Tag Archives: cold case

Why searchers don’t think Maura ended up lost in the woods. An overview of search efforts in the Maura Murray case

This post will attempt to provide an overview of the searches that have taken place for Maura Murray since she disappeared February 9, 2004.  It will focus on search efforts by land, air, water, and with dog teams — “Search and Rescue/SAR” efforts in contrast to property searches executed by law enforcement or other investigative work.  Just a quick note to say that this was constructed based on documentation I could find or that was given to me. The official search maps from the NHSP are not available.

In summary, the following search operations have taken place:

  • New Hampshire State Police through New Hampshire Fish and Game conducted 5 searches in 2004.
  • The New Hampshire League of Investigators conducted three large searches, the first in 2006.
  • A retired detective and attorney Terry O’Connell assembled a team of investigators. They undertook some searches and specifically used sonar on French Pond.
  • Friends and family searched for the first few weeks after Maura’s disappearance.  A team involving Fred Murray, Rick Graves, and others, searched “every weekend” for the first year and searches continues in various forms to this day.
  • Boots on the Ground has been conducting searches since 2017. This initiative was started by Nancy Cory after attending John Smith’s meeting at the VFW in Littleton February 11, 2017. This is the first time she met Fred Murray.
  • Many other searchers have been going out formally or informally, individually or in teams or groups to search for Maura.

The following are close ups of the above map

SEARCHES FOR MAURA MURRAY

The following will go through each known search for Maura listing date, assets (people, equipment, dog teams), range and findings.

The Night of Maura’s Disappearance 2.9.04

There was a “cursory” search for the driver of the Saturn on the night of Maura’s disappearance 2.9.04.  Lieutenant John Scarinza of the New Hampshire State Police reports that police made a presumption that the driver of the Saturn wanted to avoid contact with the police:  

“… the initial accident investigation led police officers to believe this was simply a case of someone who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident and wished at least initially that night not to have contact with the police.”

Investigation Discovery Disappeared episode “Miles to Nowhere”

There were still some efforts to locate the driver of the Saturn by police (Sergeant Cecil Smith of the Haverhill Police Department), a NHSP officer (the aforementioned Lt. John Monaghan), local neighbors and some members of the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.  In total the foot search that night covered the game trail, Old Peters Road, and up and down both sides of 112 and was conducted for “about an hour” (APN interview). Indeed, the Fire Department arrived at 7:56PM and left at 8:49PM.   [Note: the game trail or gaming trail runs along the Westman’s backfields the length of their property to the Atwood’s property].

According to one person who was part of the search that night

I can only speak for fire and EMS, we did not search past the Bradley Hill Road on that side and not past Atwood’s on that side. That was because there were no footprints at all. We did not search the other direction at all because we had come that way and hadn’t seen anybody despite that BOL. I would say that we looked “for an hour “would be quite an overstatement.

Abby Kennedy – Maura Murray facebook official group 4.7.2020

Resident Butch Atwood took his personal vehicle and drove a loop to Mountain Lakes to the Swiftwater Stage Shop and to French Pond Rd for “about 15 minutes” (it is estimated he left around 7:55PM). Lt. Monaghan arrived at the scene, spoke to Cecil and then drove towards Swiftwater, into Woodsville, and looked at Mountain Lakes then ultimately drove off to attend to other matters.  I estimate that he left the scene around 8:02-6PM although this is up for debate. Cecil Smith was on the scene from his arrival (noted in the dispatch log as 7:46PM) until he was called to another case at Lime Kiln Road at 9:27PM.  During that time he took seven photos including the tire imprints in the snow in addition to other duties such as talking to neighbors and making several calls.

On Tuesday, February 10th after executing a search warrant of the Saturn, police identified Maura as the driver.  After later speaking to Fred Murray as well as Kathleen Murray Maura’s sister, Maura was categorized as a missing person and a search effort was organized.  The large scale search effort began about 36 hours after her disappearance on Wednesday, February 11th. It is also noted that the Westmans walked around their property on Tuesday and did not see any footprints belonging to Maura.

