to conduct a psychological autopsy to better understand the mindset and lifestyle of the possible victim in order to conceptualize the where/when/why/how of their disappearance.
- Regardless of what ultimately happened to Maura, I think most people can agree that she was incredibly stressed out prior to her disappearance. She was distraught and covert, not telling anyone that has come forward what her actual destination was or why she was leaving. The fact that Maura told no one is a strong clue in this case, I believe. Maura called her boyfriend after every other major incident in the days leading up to her disappearance. After each car accident, she immediately rang Billy’s number. It’s telling that her last phone call (other than checking her voicemail) was to Billy, that she didn’t reach him, and less than an hour after that phone call, she left campus. I am also curious about the behavior of leaving a printed email indicating trouble in their relationship on top of some packed boxes in her room.
- Some have theorized that Maura was a sociopath. I disagree. I really don’t see any evidence that Maura was sociopathic — she lacked the telltale signs of callousness, narcissism, and patterned relational/behavioral difficulties. Yes, like many sociopaths, Maura had a (recent?) habit of lying — however most sociopaths lie to impress people, or simply to lie — without a real purpose or motive. Maura was lying with actual purpose — in an effort to keep things together or to keep her motives hidden. Maura appeared capable of empathy and enjoyed many relationships with peers and family that did not appear superficial or rife with tension and drama. Maura was entering a ‘helping profession’ — nursing — which often calls to empathically-oriented persons. If anything, Maura appeared overwhelmed, distraught, anxious, and impulsive. She was crumbling under the weight of mental illness and alcoholism — not sociopathy.
- Maura indicated some warning signs of wanting to run away from it all, harm herself, or commit suicide: 1) she was being so secretive about her plans that literally no one to date knows where she was headed or why, 2) she returned a borrowed item to a fellow student just before departing from campus, 3) she may have packed up her belongings, 4) she left a cryptic note behind: the printed email from an exchange with Billy that indicated trouble in their relationship (who did she want to find this email? After all, Maura lived in a single. And, how did she envision someone coming upon the email? Did she know she would not be coming back?), 5) Maura had plenty of materials at her immediate disposal to do herself harm (ample sleeping pills and alcohol), 6) Maura was headed in the direction of a meaningful destination (the White Mountains) which may have held solace for her and also attempted to book a room at a familiar family vacation site that may have held positive or calming memories for her.
- Maura presented with many of the symptoms of hypomania and was at an age when it is common for women to experience their first symptom break-throughs of a bipolar disorder: impulsivity/recklessness (stealing credit card numbers, shoplifting, car accidents, lying), hyper-sexuality (there have been rumors of Maura’s promiscuity), alcohol abuse, sleeplessness (Maura had sleeping pills in her car and it is also unclear from her schedule when she actually did get a solid chunk of sleep), mood changes (she was described as anxious, depressed, catatonic, and distraught in the hours before her disappearance), cognitive difficulties (Maura had difficulty articulating to her supervisor what was upsetting her, did not appear to have created a well-formed plan for leaving campus).
- There are many indicators of Maura coming from a family deeply entrenched in alcoholic codependent dynamics. Her older sister, Kathleen, has an admitted lengthy history with alcoholism requiring several stints in rehab. In an interview conducted in 2017, Kathleen told journalist Maggie Freleng that the news Maura was reportedly distraught over which caused her catatonic state on the nightshift was that Kathleen had been picked up by her fiancé from rehab and made a pitstop at a liquor store on the way home. This revelation came about a full THIRTEEN YEARS after her sister went missing — everyone has been on the edge of their seats wanting to know what Maura’s utterance of “my sister” and her distraught catatonia were related to and now we know: deeply-entrenched family secrecy and enabling behaviors around alcoholism. Also, not for nothing, but in the interview Kathleen has all the telltale signs of someone taking Lithium. This would reinforce my belief that Maura was developing a bipolar-spectrum disorder, especially if it runs in the family.
The Psychics (take it or leave it)
- Two psychics on the podcast “Missing Maura Murray” independently proposed that the name “Ben” was relevant to the case.
- Controversial and self-proclaimed “schizophrenic psychic” Brian Ladd stated on the same podcast that “Lake Tar” was a possible location of interest in the case. There is a “Lake Tarleton” in New Hampshire, ~8 miles from Maura’s crash site.
