The following is my transcription of the interview with Todd Bogardus from Episode 5 of Oxygen’s “The Disappearance of Maura Murray”. This post contains no additional analysis. (I am currently studying the ground search so this is a very important piece of that analysis).
Interview with Todd Bogardus from Oxygen’s The Disappearance of Maura Murray (Season 1, Episode 5, “Something Bad Happened”) – starts at 12:18
(MF: If Maura was so intoxicated she became disoriented in the woods and died is it possible the multiple search parties missed her?)
(MF: Art and I are meeting with Todd Bogardus at the crash site to find out. A 24 year veteran with NH Fish and Game he was the supervisor in charge of the official search for Maura which commenced a day and a half after she vanished)
MF: How many search and rescue missions have you done?
TB: I’d say I’ve been participating and managing in the hundreds
MF: how many of those are still outstanding missing people?
TB: there are still 2 that are unfounded
MF: and Maura is one of them?
TB: she is
AR: what was your initial involvement in the search?
TB: … the law enforcement – they had done most of the cursory searching that evening as well as the next day
(MF: Todd’s team was brought in 36 hours after the crash on a clear cold morning)
TB: we had about a foot and a half two feet of snow there was a very thin crust on the top but if you or I were to walk off this road into the snow we would very easily leave a footprint
(MF: because the temperature remained steady and it didn’t snow again the snow on the ground had not changed since the crash – the search party used this to their advantage)
AR: did you have any helicopters?
TB: we did. we searched the immediate area and we had them tone out and go several miles away from the area. that helicopter is also equipped with a FLIR unit which is forward looking infrared – so had she been out there and giving off any heat signal we would have been able to pick that up. after covering the significant area at least 112 and outlying roads over probably 10 miles distance the end result was we had no human foottracks going into the woodlands off of the roadways that were not either cleared or accounted for. At the end of that day the consensus was she did not leave the roadway
(MF: 10 miles of roadway checked just on that first official search and not a single footprint that could have been Maura’s)
(MF: in case they missed something a second search was organized 10 days after the crash to inspect the woods – this time with three cadaver dogs who were trained specifically to find human remains)
MF: so at that point you could have been looking for a deceased person
TB: yes – those dog teams went into the woodlines and searched (in) different segments on both sides of route 112 within the half mile radius … any time we’re searching we’re looking for people yes but more importantly we’re looking for clues
AR: in clues you mean like clothing or a backpack or a cell phone …
TB: Anything any human object
MF: did you ever find any?
TB: no clues to my knowledge that were directly related to Maura
(MF: Todd’s team went on to conduct 3 more searches one with 7 dog teams. In the end they searched 12 miles of roadway, 1-2 miles into the woods with dogs and even places up to 50 miles away that they knew Maura loved to visit. They never found a single thing related to Maura. With her missing for 6 months the official search was called off.)
MF: we’ve heard from people we’ve interviewed that it’s hard to find a body in these woods because they are so thick. Do you agree with that?
TB: I do agree it’s hard but I can tell you I’m not a big believer in people levitating and going long distances. So she had to have left the track for us if she went into the woodlands. I’m fairly confident to say she did not go into the woods when she left the area
MF: where do you believe she went?
TB: There’s a NH state police bloodhound that was brought in on our first day of searching. That dog did run a track off the crash site. He actually did it twice. And each time he ran a track from the crash site it ended at the intersection of Bradley Hill Road which is just within sight of the crash site. It’s possible she may have been picked up by a vehicle there.
I previously wrote my “top 10 misconceptions” about the red truck which focused on overall timeline in relation to Maura’s disappearance. However, there seems to be a great deal of interest in identifying the truck, so this is my attempt to look further into the truck and its characteristics. My friend “fulkstop” has been focused on this aspect so in many cases I defer to his research.
I will add that I am “agnostic” about the importance of the red truck. I tend to doubt that the people in the truck were searching for Maura or had anything to do with her disappearance. I do think the testimony gives us important insights about the timetable. That said, I do think it would be helpful to find the truck if possible in case they noted anything unusual that night – and to eliminate one ongoing uncertainty in the case.
RO’s DESCRIPTION OF THE TRUCK AND ITS FEATURES
I have previously discussed the issue of the Massachusetts plate. To reiterate, she was extremely consistent about the state on the plate with a single exception from 2007 where she indicates that the police told her she might be wrong.
All of these are verbatim from RO. Although there might be other attributions in the community, I am staying with those I can attribute directly to RO.
THE FRONT OF THE TRUCK
The following collages expand the years in both directions to illustrate truck design from 1970-1989 for Chevy and Ford
THE TRUCK BED
In other words, RO identified a REPLACED truck bed. The following describes truck bed modifications and reasons for making modifications to a truck bed.
However, RO did not see slats on top of a regular bed. She emphasizes that what she saw most closely resembles the photo shown with the replaced bed and the wood slats.
This post will compile information on the red truck seen by witness robinsonordway (RO) on 2/9/04. It will start with direct quotes from RO, followed by clarifications from RO in 2019. This is background only and does not contain any analysis or commentary.
RO narrative 1 (date unknown)
“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???”