OFFICIAL SEARCHES BY NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE POLICE (FISH AND GAME)

Starting Wednesday, February 11, 2004, the NHSP conducted five official searches for Maura.  The search operation was supervised by Lieutenant Jonas Todd Bogardus (“Todd”) of New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division out of Littleton.  Bogardus served as Team Leader for Fish and Game Law Enforcement’s Advanced Search and Rescue Team.

In total these five searches covered “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.” (Oxygen)  They never found any trace of Maura or any item belonging to her. [See transcript of the Bogardus interview for additional details].

Official Search 1: Wednesday, February 11th

On the morning of Wednesday, February 11th, the NHSP began a search supervised by Todd Bogardus of New Hampshire Fish and Game in conjunction with the Haverhill Police Department.  At this time the Haverhill Police Department was still in charge of Maura’s case.

It is noted that the team was brought in 36 hours after the crash on a “clear cold morning”. The temperature had remained steady since Maura’s disappearance and there was no new snow on the ground.  Bogardus reports on Oxygen there was “about a foot and a half to two feet of snow with a thin crust on the top”. He noted that anyone walking off the road would have easily left a footprint.

The team also used a helicopter equipped with a FLIR unit (forward looking infrared).  They searched the immediate area and “toned out” several miles away from the area. Bogardus notes: “had she been out there and giving off any heat signal we would have been able to pick that up.”

Bogardus indicates they covered the significant area of 112 and outlying roads over probably 10 miles distance.  At the end of that day they had “no human foot tracks going into the woodlands off of the roadways that were not either cleared or accounted for”. Bogardus goes on to say that “at the end of that day the consensus was she did not leave the roadway”.

That same morning, a NHSP bloodhound was brought in to run the track from the Saturn.  The dog was given a glove from the Saturn as the scent article. The dog ran the track twice, both times ending down the road.  Bogardus notes that both times the dog ended “at the intersection of Bradley Hill Road which is just within sight of the crash site”.  (However, it is believed that the track effectively ended in the vicinity of the Atwood residence/see aerial photo). Bogardus notes on Oxygen “It’s possible she may have been picked up by a vehicle there.”  Indeed, according to multiple newspaper accounts, it seems that at the end of the first day of searching, a predominant theory was that Maura left the scene in a vehicle whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

Could Maura have been missed by the helicopter and the additional search efforts on this day?  On the Oxygen episode, Bogardus responds to that question:

Maggie Freleng: 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?

Todd Bogardus: 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

Official Search 2: February 19th (10 days missing)

A second major search was organized 10 days after Maura’s disappearance to inspect the woods. Three canine teams (this time cadaver dogs) were brought in – two from the New England K-9 Search and Rescue Group and one from the New Hampshire State Police.

According to Bogardus, the dog teams went into the woodlines and searched different segments on both sides of route 112 within the half mile radius.

Burlington, Vermont – 2/20/04

Around the same time, police examined Maura’s computer and discovered that she had searched for directions to Burlington on her computer prior to her departure.  On 2.20.04 according to newspaper reports:

“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”.

However, nothing was found and they were not able to identify anyone Maura knew in the Burlington area.

Search activities noted on 4/2/04 (also previous weekend)

On April 2, 2004, Gary E. Lindsley reported. “Although an official air and ground search was declared concluded by New Hampshire Fish and Game and Troop F State Police officials in February, K-9 teams from the Adirondack Rescue Dog Association will resume their search of the Haverhill area this weekend.”

It was noted that one of the dog teams was Marilyn Greene, a team trainer and private investigator, and her K-9, Buddy, from Guilderland, N.Y. We also learn that similar search efforts took place the prior weekend: “This weekend, like last weekend, K-9 teams from the Adirondack Rescue Dog Association will conduct a search of the area surrounding the accident site.”

Official Search 3: May 8 (89 days missing) 

On May 6, 2004, the Caledonian Record reported that a man had come forward with a possible sighting of Maura:

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.

