Tag Archives: Maura Murray

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

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

In summary, the following search operations have taken place:

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

The following are close ups of the above map

SEARCHES FOR MAURA MURRAY

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

The Night of Maura’s Disappearance 2.9.04

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

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

Investigation Discovery Disappeared episode “Miles to Nowhere”

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

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

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

Abby Kennedy – Maura Murray facebook official group 4.7.2020

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

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

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

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

In total these five searches covered “12 miles of roadway, 1-2 miles into the woods with dogs and even places up to 50 miles away that they knew Maura loved to visit.” (Oxygen)  They never found any trace of Maura or any item belonging to her. [See transcript of the Bogardus interview for additional details].

Official Search 1: Wednesday, February 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maggie Freleng: we’ve heard from people we’ve interviewed that it’s hard to find a body in these woods because they are so thick.  Do you agree with that?

Todd Bogardus: I do agree it’s hard but I can tell you I’m not a big believer in people levitating and going long distances.  So she had to have left the track for us if she went into the woodlands. I’m fairly confident to say she did not go into the woods when she left the area

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

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

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

Burlington, Vermont – 2/20/04

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

“Vermont State Police, Burlington police, and other local agencies have canvassed motels in Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester, Shelburne, and surrounding towns to see if she checked in anywhere around”.

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

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

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

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

Official Search 3: May 8 (89 days missing) 

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

Scarinza said a man, whom he declined to identify, was returning from a construction job in the Franconia area when he spotted a young woman matching Murray\’s description hurrying east on Route 112, about an hour after her accident.

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

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

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

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

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

An article published in 2007 has the following detail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEARCHES BY THE NEW HAMPSHIRE LEAGUE OF INVESTIGATORS

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

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

NHLI Search 1 of 3 – 10.21.06-10.22.06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Details Learned about the NHLI Searches

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

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

Notes by Alan Tate, NHLI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bodies of Water

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

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

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

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

The work of Terry O’Connell and his experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fred Murray Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Rausch comments on the search

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

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

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

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

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

A Discussion of Maps and Mapping

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

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

Sources:

Relevant Posts on this site:

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

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

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

Newspaper Articles & news videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRbrTfKJFxk
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=390
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=392
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=394
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=398
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=395
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=405
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=408
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=415
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=416
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=417
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=421
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=423
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=420
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5L2BPg8IWg
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=424
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=427
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=428
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=425
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=426
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=436
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=447
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=448
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=463
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=465
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=467
https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/police-have-new-lead-in-maura-murray-case/article_677914a8-8916-505f-8f66-a3a9331a1154.html
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=521
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=523
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=524
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URpHslFW4XQ
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=594
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=605
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=633
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=634
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=635
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=636
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=637
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=638
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=639
https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/k–teams-search-for-student-who-disappeared-in/article_2850ae5a-27ed-5e18-bf6c-290856339b05.html
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=644
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=665
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=674
https://www.patriotledger.com/x1009933237
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=679
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=745
https://sci-hub.tw/10.1007/978-3-030-03291-3_8

Search for Maura Murray: Transcription of the Oxygen interview with Todd Bogardus of New Hampshire Fish and Game who supervised the official search for Maura in 2004

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.


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. Edit: confirmed to be the county in NH (site of Goshen, etc.).

5. THE STATE LISTED 20 CATEGORIES OF EVIDENCE

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

  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)

Maura Murray Evidence Sub

https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/indexes/master-index-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.  

My methodology in writing this was to stick with original narratives from RO. Although I did not interview her for this, on December 1, 2019, she signed off on its accuracy. All of the available direct testimony of RO is found at the very end of this piece.

MY PERSONAL LIST OF TOP 10 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE RED TRUCK

Misconception 1: RO was walking a dog

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

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

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

This map provides the larger view of the area

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

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

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

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

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

RO citations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misconception 3. The truck was following Maura (timeline)

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

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

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

Next – RT passed RO stopped briefly

Next – RO arrived at the store

Next – RT left store direction of accident

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

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

8:00 Store closed RO left to walk home 

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

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

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


Misconception 4. The truck scared RO

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

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

RO citations:

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

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

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

Misconception 5. The red truck has been tracked down

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

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

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

RO citations:

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

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

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

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

RO citations:

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

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

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

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

Misconception 8. Police were pulling over red trucks all night

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

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

Silver 2001 Ford 2D Mustang

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

Maroon 1998 Ford pu ranger

Green 2002 GMC pu sierra

Red 1996 dodge pickup (defective equipment)

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

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

Misconception 9. The red truck circled back

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

Misconception 10. RO mentioned an eagle decal

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

RO citations:

“No I did not see a decal .” (2019)

(I have no citations where RO mentions an eagle)

ADDENDUM

The following post by Weeper (Frank Kelly of the New Hampshire League of Investigators) from June 2006 mentions the eagle and seems to accuse RO of – not sure – changing her story? Here is my response:

  1. RO was not walking a dog
  2. RO was not near the “private road” which we understand to be Old Peters Road. She was also not near anything else known to be referred to as the/a private road.
  3. RO did not speak to Frank Kelly.

