After I had filed the first motion, however, Erinn Larkin contacted me and offered her assistance for the next stage of my suit.
Well, I took Erinn up on her generous offer.
Today, I filed a “Motion for Reconsideration” – it’s just what it sounds like it is. I basically asked the judge to reconsider denying me the photos. So I had to give him some better reasons to give me the photos, and that’s where Erinn comes in.
Erinn’s affidavit, which is a written statement that’s signed under the penalties of perjury, provides evidence that I want the judge to look at while reconsidering whether I should have the photos.
In the text of the affidavit itself (i.e., without the Exhibits), Erinn relates an anonymous source’s description of the ACTUAL PHOTOS – this source saw the photos, took notes, and related the info to Erinn.
Then there are the exhibits to the affidavit – documents that Erinn attached to it.
The exhibits include:
Never before seen pictures of the Saturn, including pictures taken inside the Saturn, that were included in the Black Box Report, which Erinn did a two-part podcast on, as well as some interesting text from the report describing the pictures. That’s in Exhibit A to her Affidavit.
The actual false tip emailed to the Cold Case Unit and the Murray family this summer. This false tip included a fake confession that was apparently made using photoshop. The judge denied me the photos partly because he was afraid that after the photos were released to the public, someone could change them using photoshop to make more false tips. That’s in Exhibit B to her Affidavit.
I just want to note that I personally have not drawn any conclusions – good or bad –about police conduct in Maura’s case in light of Erinn’s Affidavit.
I have never EVER theorized that Cecil Smith had anything to do with Maura’s disappearance, and even in light of Erinn’s affidavit that is not a conclusion I draw.
Having said that, I trust that the information Erinn provided is accurate and, although I don’t know the identity of her confidential source, I know that because Erinn says the source is trustworthy, the source is trustworthy. Period.
Thanks for your indispensable help on this Erinn.
I look forward to the discussion that will come from this.
Due to to confusion, I have been asked to emphasize that the “false tip [that] included a fake confession” referenced above was fake.
A few summers ago we took a family trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. To get there we drove up Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula and then ultimately back down Michigan. There were some favorites: Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Pictured Rocks on the Upper Peninsula, Mackinac heading back to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Sometimes if we get sentimental we google Sheboygan or Grand Marais or Sault Ste Marie or even Kalamazoo – places that are hundreds of miles apart. But the linkage: they are sites on a memorable trip.
In October 2003, Fred and Maura took a trip to climb four “4,000 foot” peaks.
So likewise, I would suggest that if we look at the totality of Maura’s calls and internet searches leading up to her departure on 2/9/04, they seem to closely match the trip taken with her father Fred in October 2003. Specifically, at approximately 4AM on the day of her disappearance (2/9/04), Maura did a computer search for directions and overnight accommodations for Bartlett, NH and Burlington, VT. That afternoon she called two numbers to inquire about lodging: Bartlett, NH (1PM) and Stowe, VT (2:05PM) although neither resulted in a reservation. In her car she had mapquest directions for Burlington, VT which we now understand to be transcribed directions on a note card.
What does this mean? To me it suggests that she didn’t have a specific destination or purpose. In other words, I would conclude that she wasn’t meeting up with someone in Middlebury or Montpelier or Plymouth (examples) – no job interview, no doctor’s appointment. I would suggest that she was thinking of places she remembered or liked from the October trip – just as I might look at hotel rates in Sheboygan along with Sault Ste Marie.
The October 2003 trip could also show us something about her familiarity with some of these areas. According to Julie, Maura and Fred came up 93 from the South Shore (MA) and stayed in Bartlett. They visited in the order 1) Owl’s Head; 2) Mount Mansfield; 3) Camel’s Hump and 4) West Bond – Fred’s 48th 4,000 foot peak. [The blue route is map generated – to follow this sequence they likely went back up 93 after Owl’s Head]. We also learn from a newspaper article that they visited the town of Burlington that weekend: “Murray’s father said he also discovered a note card that mentioned Burlington among many personal belongings she had packed in her car. The two last visited the Northern Vermont city on Columbus Day Weekend when they hiked nearby Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield.” Boston Globe 2/21/04
To add to this, we can include other favorite sites or places of some importance: Mount Tripyramid – a childhood favorite, Mount Washington – said to be her all time favorite – along with Mount Carrigain – the site of the infamous coordinates (covered later), and Mount Madison – the specific place where MacDonald Barr perished from the chapter of Not Without Peril.