Source: Caledonian Record May 6, 2004 https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=478

[Note: As an aside, Scarinza seems to be inaccurate as we learn that the man did not specify that he saw a woman, much less Maura but simply noted he saw “someone”. Nevertheless, this information did prompt this additional search effort.]

Following this information, a search took place on May 8, 2004 involving about 15 Fish and Game officers and 6 dogs. A helicopter was also used. These teams searched the woods about 5 miles east of the accident site. This site is near the intersection of 116 and 112.

“A dozen people resumed the search yesterday on foot and in a helicopter. Scarinza said that was more than enough manpower to scan the rural terrain. It was likely the last time a search crew will venture into the woods. If Murray had wandered off the road, finding her would be easy because there is about 1½ feet of snow on the ground, Scarinza said. and it has not snowed since Feb. 9.”

https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=418
Image of the intersection of 112 and 116.

An article published in 2007 has the following detail:

May 8, 2004 — Members of New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, New England K-9 Search and Rescue, New Hampshire State Police and Haverhill Police conduct a search in the Haverhill/Landaff/Easton area of Route 112 after a man reported having seen a person matching Maura’s description jogging east on 112 about 45 minutes after the accident and 4 ½ miles east of the crash site. The search extends about 3 1/2 miles east of the reported sighting, to the height of the land at the Wildwood campground and picnic area, and for several miles north around Route 116. No evidence is found. https://mauramurrayevidence.neocities.org/57.html

Official Search 4: May 17th (98 days missing)

I have no information about Search 4 aside from the date captured from the infographic displayed on the Oxygen episode. I have found no information from newspaper reports from this date.

Official Search 5: July 13th (156 days missing)

The fifth and final “official” NHSP/NHFG search took place July 13, 2004 involving nearly 100 people including 60 state troopers, conservation officers, and volunteers from search and rescue organizations. It is noted they conducted “line searches”. This searched involved a one mile radius of where the Saturn was found. It was noted that police were “looking for anything Maura may have left behind, such as the black backpack she was believed to have been carrying when she left the scene.”

Search and Rescue is highly math-based using a concept of Probability of Detection (PoD). The PoD is the likelihood that a person or object would be detected in a given area by a given search technique (or cumulative efforts called the Cumulative PoD). In July 2004 at the end of the line search, Scarinza noted a 90% probability that Maura was not in the half mile radius from the accident site. (I do not know but assume when he stated this, he was speaking of an official PoD as analyzed by the team).

July 13, 2004 — About 90 searchers continue to look for possible clues at and around the accident site in Haverhill. The search, which again includes use of a State Police helicopter, is focused in a 1-mile radius from the accident site. Search areas include parking sites, wooded areas and roadways along Route 112 to the town of Woodstock; and Route 118, from the Junction of Route 112 south to the height of the land at the Woodstock/Warren town line. Investigators do not believe any of the items collected to be relevant. https://mauramurrayevidence.neocities.org/57.html

SEARCHES BY THE NEW HAMPSHIRE LEAGUE OF INVESTIGATORS

The New Hampshire League of Investigators, ten retired police officers and detectives started working on the case in 2006 pro bono. “The team consists of several Investigators from New Hampshire, one from Vermont, two from Massachusetts and one from Maine. Some are retired from law enforcement, some are career private investigators and one is a retired Fire Chief from New Hampshire. All have offered their services pro bono.” 

In total they conducted three large searches.  I only have information on two of these searches in October 2006 and July 2008.

NHLI Search 1 of 3 – 10.21.06-10.22.06

The first NHLI search was a two day search (Saturday and Sunday, October 21 and 22, 2006).   They used dog teams from the Connecticut Canine Search (Al and Marian Beland and their dogs Taz and Tracer) and Dukes County Search and Rescue out of Martha’s Vineyard.   They searched multiple areas in the vicinity of the crash site. The furthest site was Beaver Pond – 12 miles away. Although I have a list of 11 sites, it has been stated that cadaver dog teams were sent to 6 sites (from this list). We have heard separately that cadaver dogs went to the A-frame, French Pond and Old Peters Road so three of the six are effectively known.

