Tag Archives: Maura Murray

My personal “top 10 takeaways” from reading the FOIA materials from the Maura Murray case

In January 2006, Fred Murray went to the Grafton County Superior Court to obtain the case files relating to Maura’s disappearance.  When his request was denied, he appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Although the court also denied his request, they did require the state to explain further about the nature of the evidence in their possession.  The following are my “non-expert” observations from reading the documents available from this proceeding as well as listening to available hearings from the NH Supreme Court, and the 107 Degrees Podcast episode 3.  

VERY QUICK BACKGROUND ON THE PROCESS

I am not a lawyer so I will try to start with a brief “easy to understand” overview of the process for obtaining information.  New Hampshire has a “Right-to-Know” Law (RSA 91-A) that functions in conjunction with the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  All of the FOIA provisions also apply to the New Hampshire law. The New Hampshire law has exemptions that center around personal privacy – in other words you can’t obtain someone’s school records, bank records, and other types of personal/confidential information.  Those exemptions alone would not go far in denying Fred’s request for information. However, “FOIA” has a key clause 7A exempting materials that could interfere with an ongoing investigation, specifically:  

“… to the extent that production of such law enforcement records or information . . . could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” 

In the end, Fred’s request was denied partly because it contained some of the personal information exempted by the New Hampshire law.  But his request was largely denied due to the FOIA exemption 7A. What does this mean? It means that they argued that it was an ongoing investigation and one that had a “reasonable likelihood” of leading to an enforcement proceeding (“reasonable likelihood” was determined to be the operative legal standard).  

RSA 91-A and FOIA:


TEN TAKEAWAYS FROM THE FOIA MATERIALS

Building on that background on RSA 91-A and FOIA, the following are my “Top 10” surprises or takeaways from reading the materials from the materials obtained through Fred’s legal case aka Frederick J. Murray v Special Investigation Unit of the Division of State Police of the New Hampshire Department of Safety et al.

1. THE MAURA MURRAY CASE FILE IS EXTREMELY LARGE

Maura’s case file appears to be a large one consisting of:

  • 2938 pages
  • 6 volumes
  • 66 law enforcement personnel narratives
  • 254 contacts
  • 106 witness interviews
  • 19 written witness statements
  • 3 transcribed witness interviews
  • 4 polygraphs

The online community has noted any number of gaps in the State’s investigation.  We can either conclude that their investigation has not been thorough OR that we are not understanding the focus of their investigation.

2. THE DOCUMENTS MENTION A GRAND JURY

At this point the notion of a grand jury in this case is fairly well known.  Art Roderick has told us that there were at least two grand juries that were “investigative in nature”.  However, we first learned of the existence of some form of grand jury process from these documents which state – among other citations: “There are Grand Jury subpoenas that are not public and which would pinpoint the focus of the investigation.”  

We know a Grand Jury was held prior to April 2007 due to the record of a hearing on the Fred Murray matter on April 13, 2007 and subpoenas submitted as early as March 15th.  We can also reasonably conclude that there was no indictment coming out of any grand jury in this case. Some legal experts have stated that the function of a New Hampshire grand jury is to indict an individual in a criminal proceeding and thus, it seems unusual or improbable that these would be investigative in nature.  

3. THE INVESTIGATION IS OVERWHELMINGLY FOCUSED ON NEW HAMPSHIRE  

Although this is hardly breaking news, it is worth pointing out that – if we go by the affiliations of the law enforcement personnel – the investigation centered on New Hampshire.  In other words, it was not national, it was not international. The investigation only tangentially ventured into other states (this will be covered in the next bullet). For what it’s worth, there is nothing in Oklahoma or Ohio or Canada or Florida or Tennessee – a few jurisdictions that have been discussed.  The investigation in Massachusetts seems focused on Amherst/Hadley.

SUMMARY OF LE UNITS INVOLVED BY NUMBER

  • NHSP 44 (5 of these Major Crimes Unit)
  • Haverhill PD 9
  • UMass PD 7
  • Rochester PD 3
  • VSP 3
  • FBI 2
  • NH Fish and Game 2
  • Sullivan County DOC 2
  • Amherst PO 1
  • Exeter PD 1
  • Grafton County Sheriff 1
  • Hadley PD 1
  • Oxford County ME 1

4. THERE WERE SOME UNUSUAL JURISDICTIONS INVOLVED

Some LE units jump out as unusual although we are able to find explanations in most cases:

Rochester: this is accounted for by a sighting of Maura that “went nowhere”

https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/another-search-for-maura-murray-turns-up-little/article_fd431ff6-8918-5a0a-ba11-59d59d3a131b.html

Exeter: mentioned briefly as a place searched (same article)

https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/another-search-for-maura-murray-turns-up-little/article_fd431ff6-8918-5a0a-ba11-59d59d3a131b.html

Oxford County, ME: Oxford County Maine is where Bill went to check the hospital in Norway/Paris but this reference is still not fully understood or explained.

Sullivan County DOC.- there is a nearby Sullivan County in NH; Sullivan County in NY has a prison – but this is unexplained.