RO narrative 2 (Renner’s blog – April 26, 2013 at 5:39 PM
“The red truck was going in the direction of the accident when it stopped in the middle of the hill in front of my house as I was walking…the lighting was poor there, and I thought to myself that maybe they either 1) thought I needed a ride or 2) that I was someone else. As I approached the stagestop, the truck was in the stagestop parking lot. I could tell there was someone watching me and as I got in the light of the pumps, the red truck pulled away, again, towards the accident. When I went into the store, I asked Wini if some people came in the store just now and she said no and I said well, there was a red truck that stopped in the hill with MA plates and then took off and was in your parking lot as I approached. We both shrugged it off as someone looking for someone else. Twenty minutes or so later, the PD went flying by. I continued to visit with Wini until she closed up at 8 and then started walking home. As I was approaching my driveway – in the middle of the hill again where it was dark – the ambulance went by – going towards 302/10 as if it was leaving the accident scene. It slammed on its brakes when it saw me and pulled into the Bunga Road (which is on the other side of my house). Then a state police officer pulled up and rolled down his window…..I said hello and he said oh, its you…and I said yep, just me…he asked if I had seen anyone else walking and I said no, and he left and the ambulance followed him. At that point I did not know of the accident and in fact, I didn’t hear of it for a couple of days later when Wini called and told me and reminded me of the truck. Her and I spent numerous times looking for this truck to no avail. Now, the reason I was sure it was MA plates is because when it stopped in the hill, I looked at the plate and tried to memorize it (thinking to myself, oh great, I am going to get kidnapped or something). Obviously, a few days later the only thing I could remember was the MA plates. Hope this helps clarify things for you. Whether it had anything to do with Maura disappearing, I have no idea. WS Robinson”
New: follow ups from Renner’s blog (after RO posted the statement above she made responses to a few questions – April 28, 2013
Anonymous April 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM No one ever asked me to not discuss the red truck. My memory is that they were normal plates. I did not see if it was a him or her…I know I did state that I thought there was more than one person in the truck.
Anonymous April 28, 2013 at 10:56 PM I have brown hair, I am short, and far from thin..lol 🙂
RO narrative 3 (MM forum 10/12/07)
“I am sorry guys my counts went down and I haven’t felt well enough to get out and get a picture. Let’s see if I can explain it. At first I thought it had a little window and then I saw the truck. It was the body on the truck that had the smaller window if that makes sense. The sides were wood slats. It was not diesel. I would have remembered that for sure. But please remember, I could have been wrong about the plates – according to the pd. You guys really got to see this truck…I will try and find it and take a picture. It was exactly the same, it was incredible. It was definitely a work truck.”
RO narrative 4 (11/13/07) – this does not add much but I am trying to be complete
“Update from 11-13-07 on Pg 421 of New Forum: by RobinsonOrdway who checked with Monahan and reported this to the forum:”
He went to the call only to make sure that the accident did not occur in his jurisdiction, which it did not. He then proceeded down 112 – towards my house – and told HPD that he would look on the way. That is when he saw me and stopped. He was actually on his way to another call for a suicidal boy in Pike.
He does not fill out a statement because it is not required according to Section 106-B:15.
He investigated nothing and saw nothing.
(end of paste).
In 2019, RO responded to questions from reddit user fulkstop
fulkstop: I thought of a way to clarify RO’s report: send her a document with hundreds of red trucks (from a Used Car Site, models no newer than 2004) , number them, and ask her to choose the one that looks most like the truck that she saw. I decided to create a second document with numbered pictures of wooden truck beds, and ask her to do the same, this time looking only at the beds for a match.
The results: RO responded by successfully finding a matching Bed.
And although she couldn’t find a matching truck, she did offer this additional information:
” There was a back window in the truck where I could see the passenger turn around and look at me. I remember it to be oval shaped but I could be wrong. The truck was red. Have no idea the make. Square. Not rounded truck. I noticed it to be Massachusetts plates. “
In response to multiple requests, I asked RO if the truck had an eagle decal. She just responded:
“No I did not see a decal .”
After reading this thread , RO wanted to add some information:
“Just to clarify something. The truck had a wooden body as in wooden sides. Not the whole body. So it wasn’t cut out for the window. “
I want to thank RO, on behalf of all of us, for her willingness to help and enrich our knowledge of her important observations.
i thiink, whatever your theory is about Maura’s disappearance, the red truck is important. At the very least, because RO saw the truck driving in the direction of the crash site, the occupant(s) of the truck are likely witnesses.
Here is some more information that RO just provided:
” From what I recall and mind you this was a while ago, the truck was a regular truck bed with wooden slats. Like we haul firewood in. Or did back then. Please also note that that picture [see above] is the type of body I was recalling. Square. “
” Also for those curious as to why I know it was mass plates is because they stopped in the hill – which freaked me out and I tried to remember the plate # in case something happened to me. Since I was walking alone in the dark. “
” If that night when the state cop stopped me and he had told me someone was missing I probably could have given him the plate number. I still kick myself for forgetting but he never told me what was going on. “
I then said: ” Another thing that has come up; you mentioned a ‘passenger’ in one of your statements and ‘people’ in another. Did it appear that there was more than one person in the truck? “
” Yes. Two people. The passenger looked out that window at me when they stopped in the hill .”
” By the way, I searched weeks for that truck in the local area. Never found anything close. “
I and finn141414 created some additional questions for RO, which I sent to RO and which she answered today. I will set out each question individually, followed by RO’s corresponding answer. Questions are italicized .
A couple of interesting questions have cropped up on the Reddit discussion about the Red Truck. I hope you might take a few moments to weigh in. On your way to the store, other than the red truck, do you recall whether any other cars or people passed by you?
I do not recall anyone else going by me as I went up the hill to the store. It was never that busy on that road that time of year.
You have noted that you were at Swiftwater when the police drove past the store and to the scene. Do you recall whether the police vehicle was using its lights and sirens as it passed by? Do you recall whether it was a sedan or an SUV?
When I was in the store we heard sirens and saw lights from the police and then the ambulance. I did not notice what cop it was or which car.
You have noted that you continued to visit with Wini until she closed up at 8:00 PM. Was it her habit to close up at 8 on the dot, or was she flexible (sometimes closing up earlier or later)? The night Maura disappeared, do you know whether she closed up at 8 (or alternatively, before or after 8)? Did you stick around after the store closed, (for example while she was closing out), or did you leave when the store closed?