It’s possible Frank Kelly spoke to someone else who saw a pickup truck and then at some point assumed it was “robinsonordway”. But honestly – I wrote the post to clear up this sort of thing. If anyone has any information on the “dog walker” or the dog walker who saw a pickup truck with an eagle, I welcome that information. But he is not speaking of the correct witness.

Truck (front/body) identified by RO in 2019 as most closely matching the truck seen in 2004

Truck bed identified by RO in 2019 as most closely resembling the truck seen in 2004

FULL COMPILATION OF DIRECT TESTIMONY AND NARRATIVE BY RO (additions to this are welcome and encouraged; due to issues on reddit we will be creating a new and/or temporary link).

Is there any credibility to the potential sighting of Maura Murray reported a couple of months later by the construction worker?

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 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 not seen anything persuasive.

I will focus this post on one incident that seems to have put him on the radar of investigators – the sighting. The origin of this post for me was last June 2019 when I wanted to compare the ATM sighting with the contractor’s description and realized that the information we had about the sighting was incorrect. This post will attempt to build on that finding.

Introduction to the sighting by the construction worker

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.

Visual of the area near the intersection of 112 and 116.

We later learned that this construction worker was local resident Rick Forcier who lived at the intersection of 112 and Bradley Hill Road. (Note: his identity is confirmed in the Maribeth Conway article if nowhere else). According to the newspaper he reported the sighting on April 29th, 2004. [In this post I will generally refer to him as CW: construction worker, adapted from topix].

At the time, by all accounts, LE considered this a credible lead:

“Based on the description of what he saw, we believe it may have been Maura,” Scarinza said, referring to the witness seeing a young woman fitting Maura’s description about an hour after the accident. “Based on the place and based on the time, there is a good possibility the person he saw on 112 was Maura.”

To follow up on this lead, a search was conducted on May 8, 2004 involving 15 Fish and Game officers accompanied by 6 dogs (from the New England Canine and the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team). The search was conducted by foot and helicopter “5 miles east of the accident site on Route 112” near the intersection with 116. However, nothing was found.

It seems that the CW then became a key person of interest in Maura’s disappearance.  Although we have heard that he had become a person of interest much earlier based on statements he made to LE and the media [that Maura had come to his door], I have been unable to verify that he made these statements.  From my own read of the timeline, he came onto the radar of the investigation with this sighting a couple of months later.

Report to police

However, it seems that the story about CW coming forward with this sighting was more complex than noted. On Topix (Jan 12, 2009), poster “White Wash” provided information on this point:

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

On August 3, 2011, James Renner offered a similar explanation on his blog:

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

It has traditionally been thought that the construction worker saw a female, wearing a dark coat and light colored hood.  Questions were raised about whether this matched the previously unreleased ATM footage. In other words: did this witness have information that had been “held back” by law enforcement?  And indeed, when the ATM footage was released we saw Maura was wearing a light jacket – did it possibly have a light hood consistent with the sighting? However, if we look more closely, there is no indication that CW claims to have seen 1) a female; 2) a dark coat or 3) a light hood.  In fact, it seems that he described seeing what he thought was a “teenage boy” in a “hoodie”. By other accounts he did not know if it was a male or female but reported he saw “someone”.

Timing of the sighting

The Caledonian Record 5/6/04 calls the sighting “about an hour” after the accident, whereas the Boston Globe 5/7/04 notes “The witness said he saw Murray around 7 p.m. on Feb. 9, around the time she disappeared.”  Law enforcement verified his work records. A Topix poster indicated that it was confirmed that he left Franconia at 7PM however, I have no additional confirmation of this time.  If we estimate that it is a 27-36 minute drive from Franconia (generalized) to CW house, then this sighting would be around 7:15-25 and he would have arrived home at 7:27-7:36.  We can move these time estimates around to look at different scenarios.