5. THE STATE LISTED 20 CATEGORIES OF EVIDENCE

To respond to Fred, the State provided a page with 20 categories of evidence.  (See the documents for the full description of each of these categories)

  1. Phone Records
  2. Subpoenas (including search warrants)
  3. Credit card information
  4. Criminal record checks
  5. Narrative reports by investigators
  6. Witness interviews (tapes and transcripts) – 19 written statements; 3 transcribed interviews
  7. Polygraph examinations (4)
  8. Possessed property reports
  9. Lab reports
  10. Policy/dispatch call logs
  11. Photographs
  12. Correspondence
  13. Attorney notes
  14. One-party intercept memoranda
  15. Maps and diagrams
  16. Investigative duty assignment (nothing in this category)
  17. Tax records
  18. Employment personnel files
  19. Medical records
  20. Military records

6. WHAT IS A ONE-PARTY INTERCEPT MEMORANDUM?

One of the more interesting details in the list of 20 is the “one party intercept memorandum”. We understand that this refers to either the wiretapping of a phone or someone “wearing a wire”.  In New Hampshire, wiretapping is governed by RSA 570-A

https://law.justia.com/codes/new-hampshire/2010/titlelviii/chapter570-a/

But what is the “memorandum” noted?  We find the answer to the memorandum question with the approval requirement specified  in section II(d):

(d) An investigative or law enforcement officer in the ordinary course of the officer’s duties pertaining to the conducting of investigations of organized crime, offenses enumerated in this chapter, solid waste violations under RSA 149-M:9, I and II, or harassing or obscene telephone calls to intercept a telecommunication or oral communication, when such person is a party to the communication or one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception; provided, however, that no such interception shall be made unless the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, or an assistant attorney general designated by the attorney general determines that there exists a reasonable suspicion that evidence of criminal conduct will be derived from such interception. Oral authorization for the interception may be given and a written memorandum of said determination and its basis shall be made within 72 hours thereafter. The memorandum shall be kept on file in the office of the attorney general.

In other words, if a law enforcement officer wants to record someone, they must get prior approval in the form of a memorandum.  That said, the memorandum noted in Maura’s case would seem to give LE approval to go forward with recording someone. However, we don’t know if it was executed and we don’t know the target.

7. THE ATTORNEY FOR THE STATE INDICATED THERE WERE SUSPECTS UNDER CURRENT INVESTIGATION

Despite telling us “we can’t rule out that Maura may have left at her own volition” we do learn that there are suspects currently under investigation:

Prosecutor Nancy Smith … “revealing anything about Landry’s investigation, even in general terms, might identify suspects from a small community …” … “The people – the identity of those people is fairly well known.”

Ervin: “Is the investigation into those individuals currently ongoing?”

Landry: “Yes”

What can we conclude from this?  We might conclude that the investigation into this potential crime is focused on individuals currently (then) living in New Hampshire or in the broad vicinity of the accident site.  I am not sure what to make of the “fairly well known” identities. Does this mean that they are known to their community or that they are the names actively discussed? We don’t know.

8. WHAT IS AN “ACTIVE INVESTIGATION”?

The State insisted that the case was an active investigation but provided little clarification as to what that meant.  It was noted that there was a detective “monitoring the case each day” and that the records were “actively being used”.  They discussed such things as “following up on leads”. To me the investigation sounded less than proactive but as we don’t know the nature and focus of the investigation we can’t draw conclusions.

9. THE PHRASE “WOULD PINPOINT THE FOCUS OF THE INVESTIGATION” IS USED CONSISTENTLY

The documents consistently note that revealing x or y would “pinpoint the focus of the investigation”. Because the phrase is used consistently, each specific usage seems to provide little insight.

10. 75% CHANCE OF WHAT?

Strelzin ultimately quashed Fred’s request by stating that there was a 75% likelihood of a future enforcement proceeding. 

Specifically:

Q: You indicated in responding to Attorney Ervin that you could give him a percentage that you have in mind of likelihood. What is that percentage regarding likelihood of this results in a criminal case?

A: I mean….I’d say it’s probably 75%.

Q: Pardon?

A: I’d say it’s probably 75%.

The transcript can be found in this link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7_atAFvowRhMU0xOWNTRTY0WEk/view

The question becomes: was Strelzin speaking in generalities about the likelihood of bringing “this type of case” to a criminal case or was he speaking specifically about the Maura Murray case?

According to Fred Murray:

“The judge asked the assistant attorney general what was the percentage of bringing charges, and he [Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin] rolls his eyes, looks at the floor and then says, ’75 percent.’ He pulled it out of his back pocket (ass),”

“My question now to the [assistant] AG is, what is 75 percent of nothing? You said 75 percent two years ago. You made that up. Nothing has happened,”

One poster on reddit summed it up as:

75 % chance of eventually having enough information to convict.

As in 75% of the time we get one of these cold cases, it works out.

Parts sold separately.

Some assembly required.

And another explains:

“Strezlin and company were trying to argue in generalities, because quite frankly, they were getting their butts kicked in court. The judges were not buying the reasons that police wouldn’t release the records because they hadn’t established that a crime had taken place by a long shot.