Wini usually closed at 8 and it was common that I would stand there while she did that and walked out with her when she locked up which I did that night. I remember we both noted that she had no other customers that night. The people in the truck did not come in the store. She didn’t even notice they were in the driveway when I walked up. They only pulled in there to see me in the light I believe. Hence why it stuck out to me.
Also it was quite common for Wini and I to talk until 8:30 or later sometimes and I do not recall if that was one of those times.
On your way home, other than the state police officer who you spoke with, do you recall whether any other cars or people passed by you?
On my way home which would have been 8:15 or so no one else passed me except the ambulance which pulled over when they saw me. They were in front of the trooper.
Was the ambulance that you saw travelling with the state police officer? I am a bit unclear on that point.
Not when they went up to the scene but when I was walking home the ambulance was traveling down the road in front of the trooper. They had left the scene and was looking for the driver.
Oh, I see. So they were travelling away from the scene together?
After speaking with police about the red truck, did they follow up? Did they seem interested in the tip? Did they ever show you pictures to try to identify the truck?
I spoke to the police on the phone afterwards (a week later) and only because I called them. They didn’t really ask any questions and I can’t remember who I spoke with. They weren’t interested in what I had to say. But neither was Fred when I told him. He dismissed me quite quickly which never set right with me to be honest.
More responses from questions via fulkstop 2019
I hope you are well. One quick question — prior to me, has anyone ever asked you to look at pictures in an attempt to identify the truck that you saw (or any part of the truck?). Thanks, and God Bless.
— Yes. John Smith.
Besides your additional conversation with the police, have you spoken with any other private detectives or amateur sleuths besides John Smith prior to me?
In January 2006, Fred Murray went to the Grafton County Superior Court to obtain the case files relating to Maura’s disappearance. When his request was denied, he appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Although the court also denied his request, they did require the state to explain further about the nature of the evidence in their possession. The following are my “non-expert” observations from reading the documents available from this proceeding as well as listening to available hearings from the NH Supreme Court, and the 107 Degrees Podcast episode 3.
VERY QUICK BACKGROUND ON THE PROCESS
I am not a lawyer so I will try to start with a brief “easy to understand” overview of the process for obtaining information. New Hampshire has a “Right-to-Know” Law (RSA 91-A) that functions in conjunction with the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). All of the FOIA provisions also apply to the New Hampshire law. The New Hampshire law has exemptions that center around personal privacy – in other words you can’t obtain someone’s school records, bank records, and other types of personal/confidential information. Those exemptions alone would not go far in denying Fred’s request for information. However, “FOIA” has a key clause 7A exempting materials that could interfere with an ongoing investigation, specifically:
“… to the extent that production of such law enforcement records or information . . . could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
In the end, Fred’s request was denied partly because it contained some of the personal information exempted by the New Hampshire law. But his request was largely denied due to the FOIA exemption 7A. What does this mean? It means that they argued that it was an ongoing investigation and one that had a “reasonable likelihood” of leading to an enforcement proceeding (“reasonable likelihood” was determined to be the operative legal standard).
RSA 91-A and FOIA:
New Hampshire Right to Know (RSA 91-A) exemptions:
Building on that background on RSA 91-A and FOIA, the following are my “Top 10” surprises or takeaways from reading the materials from the materials obtained through Fred’s legal case aka Frederick J. Murray v Special Investigation Unit of the Division of State Police of the New Hampshire Department of Safety et al.
1. THE MAURA MURRAY CASE FILE IS EXTREMELY LARGE
Maura’s case file appears to be a large one consisting of:
66 law enforcement personnel narratives
106 witness interviews
19 written witness statements
3 transcribed witness interviews
The online community has noted any number of gaps in the State’s investigation. We can either conclude that their investigation has not been thorough OR that we are not understanding the focus of their investigation.
2. THE DOCUMENTS MENTION A GRAND JURY
At this point the notion of a grand jury in this case is fairly well known. Art Roderick has told us that there were at least two grand juries that were “investigative in nature”. However, we first learned of the existence of some form of grand jury process from these documents which state – among other citations: “There are Grand Jury subpoenas that are not public and which would pinpoint the focus of the investigation.”
We know a Grand Jury was held prior to April 2007 due to the record of a hearing on the Fred Murray matter on April 13, 2007 and subpoenas submitted as early as March 15th. We can also reasonably conclude that there was no indictment coming out of any grand jury in this case. Some legal experts have stated that the function of a New Hampshire grand jury is to indict an individual in a criminal proceeding and thus, it seems unusual or improbable that these would be investigative in nature.
3. THE INVESTIGATION IS OVERWHELMINGLY FOCUSED ON NEW HAMPSHIRE
Although this is hardly breaking news, it is worth pointing out that – if we go by the affiliations of the law enforcement personnel – the investigation centered on New Hampshire. In other words, it was not national, it was not international. The investigation only tangentially ventured into other states (this will be covered in the next bullet). For what it’s worth, there is nothing in Oklahoma or Ohio or Canada or Florida or Tennessee – a few jurisdictions that have been discussed. The investigation in Massachusetts seems focused on Amherst/Hadley.
SUMMARY OF LE UNITS INVOLVED BY NUMBER
NHSP 44 (5 of these Major Crimes Unit)
Haverhill PD 9
UMass PD 7
Rochester PD 3
NH Fish and Game 2
Sullivan County DOC 2
Amherst PD 1
Exeter PD 1
Grafton County Sheriff 1
Hadley PD 1
Oxford County ME 1
4. THERE WERE SOME UNUSUAL JURISDICTIONS INVOLVED
Some LE units jump out as unusual although we are able to find explanations in most cases:
Rochester: this is accounted for by a sighting of Maura that “went nowhere”
Oxford County, ME: Oxford County Maine is where Bill went to check the hospital in Norway/Paris but this reference is still not fully understood or explained.