We learn from the 2018 Guy Paradee interview that they searched a 5 mile radius from the accident site. Paradee describes how they “took tape, did grids of the whole five mile area we were going to search”.  Each roped off area was assigned a team. Each team consisted of the dog handler and dog, one of (NHLI member who was armed), and each team had a video camera and still camera. (Note: Paradee is describing what is known as a quadrant search).

At the conclusion of the weekend search, Don Nason of the New Hampshire League of Investigators told the media that although the search dogs did have some “hits” during the two-day search, there was nothing significant enough that would warrant being turned over to police. We later learn that they did collect a carpet sample at the A-frame that day that was later tested with no pertinent finding.

NHLI Search July 4-5 (Friday and Saturday) 2008

Note: I only have information about 2 NHLI searches – this is confirmed the 3rd of 3.

In July 2008, volunteers led another two-day search through wooded areas in Haverhill. The group consisted of dog teams and licensed private investigators. I have almost no information about this search. I learned the specific date of this search from Peabody on websleuths:

Her family and friends are so grateful for the professionals who gave up their holiday weekend (July 4th and 5th) for another search.

Additional Details Learned about the NHLI Searches

In 2018, Guy Paradee did an interview under the auspices of the 107 degrees podcast.  He reports that there was a hit by a cadaver dog down Old Peters Road “well within the 5 mile radius of the Saturn’s disappearance”. Guy reports that they found some items at the site of the dog alert and when neither the Haverhill police nor the AG’s office responded, they dug and found some things, notably human clothing and some sort of rubber/latex square.

In Maureen Hancock’s book “A Medium Next Door”, there is an excerpt from the notes of NHLI’s Alan Tate:

Notes by Alan Tate, NHLI

[MH identified] an area about three football fields in length in the woods near the suspect’s house. Three weeks later, we returned with the K–9 teams, support personnel, and investigators. It was July and the weather was sunny and hot. Everyone met and we had our morning briefing. The area was described and the goal like always was to determine if there were human remains’ scent. The mapping was done, segments assigned, and the teams took to the woods. Working through the morning the teams came up blank. Each segment is done twice. One dog will work it, we let the segment sit for a bit, and then another dog will work it. Like pitchers, even dogs have an off day. We need to make sure every segment is worked to the best of each team’s abilities. We make sure to provide plenty of rehab time for the dogs and handlers, as well as videographers and support people. Every team has a video person assigned to it and we record all searches in this way.

That day, lunch was way too quick—sandwiches, lots of water and sports drinks, a few high-protein snacks, and back into the woods. About an hour into the second half of the day, we got word one of the teams’ K-9 had had an indication for human remains’ scent. Just a quick word about these teams. The dogs go through years of training and never stop training. The teams travel the country, so we use the most experienced trainers as well as local training through various volunteer groups, many times in association with police officers or troopers who are trainers for their departments. Each team has a résumé that lists every training class, exercise, and search they have participated in. The dogs are specifically trained to detect human remains’ scent and some of the dogs are further trained to be used in water to detect the scent. These dogs differ from those that follow scent from an article of clothing—the tracking dogs, and those that pick up any live human scent—the air-scent dogs.

As is protocol, we pulled the team that had indication of scent out of the woods and prepared another team to verify. No markings are left at the site to give a visual cue but the handler knows where he or she is going. The second team hit the woods. It took a few minutes to get into the area, and the other teams were now out of the woods and on the road standing by if needed. Word came over the radio, “We have a positive indication.” indication.” We pull the second team out and I discuss our next step.