So instead, Strezlin and company turned to prosecutions in general. they brought up other cases (one was like 20 years old where they finally got a conviction) to show the court that since a crime can’t be ruled out in maura’s case, it is possible (no matter how much time passes) that they can still convict. so that is why they shouldn’t release anything to fred.”

I don’t think that it was an abstract number.  The preceding question was “What is that percentage regarding likelihood of this results in a criminal case?”.  At best Strelzin was playing on the ambiguity of the situation. According to one source, Strelzin bragged outside the courtroom that there was a 75% chance he would be filing charges – then turned his back when a grand jury failed to indict (no body).  That’s hearsay but to me it has an air of truth.

Sources used:

Murray case – NH Supreme Court (3 parts)

Reddit Maura Murray Evidence 

107 Degrees Podcast episode 3

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

A local resident (moniker robinsonordway “RO”) saw a red truck driving south (112-east) around 7PM on February 9, 2004, the night of Maura’s disappearance.  After the truck stopped at the Swiftwater Stage Shop, it continued in the direction of the Weathered Barn Corner. 

I’ve been researching the red truck for about a year and a half – initially as a project coming out of my facebook group to develop better baselines of key topics.  I wanted to add my personal “top 10 misconceptions” I hear about the red truck. In a few cases I have a personal opinion based on my interpretation of the evidence.  

As background, all of the available direct testimony of RO is found at the very end of this piece.

MY PERSONAL LIST OF TOP 10 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE RED TRUCK

Misconception 1: RO was walking a dog

There is a clip floating around the forums in which RO is walking a dog and sees the red truck turn onto either Old Peters Road or Bradley Hill Road.  RO was not walking a dog and was over a mile away from the accident site. She would not have had any view of OPR or BHR.

This map illustrates the path RO walked to and from the Swiftwater Stage Shop.

Caption: RO lived at the east corner of Bunga and 112 (0.2 miles North of the Swiftwater Stage Shop – she would travel “east” on 112 to reach the store).  It is estimated that it took RO 7-8 minutes to make the walk (uphill, etc.)

This map provides the larger view of the area

Caption: RO home in relation to Maura’s accident site (the distance is approximately 1.1 miles)

Misconception 2: RO was unsure about the state on the license plate

RO has been extremely consistent about the Massachusetts plate – with one exception from 2007 where she states: “I could have been wrong about the plates – according to the pd.”   Otherwise she lists the “MA” plate as one of the top characteristics she recalls about the truck.

RO looked carefully at the plate and in fact memorized it.  She tells us that if she had been asked about the plate that night, she “probably could have given them the plate number”. 

In addition, this image shows a compilation of license plates.  Would she really have mistaken a MA plate for a NH temporary plate or any of these other options?  I personally don’t believe so. I would urge everyone to walk up to the back of a vehicle and spend 15 seconds trying to take in key details including the license plate. When I do this, I grasp the state instantly.

RO citations:

“I immediately looked at the plate and noticed it was from Massachusetts.”

“That was my first thought about it……..red, MA plates and delivered wood.”

“When I went into the store, I asked Wini if some people came in the store just now and she said no and I said well, there was a red truck that stopped in the hill with MA plates and then took off and was in your parking lot as I approached.”

“Now, the reason I was sure it was MA plates is because when it stopped in the hill, I looked at the plate and tried to memorize it (thinking to myself, oh great, I am going to get kidnapped or something). Obviously, a few days later the only thing I could remember was the MA plates. Hope this helps clarify things for you.”

“But please remember, I could have been wrong about the plates – according to the pd.”

“There was a back window in the truck where I could see the passenger turn around and look at me. I remember it to be oval shaped but I could be wrong. The truck was red. Have no idea the make. Square. Not rounded truck. I noticed it to be Massachusetts plates.” (2019)

“Also for those curious as to why I know it was mass plates is because they stopped in the hill – which freaked me out and I tried to remember the plate # in case something happened to me. Since I was walking alone in the dark.” (2019)

“If that night when the state cop stopped me and he had told me someone was missing I probably could have given him the plate number. I still kick myself for forgetting but he never told me what was going on.” (2019)

Misconception 3. The truck was following Maura (timeline)

Many scenarios suggest that the truck was perhaps chasing Maura or picked her up after the crash.  Although anything is possible, based on RO’s time parameters, assuming the truck continued on 112, it would have passed the Weathered Barn Corner ahead of the Saturn.

Here is a basic “order of events” timeline (RT: red truck; JM: Monaghan):

Around 7:00 – RO left home (walk estimated at 7-8 minutes)

Next – RT passed RO stopped briefly

Next – RO arrived at the store

Next – RT left store direction of accident

Next – RT would have passed accident scene if continued down 112

Next – RO observed police drive past store on way to accident (20-30 min after arriving)

8:00 store closed RO left to walk home 

8:02+ Ambulance stopped upon seeing RO on Bunga Rd.

Next – JM stopped to talk to RO, left and ambulance followed 

This image is my effort to understand when the truck passed (a) the Swiftwater Stage Shop and (b) the Weathered Barn Corner if it continued without stopping or turning off.  I conclude that the truck passed the WBC at either 7:18 or 7:12.


