A few summers ago we took a family trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. To get there we drove up Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula and then ultimately back down Michigan. There were some favorites: Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Pictured Rocks on the Upper Peninsula, Mackinac heading back to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Sometimes if we get sentimental we google Sheboygan or Grand Marais or Sault Ste Marie or even Kalamazoo – places that are hundreds of miles apart. But the linkage: they are sites on a memorable trip.
In October 2003, Fred and Maura took a trip to climb four “4,000 foot” peaks.
So likewise, I would suggest that if we look at the totality of Maura’s calls and internet searches leading up to her departure on 2/9/04, they seem to closely match the trip taken with her father Fred in October 2003. Specifically, at approximately 4AM on the day of her disappearance (2/9/04), Maura did a computer search for directions and overnight accommodations for Bartlett, NH and Burlington, VT. That afternoon she called two numbers to inquire about lodging: Bartlett, NH (1PM) and Stowe, VT (2:05PM) although neither resulted in a reservation. In her car she had mapquest directions for Burlington, VT which we now understand to be transcribed directions on a note card.
What does this mean? To me it suggests that she didn’t have a specific destination or purpose. In other words, I would conclude that she wasn’t meeting up with someone in Middlebury or Montpelier or Plymouth (examples) – no job interview, no doctor’s appointment. I would suggest that she was thinking of places she remembered or liked from the October trip – just as I might look at hotel rates in Sheboygan along with Sault Ste Marie.
The October 2003 trip could also show us something about her familiarity with some of these areas. According to Julie, Maura and Fred came up 93 from the South Shore (MA) and stayed in Bartlett. They visited in the order 1) Owl’s Head; 2) Mount Mansfield; 3) Camel’s Hump and 4) West Bond – Fred’s 48th 4,000 foot peak. [The blue route is map generated – to follow this sequence they likely went back up 93 after Owl’s Head]. We also learn from a newspaper article that they visited the town of Burlington that weekend: “Murray’s father said he also discovered a note card that mentioned Burlington among many personal belongings she had packed in her car. The two last visited the Northern Vermont city on Columbus Day Weekend when they hiked nearby Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield.” Boston Globe 2/21/04
To add to this, we can include other favorite sites or places of some importance: Mount Tripyramid – a childhood favorite, Mount Washington – said to be her all time favorite – along with Mount Carrigain – the site of the infamous coordinates (covered later), and Mount Madison – the specific place where MacDonald Barr perished from the chapter of Not Without Peril.
So this might tell us something about Maura’s destination and familiarity with the areas. Does any of this give us any plausible leads to find Maura? To start, Burlington has, in effect, been searched:
New Hampshire State Police Lieutenant John Scarinza said yesterday that for several days police have been checking motels and hotels in several Vermont communities. Investigators know of no one Murray might know in the Burlington area, he said.
“Vermont State Police, Burlington police, and other local agencies have canvassed motels in Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester, Shelburne, and surrounding towns to see if she checked in anywhere around,” he said. Boston Glove 2/21/04
The site of the coordinates emailed to Tim and Lance was first searched by two community members 6/30/17 before it was covered again by the Oxygen cast and crew.
The same hiker commented on the four sites from the October 2003 trip:
All of the peaks listed (Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, West Bond, and Owl’s Head) are all on the New England 4000 Footers list, which is probably why they were a destination for her and her father at all. While I have no idea if they were ever searched specifically in relation to Maura’s disappearance, they are extremely popular due to peakbagging and are some of (if not) the most visited wilderness areas in all of New England, despite the remoteness implied by some of these areas. Even Owl’s Head sees multiple peakbaggers every day (I see it in the Facebook groups), and that’s a 20 mile hike. I’m doubting there’s anything in any of these locations myself (being at least familiar with all of NH’s 4000 footers myself and having already gone on a wild goose chase to one of them), but YMMV, as the hikers say. u/BreathingPermafrost
A dog handler who contributes to the reddit sub describes some potential techniques for approaches large scale areas:
Not sure what kind of searches have taken place before but my gut tells me, bring some well trained HR dogs to search these areas. There are so many K9 handlers out there that would do it for free- professional SAR teams are almost always entirely volunteer. We have a passion for this. If someone put a team together I’d come up in a heartbeat. I made the offer to organize some time ago but wasn’t taken up on it.
Most SAR dogs wear a GPS collar. SAR people also carry a GPS. You take a dog to an area, think of the human searchers as words on a page, and dogs as the highlighter around it. We don’t have to go dig around in the woods as much because the dogs are doing for it us. Anyway, all that information from the GPS can be downloaded and tracks are mapped. You can see where the dog went, areas missed, etc. and calculate probability of detection. This is what I’d like to do in these areas.
Besides what most people normally think of HR dogs finding (a decaying corpse), they can find bones. They can find objects that were in contact with decay (although in MM’s case, not sure if too much time has passed), for exp. one of our dogs trains with pieces of a rocking chair someone committed suicide in. u/kristin1441
Do we have to be sure of a theory before we search? As one searcher commented:
I think the needle in a haystack applies to the pros too. It’s been proven before.
There’s a lot of ground and it’s so uneven. There’s also tons of fallen rocks and trees, steep drop-offs, and the rocky river bed.
This amounts to lots of opportnuities for both peril and shelter. Being confident means nothing without results though…