Monthly Archives: June 2019

Were police in the Saturn the night of Maura’s disappearance?

In an article published in the SOCO Magazine in April 2011 “What Happened to Maura Murray?” local resident Susan Champy reports driving by the accident scene the night of Maura’s disappearance and seeing the door of the Saturn open:

When she drove by, Champy remembered noticing that police officers had one of the doors of Maura’s car open. She recalled reading in the newspaper afterward that they’d obtained a search warrant the next day to search the vehicle, which made her wonder whether they should have had the door open without first getting a search warrant.

In 2018-2019, Erinn Larkin interviewed Champy again and she reiterated that the door was open and police were “searching through the car” and “searching for something”. (See the 107 Degrees podcast: Episode 16 – “Witness B” and a New Lead in the Case).

At least one additional witness, separately, also reports that the door was open. In episode 26 of the Missing Maura Murray podcast, Tim and Lance read an email from (now called) witnesses C:

Myself, my friend and my cousin drove by Maura’s car that night she went missing. I can tell you the car was on the wrong side of the road facing the wrong direction. I didn’t see anyone in or near the car I didn’t see any lights either. I can’t recall the exact time but I was driving to the jail to leave money for a friend. I don’t think they keep a record like that this long but I had to sign in the money. I wasn’t there that long as I do know it was past visiting hours so I would say I was there maybe 10 minutes. After I left I went back the same way I came and stopped at the Rite Aid maybe there 5 minutes and headed back to Lincoln. On my way back I saw a cop car not 100% sure if it was a sedan or SUV, fire truck and an ambulance.

In a reddit discussion, this clarification was added:

This just in: One of the followers of the case told me that there was disagreement among those witnesses and “it was determined that the ambulance and fire trucks were NOT at the scene when they drove by. Only the police sedan. ( Witness C ) was mistaken. Her passenger said she also remembered seeing The Saturn’s door open when they went by.

The timing of this second pass by witnesses C is unknown as it would have to be either very early (before fire and ambulance arrived at 7:56) or much later after these emergency vehicles left at 8:49PM. We can revisit the timing of this later – for the purposes of this post the interesting fact is that it reiterates Susan Champy’s assertion that the car door was open.

In the police report Cecil Smith notes: ” .. the vehicle was locked and there was no one in the area”. and “A later search of the vehicle indicated the driver was Maura Murray”.

In his Oxygen interview Cecil Smith notes again that the vehicle was locked when he arrived. and when asked directly by Maggie Freleng if he opened the vehicle he answers:

Maggie: Did you ever get the car doors of that vehicle open that night?

Cecil Smith: I did not, no.

I tend to believe these witnesses who saw a car door open in part because there were at least two, separately, describing the same thing. (The accuracy of the first BOL could also support the theory that the car was opened although that discussion is beyond the scope of this post). It may be that Cecil himself didn’t open or search the vehicle as he says “I did not, no.”. It could have been related to the tow truck although Susan Champy apparently tells Erinn Larkin that “police” were searching the vehicle.

The issue here is not whether or not they had the legal ability to open or search the vehicle. I believe it is likely that they could have opened the vehicle as one person states: “… the police do not need permission to search an abandoned vehicle and a crashed vehicle sitting alongside a state highway with no driver is considered abandoned.” (source: facebook Maura Murray official group). Rather, the issue is the discrepancy here. In any case, when police talked to Fred the next day, they requested his permission to open/search the car, further suggesting they perceived that they needed permission and certainly inferring that they hadn’t opened/searched previously.

What are the implications of such a search the evening of 2/9 if it happened?

  1. It could explain the accuracy of the first BOL put out 2/9 at 7:54PM accurately describing the missing person as a 5’7″ female
  2. It could further compromise the integrity of the initial dog track which relied upon a scent object from her vehicle
  3. If they were “searching for something” a logical question is – what and why?
  4. It seems to be a case where someone is not telling the full truth.

​In conclusion, I think they opened her car, searched it, and then later said they didn’t.

What is the linkage between the October 2003 trip and Maura’s February 2004 destination?

In October 2003, Maura and Fred took a trip to four sites: Mt. Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, Owl’s Head, and West Bond. Two of these are near Stowe, VT and two are in the White Mountains. These sites link very closely to Maura’s web searches and phone calls prior to leaving Amherst. Last year I created a series of maps to lay out these linkages.

Without drawing too many conclusions, I wanted to note the following:

– Maura was looking at effectively two areas: Stowe/Burlington and The White Mountains. These “areas” are 135 miles apart.

– Maura had a map to Burlington, VT and a note card mentioning Burlington, VT (leading to or mentioning the Winooski VT exit 15 off of I-89) However, at some point she would have bypassed the exit to Burlington (Exit 108 near Lebanon) and continued north on I-91 (unless she went up 93, etc.). In any case, at least that night, she seemed to have made a choice to head to the White Mountains rather than Stowe/Burlington.

– She could have been choosing a single destination or she could have been planning a multi-stop trip. Or she could have had no destination or a “type” of destination. [I personally think the party or meet up theory is less likely given that she was calling places so far apart.]

– My own thought it that, these four locations would be worthy of further look.  My additional thought is that the map provides a powerful visual with the linkage to the prior trip – although I would stop short of drawing any conclusions about her psychology. I would say it indicates a lack of firm destination, and a very clear linkage to her prior trip.

– What do others see when they look at these maps? What would be next steps in looking into these locations?

Map : Larger map showing all calls, web searches, combined with the October 2003 trip

Map: More general route map

Thank you to Clint Harting for spurring my thinking on this and for many others who added to excellent discussions on Reddit.