Misconception 4. The truck scared RO

This one is tricky.  RO tells us flat out “the truck didn’t scare me”.  However, she was “freaked out” when the truck stopped “(s)ince I was walking alone in the dark.”

In my opinion her fear was contextual – she recognized that she was walking on a dark road, alone, with no other vehicles passing, and thought of the possibility that something could happen.  But I see nothing inherently predatory in the actions of the truck.

RO citations:

“The truck didn’t scare me. My thought is that they/he/she thought I was someone else. That is what I was thinking that night. When I saw them sitting at the store, I again thought, they really think I am someone else. And as I got closer and I could see the driver moving around – I was thinking, there, I am not the person you are looking for, and he drove off.”

“I thought to myself that maybe they either 1) thought I needed a ride or 2) that I was someone else.”

“Also for those curious as to why I know it was mass plates is because they stopped in the hill – which freaked me out and I tried to remember the plate # in case something happened to me. Since I was walking alone in the dark.” (2019)

Misconception 5. The red truck has been tracked down

In True Crime Addict it is stated that someone tracked down the owner of the truck: “Someone got the license plate number and Graves was able to trace it back to a local man.  But nobody ever talked to him.” (Renner, 198).  RO did not remember the plate number and so it is unlikely that anyone tracked down the truck based on the license plate number.  Fred Murray mentions in an interview that he saw a truck matching the description and followed it but could never speak to the owner(s).  It seems that TCA is referring to this truck seen by Fred Murray. As far as I am aware, the red truck seen by RO has never been identified.  (Just to preempt any questions, it is my understanding that Fred is talking about the G brothers).

As an aside, Maggie Freleng posted on facebook in 2018 that police were taking the red truck seriously.  But RO is clear that they were not particularly interested in her account in 2004.

I will also add that we have at least one account of a red truck pulled over and searched in (I believe) May 2004.  In hindsight it is assumed that it was in the context of the official search of the area near the RF sighting which was going on at the same time.  So there is some evidence that there was interest in red trucks at some point.

RO citations:

“By the way, I searched weeks for that truck in the local area. Never found anything close.”

“I spoke to the police on the phone afterwards (a week later) and only because I called them. They didn’t really ask any questions and I can’t remember who I spoke with. They weren’t interested in what I had to say. But neither was Fred when I told him. He dismissed me quite quickly which never set right with me to be honest.” (2019)

Misconception 6. The truck was looking for Maura/looking for someone

RO does indicate that the truck seemed to be looking for someone.  But she also states that it could have been trying to help her. I value RO’s instincts and impressions and believe that it is possible that the inhabitants of the truck were looking for someone.  But there is no evidence that the truck was looking for someone much less looking for Maura. They may have stopped to try to help RO, to ask her for directions, or for some other reason. They might have stopped in the parking lot to use their phone or look at a map. There are other plausible explanations for the actions of the truck that night.

RO citations:

“… the lighting was poor there, and I thought to myself that maybe they either 1) thought I needed a ride or 2) that I was someone else.”

“I believe I caught the truck off guard as I was walking well off the road and as they passed I walked back on, which is why I believe they stopped completely. They could not see me without any street lights and maybe went to the store and waited for me to get up there to get a better look??? I don’t know. That is just how it seemed to me.”

Misconception 7. There was a suspicious red truck on Bradley Hill Road

There has been a story that there was a suspicious red truck on Bradley Hill Road.  I believe it was said to be parked in a desolate place with nobody in the truck. It was stated that a woman inside a house saw the truck and it was suspicious enough that she called the police.  However, the same person who told the online community about this witness later stated “there was no call about a suspicious red truck”. This one seems to be off the table.

Misconception 8. Police were pulling over red trucks all night

There was a brief spurt in the Grafton County log in the early morning hours of 2/10 (4:46AM-6:36AM) in which 4 trucks were pulled over – 2 red, one maroon and one green, in addition to a silver non truck:  Each resulted in a citation. 

Early morning pull overs (4:46-6:36 AM):

Silver 2001 Ford 2D Mustang

Red Ford PU F250 Red/NH temp reg red/white

Maroon 1998 Ford pu ranger

Green 2002 GMC pu sierra

Red 1996 dodge pickup (defective equipment)

According to a LE representative I consulted: “Is it unusual to stop this many red pickups in a given time? … There are other factors that should be considered.  Grafton County is over 1,700 square miles. The population as of 2000 was just over 80,000.” … “having a baseline of some of those stats would put the context of these three stops into sharper focus.” 

We have no evidence that anyone reported a suspicious red truck (RO reported her sighting a couple of days later when she heard about Maura’s disappearance).  We have no evidence of a BOLO issued for a red truck. And if there were a BOLO issued for a red truck – why a short spurt of stops?  Why stop a green truck? Why a silver hatchback? In my opinion, it is somewhat interesting that these trucks were stopped but there is no evidence that police were pulling over red trucks, and certainly not “all night”.

Misconception 9. The red truck circled back

There was recently a story that the truck was seen again at the Swiftwater Stage Shop later.  This was quickly debunked. We have no information or evidence that the truck was ever seen again.