So this might tell us something about Maura’s destination and familiarity with the areas. Does any of this give us any plausible leads to find Maura? To start, Burlington has, in effect, been searched:
New Hampshire State Police Lieutenant John Scarinza said yesterday that for several days police have been checking motels and hotels in several Vermont communities. Investigators know of no one Murray might know in the Burlington area, he said.
“Vermont State Police, Burlington police, and other local agencies have canvassed motels in Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester, Shelburne, and surrounding towns to see if she checked in anywhere around,” he said. Boston Glove 2/21/04
The site of the coordinates emailed to Tim and Lance was first searched by two community members 6/30/17 before it was covered again by the Oxygen cast and crew.
The same hiker commented on the four sites from the October 2003 trip:
All of the peaks listed (Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, West Bond, and Owl’s Head) are all on the New England 4000 Footers list, which is probably why they were a destination for her and her father at all. While I have no idea if they were ever searched specifically in relation to Maura’s disappearance, they are extremely popular due to peakbagging and are some of (if not) the most visited wilderness areas in all of New England, despite the remoteness implied by some of these areas. Even Owl’s Head sees multiple peakbaggers every day (I see it in the Facebook groups), and that’s a 20 mile hike. I’m doubting there’s anything in any of these locations myself (being at least familiar with all of NH’s 4000 footers myself and having already gone on a wild goose chase to one of them), but YMMV, as the hikers say. u/BreathingPermafrost
A dog handler who contributes to the reddit sub describes some potential techniques for approaches large scale areas:
Not sure what kind of searches have taken place before but my gut tells me, bring some well trained HR dogs to search these areas. There are so many K9 handlers out there that would do it for free- professional SAR teams are almost always entirely volunteer. We have a passion for this. If someone put a team together I’d come up in a heartbeat. I made the offer to organize some time ago but wasn’t taken up on it.
Most SAR dogs wear a GPS collar. SAR people also carry a GPS. You take a dog to an area, think of the human searchers as words on a page, and dogs as the highlighter around it. We don’t have to go dig around in the woods as much because the dogs are doing for it us. Anyway, all that information from the GPS can be downloaded and tracks are mapped. You can see where the dog went, areas missed, etc. and calculate probability of detection. This is what I’d like to do in these areas.
Besides what most people normally think of HR dogs finding (a decaying corpse), they can find bones. They can find objects that were in contact with decay (although in MM’s case, not sure if too much time has passed), for exp. one of our dogs trains with pieces of a rocking chair someone committed suicide in. u/kristin1441
Do we have to be sure of a theory before we search? As one searcher commented:
I think the needle in a haystack applies to the pros too. It’s been proven before. There’s a lot of ground and it’s so uneven. There’s also tons of fallen rocks and trees, steep drop-offs, and the rocky river bed. This amounts to lots of opportnuities for both peril and shelter. Being confident means nothing without results though…
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.
[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.”
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.
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.
I used a transcription program for the Q&A segment of Missing Maura Murray podcast 27: “Questions and Answers”.
As background, Tim and Lance, along with Marley Davis of the Massachusetts Public Defenders Office had scheduled a live filmed Q&A session with Jeffrey Strelzin – which was cancelled at the last minute. Some time later they received written answers to some of the questions sent. (They mention that they do not read the questions that were sent and not answered). The read through starts at approximately minute 22 so I am starting there. Thank you to the Missing Maura Murray podcast for this very valuable information. Marley Davis is the person reading the questions and answers and thanks is given to “KF”. This was published May 10, 2016.
NOTE: This was done by a transcription program; I have cleaned it up but undoubtedly there are some errors and omissions I am working to correct.
Questions and Answers with New Hampshire DA’s Office (Strelzin et al.) published May 10, 2016 – by the MIssing Maura Murray podcast
What time did Maura send the email to her professors? (21:56)
Maura Murray sent the email to her professors the day of her disappearance.
They didn’t give us a specific time. Uh, we said did Mara notify either of her bosses that she would be absent for the week and they said no, she did not. The next question was, according to the Boston globe, Maura withdrew $280 at three 40. Can you confirm this was an interesting answer? They said Maura did withdrawal $280 but it was earlier than 3:40 PM
Speaker 4: (22:31) yup. That, that, that was interesting.