The team from Connecticut, which we’ve used on many searches, has a dog that works forensic cases. She has a documented find on a piece of bone about 750 years old while on an archaeological dig in Louisiana. It’s believed the bone belonged to persons who traveled from South America to the southern part of the United States by boat. The dog is also on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s call-out list and has documented finds in her home state. She’s a Portuguese water dog and works somewhat differently than many cadaver dogs. The handler and dog went into the woods. I followed behind about twenty feet. From the dog’s body language we knew she had picked up on something. She went to the same area the first two dogs were at and gave us an indication. She didn’t stop there. In ever widening circles she worked the area outward from the indication, attempting to see if she could find a source other than where she was. Further and further out and then, without any additional indication, she went back to the spot and again gave her handler the indication. This dog, known as the closer due to her skills, is telling her handler, “There is human remains’ scent here, I’ve checked the surrounding area, and this is the place, nowhere else.”

We moved the team back and looked at the ground. No mounds, no depressions. Nothing that we could visually determine that had been disturbed. The metal detectors were brought in and five investigators worked out from the spot in different directions. They found a few beer cans, an old wiper blade, and barbed wire but nothing that raised suspicion. The area’s GPS coordinates were taken. It was photographed and videotaped.

We continued with the rest of the segments without any positive results. Three dogs, one of which is one of the best in the country, all had identified an indication of human remains at the scene. No doubt it was there, but was it Laura’s or somebody else’s? Could we have found where she was at one point? One theory is as follows: Laura went missing in early March*.* This part of the country is very cold all winter and the ground is frozen solid. Even the funeral homes do not perform burials until midspring. If Laura was killed and stored, could this be where she spent the winter only to be moved once spring came? Rod put all the video of Maureen onto CDs. We sent the CDs, our report of the day’s search, and our results to the Vermont State Police Major Crimes Unit*.*

We know from speaking with the locals that the State Police came into the area with their forensic team and performed a dig of the site. What they did or didn’t find we don’t know. In most of these cases information flows one way, from the volunteer investigators, like us, and K-9 teams to the police department handling the case. A few weeks after the search, I received a phone call from Rod. The state police had reviewed the tapes and had interviewed him for almost two hours as to their authenticity.

Bodies of Water

In 2019 in an “AMA” (ask me anything) on reddit, Maggie Freleng was asked about searches of water/bodies of water and answered:

Yes, back in the day Terry O’Connell and some of the NHLI searched French Pond with divers and sonar. The ammonoosuc river is actually not really a river, it is incredibly shallow, maybe 1 inch. I was there in the winter, same time Maura went missing, a body would be seen and dogs with GPR went all up and down the road that follows it for 5 miles. They would have smelled a body.

On 5.12.20 on reddit, Bill Rausch addressed the possibility of the river:

FYSA: The River was covered in snow/ice in the days after her disappearance altho you could hear the water running underneath it. We walked Rt 112 on foot heading east and did not see any foot prints in the snow between the rd and river. As someone mentioned, there was a section or two where the river and road were side by side but even there we did not see footprints in the snow or a break/gap in the snow and ice on the river. I hope this helps. Thank you for your interest in Maura and for this discussion.

The work of Terry O’Connell and his experts

At some point, retired detective and defense attorney Terry O’Connell joined the case. He introduces his experience and background on the Oxygen show:

I was a police officer in the town of Sandwich here in Massachusetts retired as a detective and sargeant. On completion of 25 years as a police officer I retired and then I became a defense attorney here in Massachusetts. [I got involved in the Maura Murray case when] I made contact with Fred Murray and asked if I could help him with his case. I started working with a team of experts that work with me – forensic anthropologists, pathologists, behavioral analysis experts.

We read more about his team from the SOCO article in 2011:

O’Connell’s team of investigators includes Anne Marie Myers, director of the Molly Bish Foundation, forensic anthropologist, and member of the Boston medical examiners’ office; Craig Ackley, a retired FBI agent formerly in charge of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit and an expert in criminal behavior; Daniel Parkka, a retired Massachusetts police officer who did a reconstruction of the accident scene; and Carla Meyers, a retired New Hampshire attorney.