Sullivan County DOC.- there is a nearby Sullivan County in NH; Sullivan County in NY has a prison – but this is unexplained. Edit: confirmed to be the county in NH (site of Goshen, etc.).
5. THE STATE LISTED 20 CATEGORIES OF EVIDENCE
To respond to Fred, the State provided a page with 20 categories of evidence. (See the documents for the full description of each of these categories)
Subpoenas (including search warrants)
Credit card information
Criminal record checks
Narrative reports by investigators
Witness interviews (tapes and transcripts) – 19 written statements; 3 transcribed interviews
Polygraph examinations (4)
Possessed property reports
Policy/dispatch call logs
One-party intercept memoranda
Maps and diagrams
Investigative duty assignment (nothing in this category)
Employment personnel files
6. WHAT IS A ONE-PARTY INTERCEPT MEMORANDUM?
One of the more interesting details in the list of 20 is the “one party intercept memorandum”. We understand that this refers to either the wiretapping of a phone or someone “wearing a wire”. In New Hampshire, wiretapping is governed by RSA 570-A
But what is the “memorandum” noted? We find the answer to the memorandum question with the approval requirement specified in section II(d):
(d) An investigative or law enforcement officer in the ordinary course of the officer’s duties pertaining to the conducting of investigations of organized crime, offenses enumerated in this chapter, solid waste violations under RSA 149-M:9, I and II, or harassing or obscene telephone calls to intercept a telecommunication or oral communication, when such person is a party to the communication or one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception; provided, however, that no such interception shall be made unless the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, or an assistant attorney general designated by the attorney general determines that there exists a reasonable suspicion that evidence of criminal conduct will be derived from such interception. Oral authorization for the interception may be given and a written memorandum of said determination and its basis shall be made within 72 hours thereafter. The memorandum shall be kept on file in the office of the attorney general.
In other words, if a law enforcement officer wants to record someone, they must get prior approval in the form of a memorandum. That said, the memorandum noted in Maura’s case would seem to give LE approval to go forward with recording someone. However, we don’t know if it was executed and we don’t know the target.
7. THE ATTORNEY FOR THE STATE INDICATED THERE WERE SUSPECTS UNDER CURRENT INVESTIGATION
Despite telling us “we can’t rule out that Maura may have left at her own volition” we do learn that there are suspects currently under investigation:
Prosecutor Nancy Smith … “revealing anything about Landry’s investigation, even in general terms, might identify suspects from a small community …” … “The people – the identity of those people is fairly well known.”
Ervin: “Is the investigation into those individuals currently ongoing?”
What can we conclude from this? We might conclude that the investigation into this potential crime is focused on individuals currently (then) living in New Hampshire or in the broad vicinity of the accident site. I am not sure what to make of the “fairly well known” identities. Does this mean that they are known to their community or that they are the names actively discussed? We don’t know.
8. WHAT IS AN “ACTIVE INVESTIGATION”?
The State insisted that the case was an active investigation but provided little clarification as to what that meant. It was noted that there was a detective “monitoring the case each day” and that the records were “actively being used”. They discussed such things as “following up on leads”. To me the investigation sounded less than proactive but as we don’t know the nature and focus of the investigation we can’t draw conclusions.
9. THE PHRASE “WOULD PINPOINT THE FOCUS OF THE INVESTIGATION” IS USED CONSISTENTLY
The documents consistently note that revealing x or y would “pinpoint the focus of the investigation”. Because the phrase is used consistently, each specific usage seems to provide little insight.
10. 75% CHANCE OF WHAT?
Strelzin ultimately quashed Fred’s request by stating that there was a 75% likelihood of a future enforcement proceeding.
Q: You indicated in responding to Attorney Ervin that you could give him a percentage that you have in mind of likelihood. What is that percentage regarding likelihood of this results in a criminal case?
The question becomes: was Strelzin speaking in generalities about the likelihood of bringing “this type of case” to a criminal case or was he speaking specifically about the Maura Murray case?
According to Fred Murray:
“The judge asked the assistant attorney general what was the percentage of bringing charges, and he [Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin] rolls his eyes, looks at the floor and then says, ’75 percent.’ He pulled it out of his back pocket (ass),”
“My question now to the [assistant] AG is, what is 75 percent of nothing? You said 75 percent two years ago. You made that up. Nothing has happened,”
One poster on reddit summed it up as:
75 % chance of eventually having enough information to convict.
As in 75% of the time we get one of these cold cases, it works out.
Parts sold separately.
Some assembly required.
And another explains:
“Strezlin and company were trying to argue in generalities, because quite frankly, they were getting their butts kicked in court. The judges were not buying the reasons that police wouldn’t release the records because they hadn’t established that a crime had taken place by a long shot.
So instead, Strezlin and company turned to prosecutions in general. they brought up other cases (one was like 20 years old where they finally got a conviction) to show the court that since a crime can’t be ruled out in maura’s case, it is possible (no matter how much time passes) that they can still convict. so that is why they shouldn’t release anything to fred.”
I don’t think that it was an abstract number. The preceding question was “What is that percentage regarding likelihood of this results in a criminal case?”. At best Strelzin was playing on the ambiguity of the situation. According to one source, Strelzin bragged outside the courtroom that there was a 75% chance he would be filing charges – then turned his back when a grand jury failed to indict (no body). That’s hearsay but to me it has an air of truth.
A local resident (moniker robinsonordway “RO”) saw a red truck driving south (112-east) around 7PM on February 9, 2004, the night of Maura’s disappearance. After the truck stopped at the Swiftwater Stage Shop, it continued in the direction of the Weathered Barn Corner.
