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.”
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).