My Visit to The Crash Site

I spent some time, today, at the site of Maura’s crash in New Hampshire. I will upload the video I took as soon as it transfers from my phone to my laptop. Of note was my conversation with Mr. Westman, which I will describe here.

Mr. Westman, shaking out a rug in his front lawn, was nice enough to answer some of my questions about his observations of the crash.

He had been in his office, with Mrs. Westman, when he heard a crash. In response, he and Mrs. Westman went to the kitchen, which is in the smaller section of the house.

Maura Murray

They looked out the side windows (the ones closest to the ribbon) and saw Maura’s car facing westward in the eastbound lane.

I asked Mr. Westman whether Maura might have impacted a snowbank in front of his house. He stated that she could not have done so; she “definitely” impacted by the trees near her ribbon. He explained that he had heard the impact and he was certain of its location.

I asked Mr. Westman about the red dot — what did he believe that it was? He stated that, originally, he and Mrs. Westman believed that it was a cigarette. Later, “a family member” of Maura’s “told” him that it was not a cigarette and that, instead, it was a cellphone charger.

I asked Mr. Westman why he and Mrs. Westman stopped watching the site. He stated that Mrs. Westman remained in the kitchen until the cruiser arrived, but acknowledged that she had not made it a point to watch the scene the entire time. He believes, however, that Mrs. Westman would have seen Maura traveling west had she done so.

Does any of this information alter your perceptions of the case? If so, how?

Lost and Found in the White Mountains

I read this today, and thought it worth reblogging.

Great Northern Ink Spot

(This story was written in May 2004 and published in the New Hampshire Sunday News.)

Image A Blackhawk helicopter in a search of Waterville Valley.

If nowhere is a place where no one has trod for decades, then Mount Kancamagus is in the middle of it.

A hiker found himself there last week on what the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide describes as a “trail-less mass of round, wooded ridges” and where he stumbled upon human remains.

Several law enforcement officials returned with the man the next day to retrieve them and earlier this week, dental records confirmed that they were those of Steven Romines, a Massachusetts man who went missing almost 20 years ago, in October of 1984. Investigators say initial reports had indicated that he was “distraught” at the time and while no cause of death was determined, it is likely that he committed suicide.

“From where…

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Perspective

By Tyler from Pittsburgh

Yesterday we had an opportunity to speak with blogger John Allore.

Tragically, John’s sister was murdered in 1978 in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. The unanswered questions surrounding the fate of his sister inspired John to start a crime blog in 2002. Over the years John has searched for answers for his sister, Theresa, as well as for other murdered and missing women — including Maura Murray.

John began covering Maura’s story shortly after she disappeared in 2004. As someone who had extensive experience investigating the unknown fate of a loved one, he reached out to the families of both Maura as well as Brianna Maitland.

“I was doing an investigation on my sister’s case,” he says, “from that I started to get pulled into these things more and more.”

John has corresponded with Helena Murray, among others. He even briefly exchanged emails with Maura’s father, Fred Murray, whom he put in contact with Canadian authorities.

Presently, John is surprised that so much interest has arisen with regards to the possibility that Maura may be in the province of Quebec.

“It was shocking to me to see that they had posted ‘have you seen this woman’ posters in the Eastern Township newspapers in Sherbrooke.”

He’s right. From our perspective, there is a lack of evidence that suggests Maura fled the country. That’s not to say turning over every stone isn’t valuable, but John told us a tale of what can happen when too much hype is focused on a single theory.

“I think it was the summer of 2005, someone put me in contact with Dateline NBC,” he recalled, “In the course of these conversations we were also talking about Maura and we were talking about Brianna. And the producer at Dateline was pushing us… To go on record as saying we think there is a link between Theresa’s murder and Brianna and Maura — we wouldn’t do it because there was no factual basis for it. So the segment didn’t air.”

That’s an extremely unfortunate situation. Who knows how much help a nationally televised segment could have provided any of the three disappearances. It’s an ugly snapshot of the free-falling quality of the news media.