- Psychic Carla Baron reported early on in the investigation that she had visions of Maura being abducted by a clean-cut man driving a truck. He sexually assaulted Maura before burying her body in a wooded area near a construction site (this claim was noted as early as April 11, 2004 in a Boston Globe article). Baron suggests the man has killed at least once before and that this woman’s body is buried near Maura’s. “He happened to be driving by her. It was an opportunity. That’s the thrill for him – he never knows where the thrill will be,” Baron said.
Theory #1: Maura’s New Life
This theory proposes that Maura may have been pregnant (as evidenced by internet searches on her UMASS computer for terms related to pregnancy) and that she knew this would upset her father and sisters too much. She wanted to keep the baby so she withdrew money, cashed out her recently-issued student loan check, and fled town, possibly to Canada. This theory also centers around several purported eyewitness sightings of a woman resembling Maura in Canada.
Problems with this theory: Most people who voluntarily go missing eventually return. Maura has never returned, even after her mother passed away on Maura’s birthday, in 2009, five years after her disappearance. The Missing Maura Murray documentary discredited any supposed eyewitness accounts and there has been no activity on any of Maura’s bank accounts, her cell phone, social security number, etc. Maura’s father put $4,000 into a bank account that Maura had access to and she never touched that money, indicating that she is likely not around to do so. There is also no verifiable evidence that Maura was even pregnant — in fact, she had birth control pills in her car, some of them missing from the pack, and fellow UMASS nursing students later stated that they were instructed by a professor to research terms related to pregnancy on the internet. Finally, if Maura was wanting to launch a new life, a car crash is a terrible way to start that off — the police are going to be looking everywhere for you.
Theory #2: The Stranger Abduction
This theory proposes that in the less-than-seven-minutes window between when Butch Atwood interacted with Maura and Sergeant Cecil Smith arrived on the crash scene, Maura was abducted by a stranger intending to do her harm. Some theorize that Maura was followed by this man from one of her stops along the route, possibly a stop in nearby Haverhill, and that this man stuffed a rag in the tailpipe of Maura’s car to render it inoperable, which caused her later crash. The stranger abduction theory overlaps with some of the later theories proposed below — perhaps that the “stranger” was a local who worked at Loon Mountain Resort and/or that he drove a suspicious red truck which was observed near the scene of Maura’s car crash. One of the strongest clues in this theory is that search dogs have repeatedly lost Maura’s scent about 100 yards from the accident site, indicating that she either willingly hitched a ride with a passing vehicle or was abducted.
Problems with this theory: Fred Murray states that he is the one who instructed Maura to stuff a rag in her tailpipe to prevent getting pulled over for excess fume exhaust. It is unlikely a stranger had anything to do with the rag in Maura’s tailpipe. Additionally, the Missing Maura Murray documentary further discredited the possibility that this would have rendered her vehicle inoperable when they conducted an experiment with a car mechanic and the results showed that a rag in the tailpipe does not render a vehicle similar to Maura’s inoperable. Maura’s car was likely not intentionally compromised — there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the rag in the tailpipe.
Further, the window of opportunity for a stranger abduction was SO narrow I find it just incredibly remote that this would have happened. This would have required an incredibly lucky, opportunistic serial killer to happen upon Maura. Essentially what would have taken place in this scenario is that Maura would have started walking toward Butch’s house, figuring that she should ask to use his phone after all. In the blink of an eye, an offender (who must have abducted someone before in order to attempt such a brazen act with Maura) would have driven by and snatched Maura from the road. Sure, it’s possible, But, highly unlikely. And, what are the odds that Maura was suffering a mental break-down, possibly suicidal or so overwhelmed that she was running somewhere without telling a soul, AND that in the midst of this crisis, she was abducted and killed by a serial offender? I don’t give the stranger theory much cred.
Theory #3: The Loon Mountain 3
This theory overlaps with the abduction theory — but adds that Maura was abducted by someone she knew, perhaps only casually. Proponents theorize that Maura may have been intercepted by a group of brothers known as ‘The Loon Mountain 3’ (C. Glynn, W. Glynn, and M. Glynn from Woodsville, NH — many exclude M. Glynn from this theory and suggest it is more accurately ‘The Loon Mountain 2’). The men then took Maura to another location and killed her there. This theory points to local rumors that Maura may have had a boyfriend in the Haverhill area and/or may have dated one of the Loon Mountain men. It also theorizes that Maura may have traveled previously to Loon Mountain to ski and interacted with the Glynn brothers during a previous trip and that somewhere near the ski resort or the men’s home was Maura’s intended destination (the Mountain Club is approximately 27 miles from Maura’s crash site and 2 of the brothers, W. and M., reportedly shared a home near the crash site).