Which ATM did she use and which liquor store did she visit? (22:33)
Maura left the liquor store at 3:43 PM we are unable to comment on which store she visited.
Oh, can I say something about this question. Please? Because I am dying to put this one to bed. I mean we really can’t, based on their answer. All evidence collected is pretty definitive. They have no reason to believe it wasn’t more.
Speaker 5: (23:41) Oh, absolutely. None at all. Like definitively without a doubt. It was more as driver. All of the evidence that they have points to Maura being the driver. The thing is is that that’s not actually what the question was.
Speaker 4: (23:52) Right. It’s kind of a denial or not a denial, but it’s kind of a they, they skirted it. It points to her.
Speaker 5: (23:58) Maybe our question wasn’t clear. Our question was when they got to the scene and they looked at the car and they see that it’s registered to Fred Murray.
Speaker 4: (24:09) That wasn’t the question though. No, no. She’s saying what our question should have been. Okay.
Speaker 5: (24:13) The point was to figure out like when they, from the time that they found the vehicle to the time they put the BOLO out, which was I think the next day, how did they narrow down that it was Maura as opposed to her sister or even Fred who had been driving the vehicle? That was what we wanted to know was what was the thing that said, this person driving this car was this person. Let’s put a BOLO out. So maybe the question wasn’t clear, but,
Speaker 4: (24:43) and we can, we can follow up with them. Sure.
Speaker 6: (24:45) Okay. So I see. Yeah. So there answer all evidence collected to date points to Mora as being the driver is definitely a little unclear then. Yeah,
Speaker 4: (24:54) it’s kind of just saying that it’s kind of saying what we already know
Speaker 6: (24:59) officially. It goes a little further than what we are. A little, no, I think a little bit.
Can you confirm as Detective Scarinza stated in the Disappearance episode that a circle of red liquid was found in the snow? Where was the circle in relation to Maura’s vehicle? Can the inference be made that the circle was caused by someone pouring out the contents of the bottle found under the vehicle into the snow? … liquid was found in the snow? (25:02)
Maura’s vehicle was towed by Lavoie’s towing company to the troop released to the family and then taken in for additional processing several months later.
This is interesting, right, because we always thought that it was towed back to Lavoie’s. Uh, but they said it was towed to the, to the troop.
Speaker 6: (25:56) Yeah. Mike Lavoie’s personal garages. What we had gotten and what Fred had confirmed as well. So I think they might be skipping that step in this answer is my thought. Yeah, probably. And obviously to them it’s not a, a, a big detail something too that they need to talk about. Right.
The 911 log indicates that a call was placed from Hanover PD to Grafton County at 7:42 regarding the Atwood’s nine one one call. What time was the phone call made from the Atwood’s house to Hanover PD?
It has been reported that a canine unit tracked Maura’s scent 100 yards East of the crash site. It has also been reported that both Butch Atwood and Rick Forcier lived approximately 100 yards from the crash site. Can you confirm then that the canine scent was lost in front of their houses?
There was a dog track that was conducted from the scene of the crash.
It’s not really an answer, but
Speaker 6: (27:18) yeah, I I’m confused on that one. I’m wondering why they even answered at all.
Speaker 5: (27:23) Yeah, same with the next one too actually.
Speaker 4: (27:26) Yeah. That is interesting. It’s like, Hey, we want to answer, but here’s what we can give you.
Speaker 6: (27:31) Just really confirming that that, that there was, there were dogs there.
Speaker 4: (27:36) I mean maybe you know, maybe if you read it like with an emphasis on was there was a dog track that was conducted from the scene of the crash. Maybe that’s just safer than saying that’s correct. And I don’t want to get into anything else.
Okay. So is that, is that proof of them saying that this is what it is, it started as a missing persons investigation and developed into more of a criminal investigation? Absolutely.
Speaker 5: (28:50) Yeah. I mean I don’t want to speak for law enforcement, but I think you know, whenever somebody is missing for 12 years, you know, at that point I think you have to start looking at it as more of a criminal investigation.
Speaker 4: (29:05) It’s interesting that he capitalized missing M and persons P missing persons. I, I just find that interesting. What goes on in, in someone’s subconscious that makes them think that missing person investigation and needs capitalization.