“It’s like what’s happening in Malaysia right now,” John said, referencing missing Malaysian airliner Flight 370, “No one knows anything so they fabricate everything based on absolutely no evidence… Over time they [the media] start operating in their own interests. They were suggesting she [Theresa] was a runaway, she was a drug addict, she was a lesbian… My parents got so fed up with it that they began to worry about how it would affect me and my brother who were 13 and 17… So they just shut down and stopped talking to anyone.”

John’s perspective is a valuable one. It’s easy to view a situation from the outside looking in and make assumptions. Answers to questions that we often decide are complex are likely very simple. In the case of Fred Murray, it’s not hard to understand why after ten years of attention, he may simply feel the media does more harm than good in some cases.

Whatever you ultimately believe, don’t rule out the most simple explanations; explanations which have very solid evidence to back them up. It’s always fun to delve into the most exciting of theories. But there is a very strong possibility Maura rests somewhere not far from that bend in the road on Route 112 — just as John’s sister, Theresa, was eventually found less than a mile from where she disappeared.

Please visit John Allore’s blog at theresaallore.com

How I Think it Happened

By Tyler from Pittsburgh

– February 6, 2004.

Maura Murray felt helpless. Her eating disorder was out of control, she had been committing petty crimes and her relationship with her longtime boyfriend was in shambles due to infidelity by both parties. To top it all off, her latest local flame had just dumped her. Her life was falling apart. At her job as desk security at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she sat quiet; reflective. Maura began to break down. By the time her supervisor walked in, she was having a full-on panic attack. After mumbling an excuse as to why she had her cell phone with her against work regulations, Maura was relieved of her duties and escorted to her dorm room.

– February 7, 2004.

Maura’s father is in town for a visit. They spend time with each other and go shopping for a car. Maura picks out a vehicle she likes and her father agrees to the purchase. However, the price tag is a little more than he anticipated and they agree he will return to Amherst to buy the car at a later date.

– February 8, 2004.

Maura is feeling uncomfortable at a gathering of friends. It’s early in the morning, she isn’t in the mood to party and feels as if she may break down again. Her father had let her borrow his Toyota Corolla because Maura’s Saturn was in poor shape. Such bad shape in fact that she had recently shoved a rag deep into the tailpipe in order to prevent the vehicle from spewing smoke. As it were, her father felt safer letting her drive his car around for the weekend.

She attempts to excuse herself from the party several times explaining that she should return her father’s car. Her friends tell her it would be silly do so at such an hour. Eventually, Maura departs the group under the pretense that she will retire to her dorm room. In reality – she intends to follow through with her plan to drive to the hotel. Maura had been spending nights at her now ex-beau’s place since returning to school from winter break. And with her dorm still nearly entirely unpacked, dad’s hotel room is an inviting alternative.

It’s a short drive to the Quality Inn, but Maura is tired. She falls asleep; jolted awake just as the Corolla makes impact with a guard rail. The car is towed, and despite the possibility of alcohol in her system, the officer doesn’t arrest her. She appears to be a nice young girl who simply made a mistake. Maura is dropped off at her father’s hotel and spends the remainder of the morning there.

– February 9, 2004.

Throughout the day Maura spends time researching information on lodging in Vermont and New Hampshire. She tends to some personal calls and prints out directions to Burlington, Vermont. She feels like she needs to get away from it all for a while. Maura fabricates an excuse that will explain her absence in an email to professors. The trip up north will be a heavenly retreat from all the built-up stress which has climaxed in Amherst.

Maura embarks for Vermont. She stops at an ATM for some cash and purchases liquor — plenty of it. She’s enjoying the drive. Impulsively, she decides to take a detour towards an area she has always loved to visit — the White Mountains of New Hampshire; just for fun. She is driving well above the speed limit and drinking. Before she can realize the cause, she spins out, coming to rest facing the wrong direction in the wrong lane. Another accident. She can’t believe she has wrecked AGAIN. The weathered barn curve had come up on her so abruptly.