All of these theories point to the search dogs losing Maura’s scent 100 yards east down the roadway, indicating that she may have entered someone else’s vehicle and that the boys known as ‘The Loon Mountain 3’ did not show up for work on February 9th, suggesting they were otherwise occupied with events related to Maura’s disappearance. Their typical route to work was along Route 112 and they might have, theoretically, intercepted Maura along the way. If she’d met them before, she might have been more inclined to get in their vehicle, perhaps to continue drinking and partying. Alternately, if one or more of the Glynn brothers were present they could have easily outnumbered and overcome Maura and forced her against her will into the vehicle.
Problems with this theory: There is no concrete evidence that Maura knew the Loon Mountain 3 or had ever encountered them before. Further, law enforcement followed up on this lead and found nothing substantial. In fact, there is some indication that, while LE was interested in “two brothers” who worked at Loon Mountain, it was James Renner that suggested W. Glynn owned a truck similar to the one seen near Maura’s crash site and, thereby, linked the Glynn brothers to the case. LE has never actually confirmed that they were investigated and, to my knowledge, there is no known connection between the Glynn brothers and Maura. Even if the Loon Mountain 3 are, indeed, the Glynn brothers, there is no concrete evidence available online that they were scheduled to work the night Maura went missing or that they did not show up for work. That doesn’t mean the Loon Mountain 3 or the Glynn brothers had nothing to do with Maura’s disappearance — but the evidence is quite thin and mostly speculation and unsubstantiated rumors. The most basic problem I have with this theory is the notion that Maura would have willingly taken off with a casual acquaintance around her age to continue partying. All signs point to Maura wanting to be alone and drink by herself in the quiet of the White Mountains.
Theory #4: The Red Truck & The Concrete Slab
The “Red Truck Theory” proposes that a vehicle with Massachusetts plates was acting suspiciously on the east side of town near Route 112 as well as near Maura’s crash site. A red truck was observed by Welma Robinson (alternately knows as Robinson Ordway) turning around in the Stage Shop Store parking lot around the time Maura disappeared. Some report that the driver appeared to be looking for someone specific along the road while other claim the truck did not have Massachusetts plates and that a second witness jotted down the license plate number and it was matched to a vehicle owned by W. Glynn, one of the ‘Loon Mountain 2 or 3’. Additionally, a witness out walking her dog saw an empty red truck on Bradley Hill Road around the time of Maura’s disappearance. Of note: Maura’s scent was lost by the search dogs near the intersection of Bradley Hill Road and Route 112. Some reports suggest law enforcement officers were stopping red trucks on February 10th.
Robinson Ordway’s account of the vehicle she witnessed: “I wish I could give an exact description of the truck but I can not. I was walking that night about 7 p.m to the local store. As I was walking up the hill, a truck passed me and slowed down. When it got to the middle of the hill it stopped in the road. I immediately looked at the plate and noticed it was from Massachusetts. There is only 1 street light there and I could not tell how many people were in the vehicle. As I got closer to the truck it took off up the hill. When I rounded the corner to the store, I could see the truck in the driveway of the store. As I walked into the parking lot, which is well lit, the truck took off toward the crash site (of course at that time I did not know there was a crash). As for the red truck, it slowed, then stopped and waited for me to get closer, then took off up the hill. He did not leave the store parking lot in any sort of hurry.
“When I entered the store I asked if she saw the people in that truck and she said no, no one had come in. I told her about them stopping in the hill. Then we just forgot about it. I stood in the store a while and was there when the police and ambulance went by. I never saw that truck again. The only way I can describe it is that it looked like someone who delivered wood. That was my first thought about it……..red, MA plates and delivered wood. Either having a wood body or even just slats in the body. It was not a king cab or extra cab. Just a regular truck. That is all I can tell you.
“I was in the Swiftwater store for 1/2 hour – 45 minutes. It was about 20-30 minutes after I was there that the police went by. I am not at all Maura’s size and in fact I was bundled up that night. I believe I caught the truck off guard as I was walking well off the road and as they passed I walked back on, which is why I believe they stopped completely. They could not see me without any street lights and maybe went to the store and waited for me to get up there to get a better look? I don’t know. That is just how it seemed to me.