Misconception 10. RO mentioned an eagle decal

It has been widely discussed that there was an eagle on the back of the truck.  When I pulled together all of RO’s narratives, I quickly realized that she never mentions an eagle.  Earlier this year fulkstop asked RO who stated that she “did not see a decal” There are still people in the community who feel certain that RO mentioned an eagle and I want to be respectful.  Personally I think that if she had seen something that distinct, it would be in the “top 5” characteristics she remembered. If anyone has evidence that she mentioned that the truck had an eagle/eagle decal, I welcome that information. 

RO citations:

“No I did not see a decal .” (2019)

(I have no citations where RO mentions an eagle)

FULL COMPILATION OF DIRECT TESTIMONY AND NARRATIVE BY RO (additions to this are welcome and encouraged).

Is there any credibility to the sighting reported a couple of months later?

I could make a strong argument that the NHSP have a person of interest in the Maura Murray case.  I can also make an argument – a little less strong – that they know what happened to Maura, but somehow lack the evidence to take the next step.  I’ll revisit this in another blog post. All of that said, I can’t make an argument that I have heard any solid, convincing evidence against this apparent person of interest (Forcier).  It seems that most everything we cite as evidence is either a rumor, a misunderstanding, or simply odd behavior.  I will grant you, he has been uncooperative, and probably worse. But without any knowledge of the official investigation, I have yet to see anything persuasive.

I will focus this post on one incident that seems to have put him on the radar of investigators – the sighting that wasn’t. 

On May 6, 2004, The Caledonian Record reported that a man had come forward with a potential sighting of Maura Murray on the night of her disappearance:

“There may be a break in the case involving 21-year-old nursing student Maura Murray who disappeared the night of Feb. 9 after she was involved in a one-car accident on rural Route 112 in Haverhill.  New Hampshire State Police Troop F Lt. John Scarinza said a witness has come forward with information he may have seen Murray about four to five miles east of the accident scene. Scarinza said a man, whom he declined to identify, was returning from a construction job in the Franconia area when he spotted a young woman matching Murray’s description hurrying east on Route 112, about an hour after her accident.

We later learned that this construction worker was local resident Rick Forcier who lived at the intersection of 112 and Bradley Hill Road. (In this post I will generally refer to him as CW: construction worker, adapted from Topix).

At the time, LE considered it a credible lead and a search was conducted in the area of the sighting.  However nothing was found and it seems that the CW then became a key person of interest in Maura’s disappearance.  Although we have heard that he had become a person of interest much earlier based on statements he made to LE and the media [that Maura had come to his door], I have been unable to verify that he made these statements.  From my own read of the timeline, he came onto the radar of the investigation with this sighting a couple of months later.

On August 3, 2011, James Renner offered an explanation on his blog of how the incident transpired:

I spoke to Diane and Rusty Cowles, who lived across from Forcier on Bradley Hill and still see him to this day. Forcier explained to them that it was only when he was going over his bills that he pieced together that he had been working in Franconia the night Maura vanished and must have been coming home about a half hour after the accident. He thought back on that night and figured it must have been the same evening he saw what he thought at the time was a teenage boy in a hoodie crossing the road quickly in front of him, near 116, several miles East of the crash site. He wondered if it could have been Maura.

Earlier on Topix (Jan 12, 2009), poster “White Wash” provided consistent information about the sighting:

CW and some neighbors where talking and he mentioned seeing someone running but wasn’t sure when and then he went to look at the missing poster and call NHSP. In the mean time this person told the Store owner who was in almost daily contact with Fred. It was my understanding Fred immediatedly contacted CW.The EX saw it in the news then she jumped on the ban wagon with the LE/PI’s.

It has traditionally been thought that the construction worker saw a female, wearing a dark coat and light colored hood.  Questions were raised about whether this matched the previously unreleased ATM footage. In other words: did this witness have information that had been “held back” by law enforcement?  And indeed, when the ATM footage was released we saw she was wearing a light jacket – did it possibly have a light hood consistent with the sighting? However, if we look more closely, there is no indication that he claims to have seen 1) a female; 2) a dark coat or 3) a light hood.  In fact, it seems that he described seeing what he thought was a “teenage boy” in a “hoodie”.

The Caledonian Record 5/6/04 calls the sighting “about an hour” after the accident, whereas the Boston Globe 5/7/04 notes “The witness said he saw Murray around 7 p.m. on Feb. 9, around the time she disappeared.”  Law enforcement verified his work records and a Topix poster indicated that it was confirmed that he left Franconia at 7PM.  If we estimate that it is a 27-36 minute drive from Franconia (generalized) to CW house, then this sighting would be around 7:15-25 and he would have arrived home at 7:27-7:36.  We can move these time estimates around to look at different scenarios.

We know that CW didn’t see Maura at 7PM or 7:15 or 7:25.  Now, he might have seen her at 810PM+ if we believe she was running at high speeds.  Or he might have seen her at 8:30-9PM if she was running at slower speeds. But if LE verified that he left Franconia at 7PM then we know he didn’t see her on his way home.  And if we believe that he left Franconia at 7PM, there is no reason to think he saw her after 8PM. In other words, he might have seen someone but there is no basis to believe that he actually saw Maura that night.

