Tag Archives: searches for 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. 

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
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5L2BPg8IWg
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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
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URpHslFW4XQ
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https://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/k–teams-search-for-student-who-disappeared-in/article_2850ae5a-27ed-5e18-bf6c-290856339b05.html
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https://www.patriotledger.com/x1009933237
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