“The truck didn’t scare me. My thought is that they/he/she thought I was someone else. That is what I was thinking that night. When I saw them sitting at the store, I again thought, they really think I am someone else. And as I got closer and I could see the driver moving around – I was thinking, there, I am not the person you are looking for, and he drove off. I wish to God I could remember what I was wearing that night, but I can’t.
“Someone asked about the truck and whether it was 4 wheel drive. I believe it was. I have been looking at trucks and have determined that it was definitely a four wheel drive or at least it was a 3/4 ton pick up, because it sat up high. The other thing I remember is that the window in the back was hard to see in….it wasn’t very large…..which tells me it was an older truck maybe?”
From this, we can conclude that the red truck Ms. Ordway observed left the store parking lot between 7:10-7:20pm (Sergeant Smith arrived on scene at 7:46pm and would have passed by the store around 7:45pm, and no earlier than 7:44pm, if he was driving under the speed limit). If we assume the red truck continued down Route 112 and did not turn on to a side road, it would have encountered the accident site between 7:12-7:22pm (this is all assuming Ms. Ordley’s sense of time is correct and that she truly observed Sergeant Cecil passing by the store 20-30 minutes after she arrived). This would have placed the driver of the red truck at the accident scene BEFORE FW’s (Faith Westman) 7:27pm 911 call and before Sergeant Cecil’s arrival on scene at 7:46pm.
There have been several names thrown out over the years of the possible driver of the red truck. Of course, one of the Glynn Brothers (‘The Loon Mountain 3’) reportedly owned a truck fitting this description, as did a young, male Woodsville resident who worked for his father’s local concrete business (reportedly the Saffo family business in Benton and Haverhill, NH). Supposedly, the son (“RS Jr”) of this concrete magnate (“RS”) drove a company-issued red truck on the evening in question. RS Jr. came from a family of wealth and prominence and talk around town was that the Saffo family practically owned the town of Benton, NH. RS Jr’s stepmother, LS, was the Grafton County Attorney at the time of Maura’s disappearance, a detail that lends itself to conspiracy theories of a coverup, or perhaps, a slight case of LE ‘looking the other way,’ and rumors of Maura’s body being buried in a cement slab in nearby Benton. Rumor has it RS Jr. joined the National Guard in 2004 shortly after Maura’s disappearance and moved overseas. There are various reports that suggest the Saffo family would not cooperate with investigators and that they were denied access to Saffo property for searches. There are also rumors that Butch Atwood was intimidated by the Saffo family and, the son (RF Jr.) in particular.
Problems with this theory: While it has been verified by police that Ms. Ordway reported the suspicious vehicle she saw, the other eyewitness account of a suspicious vehicle near Bradley Hill Road is unsubstantiated. Additionally, the window for someone in a red truck to have abducted Maura or picked her up willingly without having been seen by neighbors was very thin. Still, it’s entirely possible Maura was picked up — especially if it was by someone she knew; she would have hopped into the vehicle quickly. Another problem with this theory is that law enforcement apparently followed up on the red truck and Saffo family leads, coming up with nothing useful. A substantial problem with the Saffo theory (although tantalizing material for a fiction book!) is that there are major logistical difficulties with pouring concrete in the dead of winter. The final problem with this theory is that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and that all information about the Saffo family is speculation and online rumors.
Theory #5: Rick or Butch Did It
Rick Forcier was the eyewitness who reported he saw a woman matching Maura’s description jogging along Route 112 on the night Maura vanished. Forcier commuted this road daily for work as a contractor and said that, as he approached, the woman turned onto a dirt road. The area he saw the woman jogging in was 4-5 miles from the accident site. Interestingly, Forcier lived on the corner of Bradley Hill Road and Wild Ammonoosuc Road, across the road from Butch Atwood, in a trailer near the scene of Maura’s accident. Forcier denied law enforcement access to his property when they were searching for Maura (he later sold the property and LE searched the trailer, finding nothing). Many online sleuths contend that Forcier may have been more than a witness — that he may have actually harmed Maura and used this ‘eyewitness sighting’ to explain him being in the same place at the same time as Maura. Others contend that Butch Atwood picked Maura up in his school bus and did her harm on the bus, later disposing of her body when he drove around supposedly helping to search for her.