Describe the state of Maura’s dorm room. What did law enforcement infer from the state of her dorm room? Has law enforcement stance change over the years regarding the state of Maura’s dorm room and whether or not it was significant in any way to her disappearance?
Maura’s room was orderly and some items appeared to be packed. Items were not in any sort of disarray.
Well forget the second part about items being in disarray. What we really wanted to know was, was her dorm room packed up. Um, there’s been a lot of talk about whether or not it was packed up. And if so, what did that mean? Um, and I think their answer is pretty, you know, sort of puts that to bed,
Speaker 4: (30:01) does it? No, cause I’m looking at this and it says some items appeared to be packed. So what does appear to be packed? Maybe she, cause I suppose if someone looked at my place, I have things that are in boxes that are packed up, but you know, I’m not leaving. So you could say that items appeared, some items appeared to be packed, items were not in any sort of disarray.
Speaker 5: (30:24) Right. So I mean, so, but the, I think it sort of puts to bed the idea that her entire dorm room was packed in boxes.
Speaker 4: (30:29) Oh, absolutely. That it was the entire dorm. Yeah, yeah. That she was ready to go. And there was like boxes that were labeled kitchen living room, you know.
Speaker 5: (30:37) Well, it doesn’t this sort of confirm that she was unpacking.
Speaker 4: (30:41) I don’t think it confirms anything to me. He’s just, he’s literally giving the state of her room. It seemed like some items appeared to be, some items appeared to be packed, wasn’t in disarray, and it was orderly.
Law enforcement made reference early on to a note left by Maura in her dorm room describing it as a possible suicide note later. Fred Murray stated publicly that the note was actually a printed copy of an old email from her boyfriend. Bill, can you confirm Fred’s statement to be true? If not, what was the content of the letter?
In the state’s response to Fred Murray’s freedom of information act lawsuit. It says quote, “there are grand jury subpoenas that are not public and which would pinpoint the focus of the investigation” withholding specific details. Can you confirm that this means that a grand jury was convened in this case
regardless of whether a grand jury was or was not convened in this matter, Superior court and ethical rules prohibit us from making any comments on any and all grand jury matters.
And I just want to point out that this was sort of a, I mean the language that they use in their response pretty much says that there were grand jury subpoenas settled. So this was really more of a confirmation question than anything else
in the state’s response. It also States quote, there are also search warrants that are not public and quote withholding specific details. Can you confirm that searches of specific areas were conducted pursuant to a warrant? Are there any details you can discuss regarding any searches that were conducted?
Butch Atwood’s common law wife recently told a journalist that her husband took two of the four polygraph exams alluded to in the state’s response and that he either failed the first or that it was inconclusive. Can you comment on whether this is accurate and if so, what the results of the second exam.
We are unable to comment on the results of any polygraph test.
Do you think unable means not willing or unable means literally unable?
Speaker 5: (33:33) I think it means unwilling. Okay. How would they, you know, they’re the ones that gave the polygraphs,
Speaker 6: (33:39) but why would they be unwilling to tell about Butch unless he was even, you know, unless there was 1% chance that he was still a suspect.
Speaker 4: (33:48) But I don’t think that it’s, maybe we have to start thinking about it as, um, if it’s an open investigation, it’s not so much, you know, if Butch isn’t a suspect or is a suspect, it’s a fact that they can’t release no matter what you probably right. Yeah.
Have any of Maura’s missing possessions, car keys, credit, debit card, cell phone, et cetera, been located since her disappearance?
was any forensic testing concluded inside the a frame house. It has been reported that bones were found in the a frame house by the new owners and that these bones were given to the police. Can you comment on whether these bones were found to be human? What about the carpet sample reported given to police? Has it been ruled out as having any connection to Maura at this point? Have police been able to rule out the possibility of a connection between the a frame house in general and Maura’s disappearance?
We’re familiar with the house. You’re referring to. Questions surrounding the house were generated by private investigators working on the case. We have no knowledge about any information on any bones being discovered there.
there are reports that there were areas of freshly laid concrete near the crash site in the days following the crash. Has this been reported to police and have any searches been conducted of these areas?
We are unaware of any such reports and there would be some difficulty to pouring concrete in February. However, we will investigate this based on your assertion.