I’ve been researching the red truck for about a year and a half – initially as a project coming out of my facebook group to develop better baselines of key topics. I wanted to add my personal “top 10 misconceptions” I hear about the red truck. In a few cases I have a personal opinion based on my interpretation of the evidence.
My methodology in writing this was to stick with original narratives from RO. Although I did not interview her for this, on December 1, 2019, she signed off on its accuracy. All of the available direct testimony of RO is found at the very end of this piece.
MY PERSONAL LIST OF TOP 10 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE RED TRUCK
Misconception 1: RO was walking a dog
There is a clip floating around the forums in which RO is walking a dog and sees the red truck turn onto either Old Peters Road or Bradley Hill Road. RO was not walking a dog and was over a mile away from the accident site. She would not have had any view of OPR or BHR.
This map illustrates the path RO walked to and from the Swiftwater Stage Shop.
Caption: RO lived at the east corner of Bunga and 112 (0.2 miles North of the Swiftwater Stage Shop – she would travel “east” on 112 to reach the store). It is estimated that it took RO 7-8 minutes to make the walk (uphill, etc.)
This map provides the larger view of the area
Caption: RO home in relation to Maura’s accident site (the distance is approximately 1.1 miles)
Misconception 2: RO was unsure about the state on the license plate
RO has been extremely consistent about the Massachusetts plate – with one exception from 2007 where she states: “I could have been wrong about the plates – according to the pd.” Otherwise she lists the “MA” plate as one of the top characteristics she recalls about the truck.
RO looked carefully at the plate and in fact memorized it. She tells us that if she had been asked about the plate that night, she “probably could have given them the plate number”.
In addition, this image shows a compilation of license plates. Would she really have mistaken a MA plate for a NH temporary plate or any of these other options? I personally don’t believe so. I would urge everyone to walk up to the back of a vehicle and spend 15 seconds trying to take in key details including the license plate. When I do this, I grasp the state instantly.
“I immediately looked at the plate and noticed it was from Massachusetts.”
“That was my first thought about it……..red, MA plates and delivered wood.”
“When I went into the store, I asked Wini if some people came in the store just now and she said no and I said well, there was a red truck that stopped in the hill with MA plates and then took off and was in your parking lot as I approached.”
“Now, the reason I was sure it was MA plates is because when it stopped in the hill, I looked at the plate and tried to memorize it (thinking to myself, oh great, I am going to get kidnapped or something). Obviously, a few days later the only thing I could remember was the MA plates. Hope this helps clarify things for you.”
“But please remember, I could have been wrong about the plates – according to the pd.”
“There was a back window in the truck where I could see the passenger turn around and look at me. I remember it to be oval shaped but I could be wrong. The truck was red. Have no idea the make. Square. Not rounded truck. I noticed it to be Massachusetts plates.” (2019)
“Also for those curious as to why I know it was mass plates is because they stopped in the hill – which freaked me out and I tried to remember the plate # in case something happened to me. Since I was walking alone in the dark.” (2019)
“If that night when the state cop stopped me and he had told me someone was missing I probably could have given him the plate number. I still kick myself for forgetting but he never told me what was going on.” (2019)
Misconception 3. The truck was following Maura (timeline)
Many scenarios suggest that the truck was perhaps chasing Maura or picked her up after the crash. Although anything is possible, based on RO’s time parameters, assuming the truck continued on 112, it would have passed the Weathered Barn Corner ahead of the Saturn.
Here is a basic “order of events” timeline (RT: red truck; JM: Monaghan):
Around 7:00 – RO left home (walk estimated at 7-8 minutes)
Next – RT passed RO stopped briefly
Next – RO arrived at the store
Next – RT left store direction of accident
Next – RT would have passed accident scene if continued down 112
Next – RO observed police drive past store on way to accident (20-30 min after arriving)
8:00 Store closed RO left to walk home
8:02+ Ambulance stopped upon seeing RO on Bunga Rd.
Next – JM stopped to talk to RO, left and ambulance followed
This image is my effort to understand when the truck passed (a) the Swiftwater Stage Shop and (b) the Weathered Barn Corner if it continued without stopping or turning off. I conclude that the truck passed the WBC at either 7:18 or 7:12.
Misconception 4. The truck scared RO
This one is tricky. RO tells us flat out “the truck didn’t scare me”. However, she was “freaked out” when the truck stopped “(s)ince I was walking alone in the dark.”
In my opinion her fear was contextual – she recognized that she was walking on a dark road, alone, with no other vehicles passing, and thought of the possibility that something could happen. But I see nothing inherently predatory in the actions of the truck.
“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 thought to myself that maybe they either 1) thought I needed a ride or 2) that I was someone else.”
“Also for those curious as to why I know it was mass plates is because they stopped in the hill – which freaked me out and I tried to remember the plate # in case something happened to me. Since I was walking alone in the dark.” (2019)
Misconception 5. The red truck has been tracked down
In True Crime Addict it is stated that someone tracked down the owner of the truck: “Someone got the license plate number and Graves was able to trace it back to a local man. But nobody ever talked to him.” (Renner, 198). RO did not remember the plate number and so it is unlikely that anyone tracked down the truck based on the license plate number. Fred Murray mentions in an interview that he saw a truck matching the description and followed it but could never speak to the owner(s). It seems that TCA is referring to this truck seen by Fred Murray. As far as I am aware, the red truck seen by RO has never been identified. (Just to preempt any questions, it is my understanding that Fred is talking about the G brothers).
As an aside, Maggie Freleng posted on facebook in 2018 that police were taking the red truck seriously. But RO is clear that they were not particularly interested in her account in 2004.
I will also add that we have at least one account of a red truck pulled over and searched in (I believe) May 2004. In hindsight it is assumed that it was in the context of the official search of the area near the RF sighting which was going on at the same time. So there is some evidence that there was interest in red trucks at some point.
“By the way, I searched weeks for that truck in the local area. Never found anything close.”