Problems with this theory: The Westwoods called 911 after Butch left Maura at the scene and they saw Maura still at her car. So, the only way Butch could have intercepted her was if she walked toward his house or if he somehow returned to the scene. By most accounts Forcier is an odd-duck, however, there is no evidence he had anything to do with Maura’s disappearance and law enforcement have thoroughly looked into both men’s accounts of the evening in question.
Theory #6: The A-Frame House
In this theory, former police officer and private investigator, John Smith, who has assisted the Murray family for over a decade, presented evidence to the documentary crew of ‘Missing Maura Murray’ that two local brothers, by the name of Moulton, had something to do with Maura’s disappearance. Smith suggested that one of these men lived in an A-Frame house about a mile from the crash site and that local rumors suggest Maura was murdered in the house. Fred Murray told Smith that Larry Moulton mailed him a knife he said he’d found in his brother, Claude’s, glove compartment box which had traces of blood on it. Police initially rejected Fred’s offer of the knife as new evidence but later accepted it. Law enforcement has never disclosed whether they are in possession of the knife or have tested it for DNA.
In 2006, the new owners of the A-Frame house allowed Smith to inspect the interior of the home where two cadaver “dogs got a big hit off this upstairs closet for human remains and carpet samples were given to the New Hampshire State Police,” according to Smith. The floors have since been replaced and no carpet samples remain; law enforcement has not commented on whether or not they have the carpet samples or have tested them.
Ten years later, in 2016, Smith returned to the now-abandoned A-frame home with the hosts of the ‘Missing Maura Murray’ podcast. There, the trio observed what appeared to be blood on the wood paneled walls inside the upstairs closet. “We actually took wood chips from that closet and I have those in my possession,” Smith said. He then gave the wood chips to the documentary crew who had them examined by a molecular geneticist, Dr. Maxx Noureddine, who applied phenolphthalein to the samples and noted that they turned pink, indicating the presence of blood. Whether that blood is related to Maura remains to be determined and the samples have been sent off for DNA testing.
One interesting piece of this puzzle, however, is that Forensic Scientist, Lori Baker, determined the blood came from a human, not an animal: “Not only did it test positively for blood but for the blood of two different human beings,” Baker said. “So you have the DNA from humans and you actually have the DNA from two individuals.” One of the contributors to the DNA sample is definitely a male; the other is undetermined — which leaves open the possibility that it could be Maura’s blood. The information was passed along to the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit who determined that the samples were too degraded to determine any other specific characteristics. Despite this, they have assigned 3 task forces into looking deeper into Maura’s disappearance.
Problems with this theory: The main problems are that we cannot test the DNA samples any further than they’ve been tested (unless scientific strides are made in the future — fingers crossed) and that it is unknown if the knife or carpet samples turned over to police are still in their custody and have been followed up on. And, then there’s the problem with Larry as a witness. According to James Renner’s blog: “I spoke to a member of Claude’s extended family, this weekend. Here’s what I learned. At the time of Maura’s disappearance, Claude was living with a woman he met when she was 14 and he was 34. Started sleeping with her at 17. They lived in the A-frame house on Valley Rd. about a mile from where Maura was last seen. He drove truck for Lin-Cor Environmental. Claude told family members that Larry made up the story about him snatching Maura in order to get reward money. Larry had a history of drug use and was not an altogether likeable guy, himself. After Larry came forward, Claude was asked to sit for a lie detector test at the Havehill Police Department. Claude has a long history of domestic violence and a thing for very young women. Days after Larry talked to detectives, Claude hurriedly scrapped his red volvo car. For his part, Claude tells family he had nothing to do with Maura’s disappearance.” So, Larry’s motives and integrity as a witness are rather suspect. Still, that DNA evidence….
Theory #7: Maura’s Disappearance Was Covered Up By Law Enforcement
This theory is too varied and convoluted for me to delve into all the details but it essentially hinges on Witness A’s report that she observed police SUV 001 parked ‘nose to nose’ with Maura’s car prior to any law enforcement officers officially arriving on scene. When the witness called police to report her observations she states that they asked ‘are you sure you saw SUV 001?,’ which she found odd. Many believed that then-officer Jeff Williams drove SUV 001 at the time and his later problems with the law (a 2009 charge of drunk driving for which he pled guilty) fueled this theory that he may have been drunk driving and hit Maura’s car, then disposed of her as a witness.