A chapter by a forensic anthropologist describes some of the work by this team:

Case Three involves a University of Massachusetts’ nursing student who disappeared while travelling along a remote area of highway in rural New Hampshire, in
February 2004. Maura Murray was driving her car, a black Saturn sedan, when she
was involved in a single-car accident. The car was found up against a snow bank
along route 112, pointing west on the eastbound side of the road; the windshield was
cracked. When the police responded to the 911 call, the car was locked and Maura
was gone. They found her vehicle with minor damage, and there were no footprints
leading away from the car. The last person to see Maura was a man who stopped his
school bus to see if she needed assistance. He lived across the street from the accident scene and was observed by the neighbor who had made the 911 call. The initial
police response engaged the bus driver in the search. In a statement he made to the
police, he recounts searching for her along French Pond, an area over 2 miles from
the crash site. After searching yielded no results, the police classified this as a potential suicide. A week passed and the Murray family compelled local police to initiate a search along the road in both directions away from the crash site. The search yielded negative results. The family desperate for answers, engaged a private investigator to look into the disappearance.

Contrary to the police theory of the crime, the private investigator developed a
scenario that postulated that the bus driver was the most likely suspect. The private
investigator reached out to Forensic Archaeology Recovery to see if we would be
interested in assisting to locate Maura Murray. Utilizing the information provided in
the police report which highlighted the bus driver’s behavior, we chose to search in
and around French Pond where the bus driver had an icehouse in the winter months.
The scenario we moved forward to ground truth was that Maura was placed in the
icehouse and that the body found its way to the bottom of the pond.
In 2010, FAR archaeologists and volunteers made an effort to systematically
search the area around the pond and the pond itself. Working in cooperation with the
Murray family and local NH police, the perimeter of the pond was surveyed using
probes. With the help of the Quincy, Massachusetts Police dive team, the entire
pond was surveyed using side scan sonar (Fig. 8.19). There were a series of anomalies, three in total, that were observed at the bottom of the pond. The divers were
able to more clearly define the targets using ROV robotic cameras (Fig. 8.20). Due
to the poor visibility underwater, the divers were put in the water to explore the
anomalies (Fig. 8.21). The divers determined that the anomalies were natural features and not human remains. This area was ruled out and our team moved on to
explore other scenarios.

Mires, A. M. (2019). The Use of Forensic Archaeology in Missing Person Cases. Forensic Archaeology, 111–141. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-03291-3_8  sci-hub.tw/10.1007/978-3-030-03291-3_8

Fred Murray Team

In the first few weeks after Maura’s disappearance, friends and family came to the area to search, including driving around the area, checking motels, handing out flyers, and plastering posters in key places. In total they distributed 1500 posters over New Hampshire and Vermont and up to Maine. They drove eastbound on the 112 to North Woodstock and Lincoln, across the Kancamagus Highway to Bartlett and Conway and others drove as far as Maine near the Canadian border.

After about 3 weeks, Fred continued the search with a group of key volunteers, many with expertise in search and rescue. This is discussed in the Missing Maura Murray interview with Rick Graves which describes how Fred Murray and searchers came up “every weekend for the first year”. They did a circle, moving out (this describes a spiral search). Rick Graves estimates they searched a 15-20 mile perimeter around the crash site. He says it was a team of 4-6. He notes that some distant cousins and relatives who would come out to support them. Graves notes they “beat the hell out of those woods” and mentions gravel pits, etc. One weekend the Maitlands (parents of Brianna Maitland who is still missing from Vermont) joined Fred and the search team.

The following describe some of Fred’s search efforts for Maura which have continued consistently since her disappearance:

Almost every weekend since Feb. 9, he has made the eight-hour round-trip drive from his home in Weymouth, Mass., to the Woodsville section of Haverhill. He searches the vast forest or knocks on doors and questions neighbors who might have seen something. He also hands out fliers with Maura’s picture.