“I spoke to the police on the phone afterwards (a week later) and only because I called them. They didn’t really ask any questions and I can’t remember who I spoke with. They weren’t interested in what I had to say. But neither was Fred when I told him. He dismissed me quite quickly which never set right with me to be honest.” (2019)
Misconception 6. The truck was looking for Maura/looking for someone
RO does indicate that the truck seemed to be looking for someone. But she also states that it could have been trying to help her. I value RO’s instincts and impressions and believe that it is possible that the inhabitants of the truck were looking for someone. But there is no evidence that the truck was looking for someone much less looking for Maura. They may have stopped to try to help RO, to ask her for directions, or for some other reason. They might have stopped in the parking lot to use their phone or look at a map. There are other plausible explanations for the actions of the truck that night.
“… the lighting was poor there, and I thought to myself that maybe they either 1) thought I needed a ride or 2) that I was someone else.”
“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.”
Misconception 7. There was a suspicious red truck on Bradley Hill Road
There has been a story that there was a suspicious red truck on Bradley Hill Road. I believe it was said to be parked in a desolate place with nobody in the truck. It was stated that a woman inside a house saw the truck and it was suspicious enough that she called the police. However, the same person who told the online community about this witness later stated “there was no call about a suspicious red truck”. This one seems to be off the table.
Misconception 8. Police were pulling over red trucks all night
There was a brief spurt in the Grafton County log in the early morning hours of 2/10 (4:46AM-6:36AM) in which 4 trucks were pulled over – 2 red, one maroon and one green, in addition to a silver non truck: Each resulted in a citation.
Early morning pull overs (4:46-6:36 AM):
Silver 2001 Ford 2D Mustang
Red Ford PU F250 Red/NH temp reg red/white
Maroon 1998 Ford pu ranger
Green 2002 GMC pu sierra
Red 1996 dodge pickup (defective equipment)
According to a LE representative I consulted: “Is it unusual to stop this many red pickups in a given time? … There are other factors that should be considered. Grafton County is over 1,700 square miles. The population as of 2000 was just over 80,000.” … “having a baseline of some of those stats would put the context of these three stops into sharper focus.”
We have no evidence that anyone reported a suspicious red truck (RO reported her sighting a couple of days later when she heard about Maura’s disappearance). We have no evidence of a BOLO issued for a red truck. And if there were a BOLO issued for a red truck – why a short spurt of stops? Why stop a green truck? Why a silver hatchback? In my opinion, it is somewhat interesting that these trucks were stopped but there is no evidence that police were pulling over red trucks, and certainly not “all night”.
Misconception 9. The red truck circled back
There was recently a story that the truck was seen again at the Swiftwater Stage Shop later. This was quickly debunked. We have no information or evidence that the truck was ever seen again.
Misconception 10. RO mentioned an eagle decal
It has been widely discussed that there was an eagle on the back of the truck. When I pulled together all of RO’s narratives, I quickly realized that she never mentions an eagle. Earlier this year fulkstop asked RO who stated that she “did not see a decal” There are still people in the community who feel certain that RO mentioned an eagle and I want to be respectful. Personally I think that if she had seen something that distinct, it would be in the “top 5” characteristics she remembered. If anyone has evidence that she mentioned that the truck had an eagle/eagle decal, I welcome that information. Edit: thank you to those who suggested the eagle might have been mentioned by Lori Bruno.
“No I did not see a decal .” (2019)
(I have no citations where RO mentions an eagle)
The following post by Weeper (Frank Kelly of the New Hampshire League of Investigators) from June 2006 mentions the eagle and seems to accuse RO of – not sure – changing her story? Here is my response:
RO was not walking a dog
RO was not near the “private road” which we understand to be Old Peters Road. She was also not near anything else known to be referred to as the/a private road.
RO did not speak to Frank Kelly.
It’s possible Frank Kelly spoke to someone else who saw a pickup truck and then at some point assumed it was “robinsonordway”. But honestly – I wrote the post to clear up this sort of thing. If anyone has any information on the “dog walker” or the dog walker who saw a pickup truck with an eagle, I welcome that information. But he is not speaking of the correct witness.
Truck (front/body) identified by RO in 2019 as most closely matching the truck seen in 2004
Truck bed identified by RO in 2019 as most closely resembling the truck seen in 2004
FULL COMPILATION OF DIRECT TESTIMONY AND NARRATIVE BY RO (additions to this are welcome and encouraged; due to issues on reddit we will be creating a new and/or temporary link).
The images below are revised for the ongoing discussion of the linkage between Fred and Maura’s October 2003 trip and Maura’s destination on 2/9/04. Of note is Map 4 showing the trip route, Map 6 adding in additional points of interest and Map 7 showing a trip to the “coordinates” sent to Tim and Lance.
The origin of this post for me was last June 2019 when I wanted to compare the ATM sighting with the contractor’s description and realized that the information we had about the sighting was incorrect. This post will attempt to build on that finding.
On May 6, 2004, The Caledonian Record reported that a man had come forward with a potential sighting of Maura Murray on the night of her disappearance:
“There may be a break in the case involving 21-year-old nursing student Maura Murray who disappeared the night of Feb. 9 after she was involved in a one-car accident on rural Route 112 in Haverhill. New Hampshire State Police Troop F Lt. John Scarinza said a witness has come forward with information he may have seen Murray about four to five miles east of the accident scene. Scarinza said a man, whom he declined to identify, was returning from a construction job in the Franconia area when he spotted a young woman matching Murray’s description hurrying east on Route 112, about an hour after her accident.
We later learned that this construction worker was local resident Rick Forcier who lived at the intersection of 112 and Bradley Hill Road. (Note: his identity is confirmed in the Maribeth Conway article if nowhere else). According to the newspaper he reported the sighting on April 29th, 2004. [In this post I will generally refer to him as CW: construction worker, adapted from topix].