Problems with this theory: The idea that Officer Williams driving SUV 001 was later debunked in the ‘Missing Maura Murray’ podcast when Sergeant Cecil Smith said that HE was driving the SUV because of the wintery conditions that night. Some point to LE’s reluctance to release the last known surveillance footage of Maura as indication of a coverup. Now that the footage of Maura withdrawing money from an ATM has been released, it is clear why it was withheld from the public: Maura is seen wearing a jacket that no one in the family recognizes. LE was likely hoping this detail might hold the key to Maura’s disappearance. Was she with someone who gave her the jacket? Did she borrow it from someone? It does appear a big baggy on her in the footage but, then, old photos of Maura also show her wearing baggy jackets….
Theory #8: The Romantic Rendezvous
This theory notes that Maura told her professors she would be gone for about a week due to a death in the family (when there had not been a death in the family). Maura left campus on February 9th and it’s worth noting that Valentine’s Day, February 14th, would have occurred during the week Maura said she would be gone. Some theorize she was attempting to book a cabin for a last-minute romantic rendezvous with an unspecified lover, someone other than her boyfriend, Billy, with whom she’d recently had a falling out.
There are some unsubstantiated reports that Maura was playing the field a bit and had various lovers scattered ‘here and there,’ including, possibly, in New Hampshire or Vermont. More specifically, there appear to be some indications that Maura had a relationship with Hossein “Hoss” Baghdadi, an assistant coach on the track team Maura once ran with. At the time they dated (Spring-Summer, 2003), Maura was no longer on the track team but they kept their relationship under wraps nonetheless because of Hoss’s position with the University. Toward the end of the summer, Maura stopped returning Hoss’s phone calls. When Maura returned to UMASS in the Fall of 2003, she informed Hoss that she was back with Billy.
Hoss contends that he later learned Maura was sleeping with other members of the track team: “She was very promiscuous, it turns out” and that she once talked of running away: “She said, ‘I wish I could disappear.’ When I heard she was missing, I thought: ‘Holy crap! Maybe she did it.'” Hoss states that his impression of Billy was that he was controlling of Maura and chauvinistic and that Maura never spoke of her father (“I never knew her father was even alive”). They also discussed at one point taking a vacation to the White Mountains together.
The romantic rendezvous theory proposes that Maura took off with either Hoss or another lover toward the White Mountains. It then interesects with the “Tandem Driver” theory. The theory also speculates that Hoss would have known the combination to the UMASS cabin to help them gain entry and the area surrounding the UMASS cabin should be more thoroughly searched.
An alternative to The Romantic Rendezvous Theory is that Maura somehow met up with her estranged boyfriend, Billy, while in New Hampshire. During the time Maura went missing, Billy was an officer on duty at Fort Sill, assisting with basic training. Reports indicate that there are 2 men who could verify Billy’s presence at Fort Sill but neither of them have gone on the record. As far as public opinion goes, Billy’s whereabouts on the night Maura disappeared are up for debate. However, phone records obtained by James Renner and The Missing Maura Murray podcast show that Billy’s phone was not anywhere near the White Mountains on February 9th.
Theory #9: The Tandem Driver
This theory dovetails with The Romantic Rendezvous theory and helps explain how Maura could have disappeared so quickly from the scene of the accident. If she was traveling in tandem with another, known, driver — that driver would have either come across Maura’s disabled vehicle and picked her up or circled back around to get her once s/he realized Maura was not behind them.
- I believe Maura was running with no particular destination in mind other than the sanctuary and comfort offered by the White Mountains. She was suffering from some kind of mental health crisis (burgeoning bipolar disorder, mania/hypomania, mixed state, alcoholism). As a track runner, Maura did what she knew best: RUN. When she couldn’t book a cabin, she took off anyway, headed toward the mountains with no particular destination in mind. Her plan was minute-to-minute: stop at the ATM, stop at the liquor store, drink wine from a Diet Coke bottle while driving, end up somewhere, take a week off.
- I think Maura had packed up the belongings in her room because she was intending to either leave or take a break from nursing school. I believe she told her father this when she last saw him and this is information Fred Murray has been keeping from law enforcement and the media. I believe Fred also knew Maura was suffering a mental health crisis, was exceedingly impulsive, and drinking to excess.