Many find it odd that he didn’t realize she went missing on Monday 2/9.  So the next question: would he have seen lights and vehicles when he returned home?  Given everything happening on 112, it would seem that he would have seen all kinds of activity as he pulled into his driveway.  But it turns out he parked on Bradley Hill Road – so it’s not clear that he would have seen much of anything. In addition, it wholly depends on the exact time he arrived home.  Some moments he might see Maura’s flashers. Other moments he might see police lights. But there are other times when he might see nothing at all. According to one person who is local to the area “I could easily see him going home and noticing nothing at all”.  So it begins to seem possible that he could have arrived home without seeing the commotion on the road. 

True it is odd that CW didn’t realize that Maura had disappeared on this particular night.  It would seem that quite a bit of activity was happening on the street – both that night and in the days to follow.  On Wednesday the NHSP ran the sniffer dog. The following Monday police set up a blockade to stop cars to see who was coming through on the same day (Monday) at the same time as Maura’s accident. But he might be extremely private, busy or whatever the case. We might find many of things a little odd. But none of this rises to the level of making him a suspect in a potential criminal disappearance.

Is there any chance that CW saw Maura that night?  I would say that if LE verified that he left work at 7PM it seems impossible that he saw Maura.  If he left at, say, 8PM then we might want to reconsider the sighting. The next question: did CW suspiciously come forward a couple of months later to divert attention from his own location?  That perception seems wholly incorrect.

What if the initial dog track was accurate after all?

I have been critical of the initial dog track that was done on Wednesday, February 11th.  And although I still believe there is significant reason to question the validity and integrity of that process, in this post I am going to propose: what if it was accurate?  I can’t concede that the track was absolute proof of anything, but it’s worth considering the evidence it would give – or negate – if it’s accurate.

On Wednesday, February 11th, 36 hours after the crash, a dog from the New Hampshire State Police was brought in to track Maura’s scent.  The track was ultimately run about 39-40 hours after her accident on a “clean clear morning” with no fresh or additional snow since the accident.  The wind speed was estimated at between 2 and 4 MPH – considered low (good) for tracking a scent as wind disperses scent particles.  On the other hand, running a track after 39-40 hours, on a paved road with cars possibly dispersing the scent, is less than optimal.

The bloodhound ran the track twice. Both times the dog headed east and stopped down the road “within sight of the accident site”.  This track has been quoted as being “under 600 feet” “100 yards” and “near Atwood’s driveway”.   But on the Oxygen show, Todd Bogardus of the New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife, who was the supervisor in charge of Maura’s search in 2004 noted the dog track ended “at the intersection of Bradley Hill Road”.  However, the subsequent illustration done on the show references “Butch’s cabin” and the end of Butch’s driveway.  As you can see from the photo, the exact location where the dog stopped would be helpful to better understand the relation to the Atwood home, the Forcier trailer, and the relation to Bradley Hill Road. †

It has been widely quoted that the dog stopped “in the middle of the road” but on the Oxygen show, Bogardus didn’t specifically state that the dog stopped in the middle of the road. I can only find the reference to the “middle of the road” in the Conway article. [For now, I will assume that we don’t know if it was in the “middle” of the road.]

The NHSP dog was given a scent article – reportedly a leather glove that Maura had been given for Christmas.  Fred and others were disappointed in this choice since it was a new glove that Maura may not have even worn.  Another problem with the scent article: it was reported by at least 2 witnesses that the door to the Saturn was open after police arrived at the scene on February 9th –  with at least one witness reporting that police were “searching” the vehicle.  This should at minimum give us doubts about the integrity of any article taken from the car.

It has been proposed that the dog was actually tracking Cecil Smith who went over to Butch’s home after arriving at the scene on 2/9. This is another reason it would be helpful to know the exact location where the dog stopped. It would, of course, also be helpful to know if Cecil was in Maura’s car on the evening of 2/9 and may have touched the glove.

On the other hand, the NHSP dog was affirmatively tracking something.  The dog was not confused or meandering, did not give vague indicators and repeated the same track both times.  John Healy of the New Hampshire League of Investigators (who was not involved in the case at the time of the dog track) notes that the initial track didn’t give us anything probative aside from possibly “… the direction she chose to walk in”.  On the other hand, Bogardus the supervisor notes on the Oxygen show “… it’s possible she may have been picked up by a vehicle there”.  [We should obtain the full transcript of his interview to determine if this was his ultimate conclusion, or just the clip shown on the show that didn’t represent all of his thoughts on the topic.]  In any case, the lead supervisor of Maura’s 2004 search seems to believe it is possible or likely she went off in a vehicle.

Episode 8 of the 107 Degrees podcast featured an interview with Katharine Dolin, an Assistant District Attorney from Missouri.  Ms. Dolin has not worked directly on Maura’s case but comments based on her experience: “… if the dog sniff died – which it sounds like – in the middle of the road, from my experience it’s much more likely that that person was put into a vehicle or got into a vehicle.”  She notes that if (Maura) had walked to a home or trailer, the dogs would have tracked her there (to her final location) and not just stopped.  She concludes “It sounds much more like she was transported from a vehicle from the area“.