At the time, by all accounts, LE considered this a credible lead:
“Based on the description of what he saw, we believe it may have been Maura,” Scarinza said, referring to the witness seeing a young woman fitting Maura’s description about an hour after the accident. “Based on the place and based on the time, there is a good possibility the person he saw on 112 was Maura.”
To follow up on this lead, a search was conducted on May 8, 2004 involving 15 Fish and Game officers accompanied by 6 dogs (from the New England Canine and the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team). The search was conducted by foot and helicopter “5 miles east of the accident site on Route 112” near the intersection with 116. However, nothing was found.
It seems that the CW then became a key person of interest in Maura’s disappearance. Although we have heard that he had become a person of interest much earlier based on statements he made to LE and the media [that Maura had come to his door], I have been unable to verify that he made these statements. From my own read of the timeline, he came onto the radar of the investigation with this sighting a couple of months later.
However, it seems that the story about CW coming forward with this sighting was more complex than noted. On Topix (Jan 12, 2009) poster “White Wash” provided information on this point:
CW and some neighbors where (sic) talking and he mentioned seeing someone running but wasn’t sure when and then he went to look at the missing poster and call NHSP. In the mean time this person told the Store owner who was in almost daily contact with Fred. It was my understanding Fred immediatedly contacted CW.The EX saw it in the news then she jumped on the ban wagon with the LE/PI’s.
On August 3, 2011, James Renner offered a similar explanation on his blog:
I spoke to Diane and Rusty Cowles, who lived across from Forcier on Bradley Hill and still see him to this day. Forcier explained to them that it was only when he was going over his bills that he pieced together that he had been working in Franconia the night Maura vanished and must have been coming home about a half hour after the accident. He thought back on that night and figured it must have been the same evening he saw what he thought at the time was a teenage boy in a hoodie crossing the road quickly in front of him, near 116, several miles East of the crash site. He wondered if it could have been Maura.
It has traditionally been thought that the construction worker saw a female, wearing a dark coat and light colored hood. Questions were raised about whether this matched the previously unreleased ATM footage. In other words: did this witness have information that had been “held back” by law enforcement? And indeed, when the ATM footage was released we saw Maura was wearing a light jacket – did it possibly have a light hood consistent with the sighting? However, if we look more closely, there is no indication that CW claims to have seen 1) a female; 2) a dark coat or 3) a light hood. In fact, it seems that he described seeing what he thought was a “teenage boy” in a “hoodie”. By other accounts he did not know if it was a male or female but reported he saw “someone”.
The Caledonian Record 5/6/04 calls the sighting “about an hour” after the accident, whereas the Boston Globe 5/7/04 notes “The witness said he saw Murray around 7 p.m. on Feb. 9, around the time she disappeared.” Law enforcement verified his work records. A Topix poster indicated that it was confirmed that he left Franconia at 7PM however, I have no additional confirmation of this time. If we estimate that it is a 27-36 minute drive from Franconia (generalized) to CW house, then this sighting would be around 7:15-25 and he would have arrived home at 7:27-7:36. We can move these time estimates around to look at different scenarios.
We know that CW didn’t see Maura at 7PM or 7:15 or 7:25. He might have seen her at 810PM+ if we believe she was running at high speeds. Or he might have seen her at 8:30-9PM if she was running at slower speeds. But if LE verified that he left Franconia at 7PM and drove at an average rate of speed without stops, then we know he didn’t see her on his way home. And if we believe that he left Franconia at 7PM, there is no reason to think he saw her after 8PM. In other words, he might have seen someone but there is no basis to believe that he actually saw Maura that night.
Many find it odd that he didn’t realize she went missing on Monday 2/9. So the next question: would he have seen lights and vehicles when he returned home? Given everything happening on 112, it would seem that he would have seen all kinds of activity as he pulled into his driveway. But it turns out he parked on Bradley Hill Road – so it’s not clear that he would have seen much of anything. In addition, it wholly depends on the exact time he arrived home. Some moments he might see Maura’s flashers. Other moments he might see police lights. But there are other times when he might see nothing at all. According to one person who is local to the area “I could easily see him going home and noticing nothing at all”. So it begins to seem possible that he could have arrived home without seeing the commotion on the road.
True it is odd that CW didn’t realize that Maura had disappeared on this particular night. It would seem that quite a bit of activity was happening on the street – both that night and in the days to follow. On Wednesday the NHSP ran the sniffer dog and a helicopter was flying overhead. The following week, police set up a blockade to stop cars to see who was coming through on the same day and time as Maura’s accident. But he might be extremely private, busy or whatever the case. We might find many of things a little odd. But none of this rises to the level of making him a suspect in a potential criminal disappearance.
Is there any chance that CW saw Maura that night? I would say that if LE verified that he left work at 7PM it seems impossible that he saw Maura. If he left at, say, 8PM then we might want to reconsider the sighting. The next question: did CW suspiciously come forward a couple of months later to divert attention from his own location? That perception seems wholly incorrect.
Caledonian 5/6/04: “4-5 miles east; young woman “matching Murray’s description” hurrying east on route 112 about an hour after her accident
Boston Globe: 5/7/04: “The motorist, apparently a local contractor who commutes along the route every day, told police he saw the woman turn down a dirt road as he approached, said Laurie Murray” “State Police Lieutenant John Scarinza said the man reported seeing someone fitting Maura Murray’s description along the road in Haverhill, N.H., the Associated Press reported. The spot was 4 or 5 miles from where Murray had a minor car accident that disabled her vehicle just before her disappearance. Police said they will search that area this weekend. The witness said he saw Murray around 7 p.m. on Feb. 9, around the time she disappeared, police told the Murrays.
