Tag Archives: missing persons

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. 

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.
  • 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: I don’t know what is meant by the game trail, but I assume it is near the Weathered Barn – I will update when I receive confirmation].

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.

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).

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 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.

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.”

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

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)

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.  

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).

What is the linkage between the October 2003 trip and Maura’s February 2004 destination?

In October 2003, Maura and Fred took a trip to four sites: Mt. Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, Owl’s Head, and West Bond. Two of these are near Stowe, VT and two are in the White Mountains. These sites link very closely to Maura’s web searches and phone calls prior to leaving Amherst. Last year I created a series of maps to lay out these linkages.

Without drawing too many conclusions, I wanted to note the following:

– Maura was looking at effectively two areas: Stowe/Burlington and The White Mountains. These “areas” are 135 miles apart.

– Maura had a map to Burlington, VT and a note card mentioning Burlington, VT (leading to or mentioning the Winooski VT exit 15 off of I-89) However, at some point she would have bypassed the exit to Burlington (Exit 108 near Lebanon) and continued north on I-91 (unless she went up 93, etc.). In any case, at least that night, she seemed to have made a choice to head to the White Mountains rather than Stowe/Burlington.

– She could have been choosing a single destination or she could have been planning a multi-stop trip. Or she could have had no destination or a “type” of destination. [I personally think the party or meet up theory is less likely given that she was calling places so far apart.]

– My own thought it that, these four locations would be worthy of further look.  My additional thought is that the map provides a powerful visual with the linkage to the prior trip – although I would stop short of drawing any conclusions about her psychology. I would say it indicates a lack of firm destination, and a very clear linkage to her prior trip.

– What do others see when they look at these maps? What would be next steps in looking into these locations?

Map : Larger map showing all calls, web searches, combined with the October 2003 trip

Map: More general route map

Thank you to Clint Harting for spurring my thinking on this and for many others who added to excellent discussions on Reddit.