This leads to one of the more puzzling aspects: why didn’t Butch see her? At this point we can’t assume he did or didn’t. We don’t know if he was a reliable witness. Some of us assume he was covering up for RF, but I can’t think of any plausible scenarios where RF picked her up in front of his house and drove her 10 feet into his driveway.

​It is also important to underline this finding: the dog didn’t track her going up to someone’s door, or hiding behind a tree, or ducking in the woods.  This may be one of the more important findings: we can’t simultaneously claim that the dog track lends suspicion to RF when it doesn’t lead up to his door or trailer.  We really can’t have it both ways.

I’m skeptical of the initial dog track.  I think there are many reasons to call it into question.  But if it tells us anything, it seems to tell us that she got into a car. Maybe more importantly it does not support the theory that she walked up to someone’s door – at least not at that intersection.

Perspective

By Tyler from Pittsburgh

Yesterday we had an opportunity to speak with blogger John Allore.

Tragically, John’s sister was murdered in 1978 in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. The unanswered questions surrounding the fate of his sister inspired John to start a crime blog in 2002. Over the years John has searched for answers for his sister, Theresa, as well as for other murdered and missing women — including Maura Murray.

John began covering Maura’s story shortly after she disappeared in 2004. As someone who had extensive experience investigating the unknown fate of a loved one, he reached out to the families of both Maura as well as Brianna Maitland.

“I was doing an investigation on my sister’s case,” he says, “from that I started to get pulled into these things more and more.”

John has corresponded with Helena Murray, among others. He even briefly exchanged emails with Maura’s father, Fred Murray, whom he put in contact with Canadian authorities.

Presently, John is surprised that so much interest has arisen with regards to the possibility that Maura may be in the province of Quebec.

“It was shocking to me to see that they had posted ‘have you seen this woman’ posters in the Eastern Township newspapers in Sherbrooke.”

He’s right. From our perspective, there is a lack of evidence that suggests Maura fled the country. That’s not to say turning over every stone isn’t valuable, but John told us a tale of what can happen when too much hype is focused on a single theory.

“I think it was the summer of 2005, someone put me in contact with Dateline NBC,” he recalled, “In the course of these conversations we were also talking about Maura and we were talking about Brianna. And the producer at Dateline was pushing us… To go on record as saying we think there is a link between Theresa’s murder and Brianna and Maura — we wouldn’t do it because there was no factual basis for it. So the segment didn’t air.”

That’s an extremely unfortunate situation. Who knows how much help a nationally televised segment could have provided any of the three disappearances. It’s an ugly snapshot of the free-falling quality of the news media.

“It’s like what’s happening in Malaysia right now,” John said, referencing missing Malaysian airliner Flight 370, “No one knows anything so they fabricate everything based on absolutely no evidence… Over time they [the media] start operating in their own interests. They were suggesting she [Theresa] was a runaway, she was a drug addict, she was a lesbian… My parents got so fed up with it that they began to worry about how it would affect me and my brother who were 13 and 17… So they just shut down and stopped talking to anyone.”

John’s perspective is a valuable one. It’s easy to view a situation from the outside looking in and make assumptions. Answers to questions that we often decide are complex are likely very simple. In the case of Fred Murray, it’s not hard to understand why after ten years of attention, he may simply feel the media does more harm than good in some cases.

Whatever you ultimately believe, don’t rule out the most simple explanations; explanations which have very solid evidence to back them up. It’s always fun to delve into the most exciting of theories. But there is a very strong possibility Maura rests somewhere not far from that bend in the road on Route 112 — just as John’s sister, Theresa, was eventually found less than a mile from where she disappeared.

Please visit John Allore’s blog at theresaallore.com

How I Think it Happened

By Tyler from Pittsburgh

– February 6, 2004.

Maura Murray felt helpless. Her eating disorder was out of control, she had been committing petty crimes and her relationship with her longtime boyfriend was in shambles due to infidelity by both parties. To top it all off, her latest local flame had just dumped her. Her life was falling apart. At her job as desk security at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she sat quiet; reflective. Maura began to break down. By the time her supervisor walked in, she was having a full-on panic attack. After mumbling an excuse as to why she had her cell phone with her against work regulations, Maura was relieved of her duties and escorted to her dorm room.

– February 7, 2004.

Maura’s father is in town for a visit. They spend time with each other and go shopping for a car. Maura picks out a vehicle she likes and her father agrees to the purchase. However, the price tag is a little more than he anticipated and they agree he will return to Amherst to buy the car at a later date.

– February 8, 2004.

Maura is feeling uncomfortable at a gathering of friends. It’s early in the morning, she isn’t in the mood to party and feels as if she may break down again. Her father had let her borrow his Toyota Corolla because Maura’s Saturn was in poor shape. Such bad shape in fact that she had recently shoved a rag deep into the tailpipe in order to prevent the vehicle from spewing smoke. As it were, her father felt safer letting her drive his car around for the weekend.

She attempts to excuse herself from the party several times explaining that she should return her father’s car. Her friends tell her it would be silly do so at such an hour. Eventually, Maura departs the group under the pretense that she will retire to her dorm room. In reality – she intends to follow through with her plan to drive to the hotel. Maura had been spending nights at her now ex-beau’s place since returning to school from winter break. And with her dorm still nearly entirely unpacked, dad’s hotel room is an inviting alternative.