- Fred was the last person to spend a significant amount of time with Maura before her disappearance. He was aware of her frame of mind when she went missing and his first instinct was that she had run away or was in trouble due to her own actions. “Whatever you’ve done, kid, it’s ok.” Fred described Maura as “slumping into her dorm room” and crying in the car. When Fred realized that law enforcement would not actively search for a depressed, drunk female, the narrative shifted to ‘perhaps she was kidnapped.’
- As reported by The New Hampshire Union Leader author Nancy West in an article dated October 29, 2007: “Early on, her father, Fred Murray, briefly considered Maura may have committed suicide. When police assembled the Murray and Rausch families to brief them on the investigation, Maura’s father ‘moaned and rubbed his head and said, ‘Oh no.’ According to Sharon Rausch, the mother of Billy Rausch, Maura’s then-boyfriend. ‘I remember Fred said ‘I always have told the kids when I got old and worthless I was going to climb my favorite mountain with a bottle of Jack Daniels and drink myself to death.’ She said authorities thought the alcohol and Tylenol PM Maura brought may have been indications she was going to kill herself. ‘That’s what people do, they drink, take a bunch of pills, and die peacefully,’ she said.” Later, Fred Murray also referenced a ‘squaw walk’ on a podcast, saying “We saw a movie once. I think it was called ‘Cheyenne Autumn’ and it was tough on the Indians. Winter came and they filed into the woods…and the real old squaws…when they are at the end of the line they knew they would be a drag on the column, they would just get in last and just drop off the end and die in the snow in the woods when it was their time…and that was the old squaw walk…But [Maura] didn’t do that. That did not happen.” As evidenced by Diane Schuler in the Taconic Parkway crash, Tylenol and alcohol are pretty well-known to be easily available and effective means for committing suicide. In fact, I lost a friend in my early 20s to an intentional Tylenol PM overdose; it’s quite potent.
- Maura was initially listed by police as “endangered and possibly suicidal.”
- The Haverhill police chief reported the day after the crash: “We are concerned for her personal welfare. There is no evidence of foul play. Our concern is that she’s upset or suicidal, something the family was concerned about.”
- I believe she was hypomanic as a result of an emerging bipolar disorder, possibly in a mixed state, and likely very sleep-deprived. These together compromised her ability to think clearly and she may have had one or more head injuries from the various car accidents. She was also likely inebriated which clouded her ability to problem-solve. Many people think the large amount of alcohol purchased for her trip is indicative of her having company; I think it is indicative of her having a severe problem with alcohol and a very high tolerance.
- Evidence Maura didn’t care about life anymore: she was drinking and driving after a recent accident (in which she was likely inebriated) and while on a short leash with the judge from the credit card fraud case; the judge had told her to stay out of trouble for 6 months. Maura left an email from Billy prominently displayed in her room. She went to her father’s motel in the middle of the night. Was this for comfort? To be with someone who loved her? To say goodbye in a way? A note found in Maura’s car mentioning Burlington — she had just been there over Columbus Day weekend with her father, hiking Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield. Perhaps she was trying to go somewhere meaningful or comforting. She returned borrowed belongings and possibly packed her own up before leaving. There’s more evidence of suicide or misadventure here than abduction.
- There is some evidence against the suicide theory: Maura picked up the accident reporting form from the RMV. Why do that if you plan to take yourself out? Perhaps she was not thinking clearly (due to alcohol and a head injury) and was panicking, wanted to escape. Perhaps it was not a well-thought-out plan or death wish. Just a “get me out of my misery and pain” wish. Perhaps the option of suicide didn’t fully come into view until she realized the trouble she was in after her car wouldn’t start following the second drunk driving accident.
- Perhaps her absence was initially envisioned as a shorter-term “I’m leaving for a week, going off the grid, and then I’ll come back in better shape and deal with all of this.” But, I think that once she got into ANOTHER car accident, and possibly incurred a head injury, she thought “screw this” and took a bunch of sleeping pills, some alcohol, and wandered off into the woods. It is equally possible that Maura just grabbed the alcohol from her car, threw it in her backpack, and took off running down the road. Perhaps due to a head injury and already being drunk and panicked, she was aware the net was closing in around her and decided to flee without any rational plan. She ran several miles and then took shelter under someone’s porch or a tree. Believing she would be warm enough in her winter coat, she drifted off to sleep but perished due to hypothermia. Either way, I do believe Maura is still out there and just has not been found yet.