She fumbles around with her phone. Her boyfriend’s family had given her a AAA membership for Christmas. That will come in handy. Suddenly, Maura realizes that she has open alcohol in the vehicle. She knows what getting a DUI will mean for her future. She hurries out of the car and begins dumping the alcohol.

A bus pulls up. The driver asks if he can be of any assistance and mentions calling the police. Maura thanks him, but deceptively explains that she has already dialed AAA and sends him on his way. The bus driver continues to his residence just a short distance down the road. He parks his bus in an unusual manner in an attempt to get a better viewpoint of the accident. He informs his wife of the situation then returns to the bus. Nearby, several of his neighbors are also paying attention to the crash.

Maura makes quick work of the opened alcohol and tries to call AAA. No service. She walks around the Saturn in an attempt to get a signal. Nothing. She retrieves her backpack and puts the rest of the liquor and some other items inside, then begins walking towards the driveway where the bus driver had pulled in — she was going to need his help after all.

As Maura makes her way towards the man’s house, a vehicle rolls up next to her. She speaks with the stranger in the driver’s seat through his window and accepts his offer of a ride into town. It’s a godsend. She can handle the car tomorrow; after the buzz has worn off. Thanking him, Maura opens the passenger door and climbs inside — never to be seen again.

Police eventually obtain valuable information from local witnesses. Some of whom are instructed not to share their observations with the public.

– March 19, 2014.

Authorities believe foul play was involved in Maura Murray’s disappearance. But ten years later — she has not been located and no charges have been filed.

The Internet WILL Find Maura Murray

not without peril

The old blog was deleted shortly after Bill Jensen’s excellent article was published. Right now we’ve just started rebuilding; and your contributions will help.

First of all: Thanks, Bill, for writing such an accurate and informative piece.

I found three portions of the article particularly noteworthy.

1. “Maura’s 1996 Saturn … was ‘smoking something fierce,’ according to Fred Murray.’I said, “You can’t drive this car. The cops will pull you over in a heartbeat,”‘ he recalls. As a temporary fix, Fred says he suggested she put a rag inside the tailpipe to hide the smoke. He says he withdrew $4,000 over the course of eight ATM transactions and that on that Saturday he took Maura to purchase a car in Northampton. They ended up a couple of thousand dollars short, though, so Fred figured he’d go home, round up some more money, and come back another time.”

Fred’s recollection reinforces a portion of my theory from the blog: “On Saturday, Fred came to visit Maura as he had done in the past. He wanted to have a few drinks with his daughter, but he didn’t want her driving back to the dorm in her car. If Maura drove the Saturn back to campus, he thought, she would be practically begging for a DUI.[The police would] take one look at the car –— smoke coming from the tailpipe, a student sticker on the window — and she’d be done for. He insisted that Maura drive his car, instead.”

2. The article describes the items found in the Saturn. Significantly, it mentions “a MapQuest printout of directions to Burlington, Vermont” — there is no mention of the directions to Stowe reported by Maribeth Conway. This was one of the details that, admittedly, I obsessed over. See Jensen’s article (“[The items found in the car] would be obsessed over for the next decade”)

As reported on the blog, I contacted Helena Dwyer Murray. She recalled there being a single set of directions: to Burlington. I emphasized, to Jensen, the importance of addressing this detail. He said that he had contacted Maribeth Conway, that he hoped to speak with her and that he would ask her about the Stowe directions. It’s unclear whether he spoke with her. In any event, I am satisfied that Jensen investigated the issue and concluded that there was a single set of directions: to Burlington.

3. Jensen’s description of the Saturn accident does not appear to be consistent with James’ theory. Instead, it is somewhat ambiguous. Jensen wrote: “[Maura] took a shaky turn and crashed into a snow bank.”

I find this noteworthy because, in the past, I have disagreed with James Renner’s theory of the accident.

I hope that you will share your thoughts.