It’s a short drive to the Quality Inn, but Maura is tired. She falls asleep; jolted awake just as the Corolla makes impact with a guard rail. The car is towed, and despite the possibility of alcohol in her system, the officer doesn’t arrest her. She appears to be a nice young girl who simply made a mistake. Maura is dropped off at her father’s hotel and spends the remainder of the morning there.

– February 9, 2004.

Throughout the day Maura spends time researching information on lodging in Vermont and New Hampshire. She tends to some personal calls and prints out directions to Burlington, Vermont. She feels like she needs to get away from it all for a while. Maura fabricates an excuse that will explain her absence in an email to professors. The trip up north will be a heavenly retreat from all the built-up stress which has climaxed in Amherst.

Maura embarks for Vermont. She stops at an ATM for some cash and purchases liquor — plenty of it. She’s enjoying the drive. Impulsively, she decides to take a detour towards an area she has always loved to visit — the White Mountains of New Hampshire; just for fun. She is driving well above the speed limit and drinking. Before she can realize the cause, she spins out, coming to rest facing the wrong direction in the wrong lane. Another accident. She can’t believe she has wrecked AGAIN. The weathered barn curve had come up on her so abruptly.

She fumbles around with her phone. Her boyfriend’s family had given her a AAA membership for Christmas. That will come in handy. Suddenly, Maura realizes that she has open alcohol in the vehicle. She knows what getting a DUI will mean for her future. She hurries out of the car and begins dumping the alcohol.

A bus pulls up. The driver asks if he can be of any assistance and mentions calling the police. Maura thanks him, but deceptively explains that she has already dialed AAA and sends him on his way. The bus driver continues to his residence just a short distance down the road. He parks his bus in an unusual manner in an attempt to get a better viewpoint of the accident. He informs his wife of the situation then returns to the bus. Nearby, several of his neighbors are also paying attention to the crash.

Maura makes quick work of the opened alcohol and tries to call AAA. No service. She walks around the Saturn in an attempt to get a signal. Nothing. She retrieves her backpack and puts the rest of the liquor and some other items inside, then begins walking towards the driveway where the bus driver had pulled in — she was going to need his help after all.

As Maura makes her way towards the man’s house, a vehicle rolls up next to her. She speaks with the stranger in the driver’s seat through his window and accepts his offer of a ride into town. It’s a godsend. She can handle the car tomorrow; after the buzz has worn off. Thanking him, Maura opens the passenger door and climbs inside — never to be seen again.

Police eventually obtain valuable information from local witnesses. Some of whom are instructed not to share their observations with the public.

– March 19, 2014.

Authorities believe foul play was involved in Maura Murray’s disappearance. But ten years later — she has not been located and no charges have been filed.

The Internet WILL Find Maura Murray

not without peril

The old blog was deleted shortly after Bill Jensen’s excellent article was published. Right now we’ve just started rebuilding; and your contributions will help.

First of all: Thanks, Bill, for writing such an accurate and informative piece.

I found three portions of the article particularly noteworthy.

1. “Maura’s 1996 Saturn … was ‘smoking something fierce,’ according to Fred Murray.’I said, “You can’t drive this car. The cops will pull you over in a heartbeat,”‘ he recalls. As a temporary fix, Fred says he suggested she put a rag inside the tailpipe to hide the smoke. He says he withdrew $4,000 over the course of eight ATM transactions and that on that Saturday he took Maura to purchase a car in Northampton. They ended up a couple of thousand dollars short, though, so Fred figured he’d go home, round up some more money, and come back another time.”

Fred’s recollection reinforces a portion of my theory from the blog: “On Saturday, Fred came to visit Maura as he had done in the past. He wanted to have a few drinks with his daughter, but he didn’t want her driving back to the dorm in her car. If Maura drove the Saturn back to campus, he thought, she would be practically begging for a DUI.[The police would] take one look at the car –— smoke coming from the tailpipe, a student sticker on the window — and she’d be done for. He insisted that Maura drive his car, instead.”

2. The article describes the items found in the Saturn. Significantly, it mentions “a MapQuest printout of directions to Burlington, Vermont” — there is no mention of the directions to Stowe reported by Maribeth Conway. This was one of the details that, admittedly, I obsessed over. See Jensen’s article (“[The items found in the car] would be obsessed over for the next decade”)

As reported on the blog, I contacted Helena Dwyer Murray. She recalled there being a single set of directions: to Burlington. I emphasized, to Jensen, the importance of addressing this detail. He said that he had contacted Maribeth Conway, that he hoped to speak with her and that he would ask her about the Stowe directions. It’s unclear whether he spoke with her. In any event, I am satisfied that Jensen investigated the issue and concluded that there was a single set of directions: to Burlington.

3. Jensen’s description of the Saturn accident does not appear to be consistent with James’ theory. Instead, it is somewhat ambiguous. Jensen wrote: “[Maura] took a shaky turn and crashed into a snow bank.”

I find this noteworthy because, in the past, I have disagreed with James Renner’s theory of the accident.

I hope that you will share your thoughts.