Since February night, Murray has been searching for his daughter, crawling through every bridge and culvert, pressing the police, checking bus stations and asking bus drivers if they saw his daughter. He has checked topographical maps to identify where a vehicle might have gone, checked with neighbors as to what was accessible, and searched.

During the winter, he searched the snow for footprints. The snow is gone now, so he searches the woods alongside the road. He even climbs through culverts under the road, head down, looking for any clue.

He even searched the Kancamagus Highway — one of her favorite places about 25 miles away — should she have contemplated suicide, though he is quick to point out, “I don’t think she did.”

Bill Rausch comments on the search

Starting May 2020, Bill Rausch started sharing some thoughts on reddit and facebook. I am going to compile his comments on the search here. I am not going to include the questions because in most cases they are obvious.

Surprised folks don’t know more details about the actual search. We hit darn near every business in NH with a flyer. From VT to ME and Canada down to MA. In fact, we were going through flyers so quickly, a printing press co. in OH cranked out an additional 5k and overnighted them to us in NH – the local office store in NH couldn’t keep pace with flyer production. Heck, one big reason (there were many) the McDonald’s came up to help was bc we wanted more boots on the ground to intensify our search.

FYSA: The River was covered in snow/ice in the days after her disappearance altho you could hear the water running underneath it. We walked Rt 112 on foot heading east and did not see any foot prints in the snow between the rd and river. As someone mentioned, there was a section or two where the river and road were side by side but even there we did not see footprints in the snow or a break/gap in the snow and ice on the river. I hope this helps. Thank you for your interest in Maura and for this discussion.

I’m not a footprints expert but I know the snow was untouched almost the entire way east on the sides of the road and the snow was deep. When we would stop one day and return the next we could see where we searched/walked the day(s) before. I hope that answers your question.

We walked most of the ~20 mi between the accident site and Lincoln. Thank you for asking.

A Discussion of Maps and Mapping

I am not aware of any search maps available outside of law enforcement of a scale to be useful for any in-depth understanding of the searches. We know that NHSP (Fish & Game) has search maps. We know that NHLI has search maps that have been shared by LE.

One current focus of SAR is using tools such as GIS and Google Earth to coordinate between professionals and community to drop GPS points to flesh out a full search map. I’ll try to discuss methods for mapping, using probability techniques in searches, as well as new technologies that may exist in a future write up.

Sources:

Relevant Posts on this site:

Bogardus transcript from the Oxygen Show
https://notwithoutperil.com/2020/01/04/search-for-maura-murray-transcription-of-the-oxygen-interview-with-todd-bogardus-of-new-hampshire-fish-and-game-who-supervised-the-official-search-for-maura-in-2004/

Analysis of the RF Sighting
https://notwithoutperil.com/2019/07/14/is-there-any-credibility-to-the-sighting-reported-a-couple-of-months-later/

Initial Dog Track
https://notwithoutperil.com/2019/07/08/what-if-the-initial-dog-track-was-accurate-after-all/

Newspaper Articles & news videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRbrTfKJFxk
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=390
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=392
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=394
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=398
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=395
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=405
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=408
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=415
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=416
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=417
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=421
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=423
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=420
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5L2BPg8IWg
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https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=467
https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/police-have-new-lead-in-maura-murray-case/article_677914a8-8916-505f-8f66-a3a9331a1154.html
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=521
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URpHslFW4XQ
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https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/k–teams-search-for-student-who-disappeared-in/article_2850ae5a-27ed-5e18-bf6c-290856339b05.html
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=644
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https://www.patriotledger.com/x1009933237
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https://sci-hub.tw/10.1007/978-3-030-03291-3_8

My personal “Top 10 Misconceptions” about the Red Truck in the Maura Murray case

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.

RO citations:

“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.

RO citations:

“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.

RO citations:

“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.

RO citations:

“… 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.

RO citations:

“No I did not see a decal .” (2019)

(I have no citations where RO mentions an eagle)

ADDENDUM

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:

  1. RO was not walking a dog
  2. 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.
  3. 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).