We know that CW didn’t see Maura at 7PM or 7:15 or 7:25.  He might have seen her at 810PM+ if we believe she was running at high speeds.  Or he might have seen her at 8:30-9PM if she was running at slower speeds. But if LE verified that he left Franconia at 7PM and drove at an average rate of speed without stops, then we know he didn’t see her on his way home.  And if we believe that he left Franconia at 7PM, there is no reason to think he saw her after 8PM. In other words, he might have seen someone but there is no basis to believe that he actually saw Maura that night.

Would CW have seen activity on 112 that night?

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

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

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

Sources:

The Caledonian-Record, May 6, 2004, Police Have New Lead In Maura Murray Case, By Gary E. Lindsley
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=478

The Patriot Ledger, May 6, 2004, New tip on missing Hanson woman, Joe McGee
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=479

Boston Globe, May 7, 2004, New lead is reported in search for student – Woman was seen along N.H. road, David Abel
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=482

Boston Herald, May 7, 2004, New lead gives hope to missing girl’s kin, Jennifer Rosinski
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=483

New Hampshire Union Leader, May 7, 2004, In Brief – Police get new lead in Murray case
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=484

The Caledonian-Record, Monday May 10, 2004, Families Issue Emotional Plea For FBI Help, Gary E. Lindsley
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=488

Journal Opinion, May 12, 2004, Missing woman’s parents plead for FBI, local help, Cicely Richardson
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=489

The New Hampshire Union Leader, May 14, 2004, Dad can’t give up search for daughter, Mike Recht
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=490

The New Hampshire Union Leader, May 16, 2004, Lost — and sometimes found in the White Mountains, Lorna Colquhoun
https://mauramurray.createaforum.com/evidence/newspaper-articles-57/?message=491

http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/3620dfnh.html

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5164245.James_Renner/blog?page=28

Reddit discussion:

EXCERPTS:

  • Caledonian 5/6/04: “4-5 miles east; young woman “matching Murray’s description” hurrying east on route 112 about an hour after her accident
  • Boston Globe: 5/7/04: “The motorist, apparently a local contractor who commutes along the route every day, told police he saw the woman turn down a dirt road as he approached, said Laurie Murray” “State Police Lieutenant John Scarinza said the man reported seeing someone fitting Maura Murray’s description along the road in Haverhill, N.H., the Associated Press reported. The spot was 4 or 5 miles from where Murray had a minor car accident that disabled her vehicle just before her disappearance. Police said they will search that area this weekend. The witness said he saw Murray around 7 p.m. on Feb. 9, around the time she disappeared, police told the Murrays.
  • JR blog per neighbor Cowles: “a teenage boy in a hoodie crossing the road quickly in front of him, near 116, several miles East of the crash site. He wondered if it could have been Maura.”
  • DOE network: At 8:00 to 8:30 pm, a contractor returning home from Franconia saw a young person moving quickly on foot eastbound on Route 112 about 4 to 5 miles (6 to 8 km) east of where Maura’s vehicle was discovered. He noted that the young person was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood. He didn’t report it to police immediately due to his own confusion of dates, only discovering three months later (when reviewing his work records) that he’d spotted the young person the same night Maura disappeared.
  • SOCO Article: “..New Hampshire State Police said that Maura was reportedly spotted four miles down the road shortly after her accident. A man reportedly saw Maura between 8 and 8:30 p.m. The person believed to be her was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood.”
  • MMM podcast 76: “… there was a pretty publicized news story a couple of months after Maura went missing… a new witness came forward .. a young person wearing black jacket light hood moving quickly on foot wearing near the intersection of 116/112 which is 5 miles down the road approximately 30 minutes to an hour after


The search for Maura Murray. 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. 

It has been widely quoted that the dog stopped “in the middle of the road” but on the Oxygen show, Bogardus didn’t specifically state that the dog stopped in the middle of the road. I can only find the reference to the “middle of the road” in the Conway article. Tom Shamshak who worked with the New Hampshire League of Investigators also mentions “middle of the road” in an interview on the 10 year anniversary of Maura’s disappearance.

The NHSP dog was given a scent article – reportedly a leather glove that Maura had been given for Christmas.  Fred and others were disappointed in this choice since it was a new glove that Maura may not have even worn.  The best scent articles are items that are very “close” to the individual such as sweaty clothes, a toothbrush, shoes, underwear. Therefore, and given that there were many other items in the Saturn, the choice of an unused glove seems unfortunate at best.

Another problem with the scent article: it was reported by at least 2 witnesses that the door to the Saturn was open after police arrived at the scene on February 9th –  with at least one witness reporting that police were “searching” the vehicle.  This should at minimum give us doubts about the integrity of any article taken from the car.

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

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

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

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

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

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