That’s probably my favorite or top three favorite, uh, answers. However we will investigate this based on your assertion. This shows that there, I mean, unless this is, you know, he’s, he’s full of hot air. This shows that they’re, they’re going to investigate something that we brought to their attention that they were unaware of. It’s pretty cool. Yeah.
Speaker 5: (36:05) Let me ask you, why is it difficult to pour concrete in February?
Speaker 4: (36:08) Because the ground’s frozen. You need to dig it up. You need to level it. You need to excavate. There’s probably snow. It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely difficult.
They’ll police have said the phone call to Billy was from the red cross. Billy’s mother is from in her stance that it is impossible to know that. Have you been able to definitively confirm that the phone call Billy received while on the plane to New Hampshire came from the red cross?
foul play is dominant amongst several theories. We don’t know whether her disappearance was voluntary, involuntary or whether she was the victim of a crime. Everything is still on the table, which is why we are treating this case accordingly.
The footage was obtained and we are willing to release it to the public in the near future.
I like that answer. It’s among the top couple of answers that, that uh, that stood out to me. What I would like to do is just issue a plea to anybody listening. Don’t pressure them to do it. If he says that he’s willing the that they are willing to release it to the public in the near future, let it happen for years.
Local rumors have circulated that Maura met with foul play and that her body was dumped in a number of locations including bodies of water under the foundations of houses, woodchippers, et cetera. At this time, do you believe any of the rumors to be more credible than others?
have law enforcement garnered any useful information from what’s been written online. Do you think the attention this case has gotten online has been a detriment to the investigation or has it been helpful at all?
The attention this case has garnered has generated some leads, although none have panned out when investigated. However, efforts to keep people’s attention focused on the case are not detrimental if they have the potential to generate new leads.
We were hoping you could tell us your perspective on why you think this case is so popular. It seems to be very popular among the internet community slash armchair detectives. Why is this the case? People are so fascinated with
people love a mystery and Maura Murray’s disappearance is a mystery. The internet is also sometimes a forum for speculation and conspiracy theories in spite of facts to the contrary or no facts at all. The combination seems to fuel much discussion in cases like this.
I think, uh, out of how many questions did we have, we had 40 something, 42 questions. Um, I think their answers were, were very, um, standard for written answers. I feel that they probably canceled this and felt more comfortable answering things in writing so they could properly choose their wording. They were very careful about how they approached it. And I, I completely understand it cause we don’t want to, it was disappointing to not go to them and, and, and have the cameras there and record their, their, uh, their answers. I think at some point they realized, listen, this is the, we can’t say anything that’s gonna come out. You know, even if you mess up, you’ve, even if you have a Freudian slip that could go out there to the masses and conclusions could be drawn that shouldn’t be drawn this way. They were able to control it and give us more factual, responsible answers.
Speaker 5: (40:26) Yeah. And I also do know that the, uh, the, the questions had to be vetted. Um, and that the answers, uh, also were vetted, so vetted by home. Well, when I spoke to, uh, I think it was Strelzin when I spoke to him, he said that they were waiting to get the answers either back from somebody else or, um, that it was, that he was, they were waiting to get the answers from somebody else basically. So
Speaker 4: (40:53) I think that this is a step in the right direction with our communication with, uh, with law enforcement. I, I’d like the, uh, relationship that’s been formed and, and the relationship that we’re currently establishing and nurturing at any time, if any of the law enforcement mentioned Strelzin, uh, Gadi if they’d like to come on and discuss the case in a, in a controlled environment, we’re more than happy to do it. The more information, and they said it in their answer there, they’ll investigate any, any leads that are given to them that are credible. They, you know, we gave them something and they’ll investigate it, uh, based on our assertion. Um, if it’s, if they come on and it’s in a controlled environment and someone hears it and they know something or they, they connect the dots, uh, that, that couldn’t be connected before for whatever reason, I think that would, that, that might go a long way to, uh, to, to help the investigation. So I’m just putting that out there. Absolutely.
Speaker 3: (41:53) Well, great. Uh, I am, uh, thrilled that we got these answers. Um, and I know that we have an open line of communication and we can submit more questions at some point in the future. So maybe that is something that we will do. So, Marley, I really just want to thank you on behalf of myself, Lance K F the rest of the podcast listening audience, and, uh, we just want to say thank you and, uh, these answers have been very helpful. Thank you very much for coming on. Thanks for having me guys.
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.
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?
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).