JR blog per neighbor Cowles: “a teenage boy in a hoodie crossing the road quickly in front of him, near 116, several miles East of the crash site. He wondered if it could have been Maura.”
DOE network: At 8:00 to 8:30 pm, a contractor returning home from Franconia saw a young person moving quickly on foot eastbound on Route 112 about 4 to 5 miles (6 to 8 km) east of where Maura’s vehicle was discovered. He noted that the young person was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood. He didn’t report it to police immediately due to his own confusion of dates, only discovering three months later (when reviewing his work records) that he’d spotted the young person the same night Maura disappeared.
SOCO Article: “..New Hampshire State Police said that Maura was reportedly spotted four miles down the road shortly after her accident. A man reportedly saw Maura between 8 and 8:30 p.m. The person believed to be her was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood.”
MMM podcast 76: “… there was a pretty publicized news story a couple of months after Maura went missing… a new witness came forward .. a young person wearing black jacket light hood moving quickly on foot wearing near the intersection of 116/112 which is 5 miles down the road approximately 30 minutes to an hour after
I have been critical of the initial dog track that was done on Wednesday, February 11th. And although I still believe there is significant reason to question the validity and integrity of that process, in this post I am going to propose: what if it was accurate? I can’t concede that the track was absolute proof of anything, but it’s worth considering the evidence it would give – or negate – if it’s accurate.
On Wednesday, February 11th, 36 hours after the crash, a dog from the New Hampshire State Police was brought in to track Maura’s scent. The track was ultimately run about 39-40 hours after her accident on a “clean clear morning” with no fresh or additional snow since the accident. The wind speed was estimated at between 2 and 4 MPH – considered low (good) for tracking a scent as wind disperses scent particles. On the other hand, running a track after 39-40 hours, on a paved road with cars possibly dispersing the scent, is less than optimal.
The bloodhound ran the track twice. Both times the dog headed east and stopped down the road “within sight of the accident site”. This track has been quoted as being “under 600 feet” “100 yards” and “near Atwood’s driveway”. But on the Oxygen show, Todd Bogardus of the New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife, who was the supervisor in charge of Maura’s search in 2004 noted the dog track ended “at the intersection of Bradley Hill Road”. However, the subsequent illustration done on the show references “Butch’s cabin” and the end of Butch’s driveway.
It has been widely quoted that the dog stopped “in the middle of the road” but on the Oxygen show, Bogardus didn’t specifically state that the dog stopped in the middle of the road. I can only find the reference to the “middle of the road” in the Conway article. Tom Shamshak who worked with the New Hampshire League of Investigators also mentions “middle of the road” in an interview on the 10 year anniversary of Maura’s disappearance.
The NHSP dog was given a scent article – reportedly a leather glove that Maura had been given for Christmas. Fred and others were disappointed in this choice since it was a new glove that Maura may not have even worn. The best scent articles are items that are very “close” to the individual such as sweaty clothes, a toothbrush, shoes, underwear. Therefore, and given that there were many other items in the Saturn, the choice of an unused glove seems unfortunate at best.
Another problem with the scent article: it was reported by at least 2 witnesses that the door to the Saturn was open after police arrived at the scene on February 9th – with at least one witness reporting that police were “searching” the vehicle. This should at minimum give us doubts about the integrity of any article taken from the car.
It has been proposed that the dog was actually tracking Cecil Smith who went over to Butch’s home after arriving at the scene on 2/9. This is another reason it would be helpful to know the exact location where the dog stopped. It would, of course, also be helpful to know if Cecil was in Maura’s car on the evening of 2/9 and may have touched the glove.
On the other hand, the NHSP dog was affirmatively tracking something. The dog was not confused or meandering, did not give vague indicators and repeated the same track both times. John Healy of the New Hampshire League of Investigators (who was not involved in the case at the time of the dog track) notes that the initial track didn’t give us anything probative aside from possibly “… the direction she chose to walk in”. On the other hand, Bogardus the supervisor notes on the Oxygen show “… it’s possible she may have been picked up by a vehicle there”. [We should obtain the full transcript of his interview to determine if this was his ultimate conclusion, or just the clip shown on the show that didn’t represent all of his thoughts on the topic.] In any case, the lead supervisor of Maura’s 2004 search seems to believe it is possible or likely she went off in a vehicle.
Episode 8 of the 107 Degrees podcast featured an interview with Katharine Dolin, an Assistant District Attorney from Missouri. Ms. Dolin has not worked directly on Maura’s case but comments based on her experience: “… if the dog sniff died – which it sounds like – in the middle of the road, from my experience it’s much more likely that that person was put into a vehicle or got into a vehicle.” She notes that if (Maura) had walked to a home or trailer, the dogs would have tracked her there (to her final location) and not just stopped. She concludes “It sounds much more like she was transported from a vehicle from the area“.
This leads to one of the more puzzling aspects: why didn’t Butch see her? At this point we can’t assume he did or didn’t. We don’t know if he was a reliable witness. Some of us assume he was covering up for RF, but I can’t think of any plausible scenarios where RF picked her up in front of his house and drove her 10 feet into his driveway.
It is also important to underline this finding: the dog didn’t track her going up to someone’s door, or hiding behind a tree, or ducking in the woods. This may be one of the more important findings: we can’t simultaneously claim that the dog track lends suspicion to RF when it doesn’t lead up to his door or trailer. We really can’t have it both ways.
I’m skeptical of the initial dog track. I think there are many reasons to call it into question. But if it tells us anything, it seems to tell us that she got into a car. Maybe more importantly it does not support the theory that she walked up to someone’s door – at least not at that intersection.
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.
Thetiming 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?
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
It could further compromise the integrity of the initial dog track which relied upon a scent object from her vehicle
If they were “searching for something” a logical question is – what and why?
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.
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.