- I believe Maura withdrew ~$4,000 from a joint bank account she shared with her father that she also had access to. Fred Murray has been obscuring the real reason for this large withdrawal and, perhaps, he does not know the real reason. But, I do not believe that $4,000 was taken out of the account by Fred and I do not believe it was going to be used for purchasing Maura a new car. Some of these beliefs are based on the multiple ATM withdrawals (why not just take one lump from the bank?) and some are derived from this social media comment by a Murray relative (note that she says the $4,000 went BACK into an account Maura had access to, implying Maura also had access to this account prior to her disappearance):
- Maura came from a family system deeply entrenched in dysfunction, alcoholism, mental illness, and secrecy. It is telling that it took her sister, Kathleen, THIRTEEN YEARS to reveal the nature of her last conversation with Maura.
- I believe Fred, while a loving a devoted father,was also incredibly enabling of Maura. He covered up many of her misdeeds, not the least of which was her stealing $4,000 from their joint bank account.
- Was Fred really buying Maura a car that weekend? He says her “boyfriend” recommended a place in Northampton for them to peruse the vehicles available — which boyfriend was this? Billy was from Texas and met Maura at West Point; he went to school in Ohio. How would he be able to recommend a place in Northampton, MA — more specifically, how would Billy be in a better position to recommend a Massachusetts car dealership than actual Massachusetts natives: Maura and Fred? Either Billy was not the boyfriend Fred was referring to or Fred was not out visiting Maura with the intention of buying her a car.
- Why did Maura take her father’s car to the party, especially if she lived within walking distance of the party? Also, he just bought her and her friend alcohol for a party and gives them his new car? More signs of enabling behavior.
- Where was Maura headed and why? If I could get one question answered it would be this one. Why mapquest directions to VT but then head toward Haverhill?
- Why did Maura leave the party? She left the UMASS party around 2:30am and said she was going to bed. Her dorm room was nearby but, instead of heading there, she got in her dad’s car, likely drunk, and started driving toward his motel room in nearby Hadley. Why was Maura going to her father’s motel room at 2:30am? My best guess is that Maura cheated on Billy with someone from the party or was sexually assaulted and that this is also the reason the party attendees have been so secretive over the years — they are protecting someone else’s reputation. I think Maura freaked out about cheating on Billy or something untoward happening and wanted to be with father for comfort. Whatever it was, I believe this was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and prompted her to run away toward the White Mountains of NH. Her impulsivity and reckless behaviors were getting beyond her control and something happened at that party.
- I do not believe Maura was a sociopath, as some have claimed. I believe she was succumbing to mental illness, likely a bipolar-spectrum disorder, and that all of her impulsivity, erratic behavior, and mood swings can be explained by this as well as sleep deprivation and alcohol abuse.
- Ultimately, all of the theories that involve abduction or murder — be it by a stranger, tandem driver, or acquaintance, involve the invention or supposition of further evidence. None of that evidence actually exists at this time — there is no actual evidence of a tandem driver or abductor (i.e. video surveillance, eye witness account, etc).
- If we stick with the facts as we know them, with the evidence we have actually available, then it comes down to this: Maura dropped out of West Point following two incidents of petty theft (items which she could have theoretically purchased with her own money suggesting that the motive for the thefts was not need but, rather, impulsivity), there are rumors of bulimia suggesting again problems with impulsivity and emotion regulation, Maura experienced wide-ranging mood swings in the days leading up to her disappearance as well as heavy alcohol use, Maura did not tell anyone where she was going or why, Maura lied to her work supervisor about living in a double and having a roommate who would watch over her, Maura would not tell anyone why she was so distraught, Maura packed up her belongings at school, Maura was involved in two very serious car accidents (both of which might have caused head injuries) in 2 days’ time, there is good evidence Maura was drinking while driving during the second car accident, Maura took her backpack, cell phone, IDs, credit cards, and a lot of liquor with her when she disappeared.
- All of these facts lead to one of two conclusions: Maura either wandered off with the intent to take her own life or Maura wandered off with the unspecific goal of “taking a break” but succumbed to a head injury, alcohol poisoning, and/or the elements. Nowhere in these facts is there a shred of evidence that Maura was abducted or in the company of another person. One would have to invent other evidence to make one of those theories work.
Anybody with information on the disappearance of Maura Murray is urged to call New Hampshire Cold Case Unit: (603) 223-3856