The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Ch.2

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Ch.2

WARNING: This blog contains Disney references, cartoon imitations and sarcasm. We try to document things, but we are definitely NOT journalists of any kind. We are basically winging everything. You’ve been warned!

OH, but no blood, guts or anything else trigger-y.

What Happened to Maura Murray: Part 2

 

{Narration,  Lara comments,  Kate comments}

The Information Regarding the Incident: 

Report Type: DISAPPEARANCE

Where: Woodsville, New Hampshire

When:   February 4, 2004

How:  911 Call from home across the street from a car accident

What: College student Maura Murray, age 21, crashed her car into a snowbank on a trip no one knew she was taking. Nearby neighbors called 911, but by the time the Police got there, she was gone. Without a trace! (cue woo woo music!)

Major Players: 

Maura Murray: Person at the center of the investigation.  21 years old, University of Massachusetts student who crashed her car in a snowbank on Route 112 near Woodsville, New Hampshire, a village in the town of Haverhill. Other than there being a childhood vacation spot in the general area, there was no reason for Maura to be in that area. Biggest unanswered question in this case: WHY was she driving north in the first place?  Lara: Never. Answered. (Despite a slew of investigations and loads of theories.)

Fred Murray: Maura’s father.

Bill Rausch: Maura’s cheating boyfriend (Lara: he seems like a weirdo)

Kate Markopoulos: Maura’s friend from college

Kathleen Murray: Maura’s older sister (Lara: something is off with this one as well)

Julie Murray: Maura’s other older sister

Kurt Murray: Maura’s younger brother

Faith Westerman: local home owner who called 911

Butch Atwood: local bus driver and home owner who also called 911 after talking to Maura

Maura Murray

Missing Poster

Julie Murray, Maura’s older sister

CHAPTER TWO: A Deeper Dive

Welcome! We’re so happy you’ve come back! (I mean, not that we doubted you or anything…) If you haven’t already done so, we 100% recommend that you read Chapter 1: The Basics [insert link], as we will not be reviewing that information here, but forging ahead.

Ready for a deeper dive into this weird story? We are too! Here we go…

So, we basically outlined everything that was originally released when Maura first went missing. The story is a bit chaotic, there are rather large chunks of time missing and an even narrower bit of time that Maura disappeared in than originally thought. There are suppositions to separate from fact, and some new information. 

Lara: For the record, I listened to the whole of the podcast “Missing Maura Murray” as well as read James Renner’s book, True Crime Addict [affiliate link] at least two years ago. In August 2020, I also watched the Oxygen channel’s documentary The Disappearance of Maura Murray [affiliate link] from 2018. Even since that documentary was made, more information has come out. I’ll do my best to keep names and occurrences easy for everyone to keep track of! It was a bit hard to follow on the documentary at times. Let’s dive in.

If we roll back a bit, we can examine the family history and Maura’s actions before she disappeared, getting a feel for what everyone else perceived to be her normal character and personality. Maura was an athlete and a good student, along with her older sister, Julie. Their father, Fred Murray, encouraged them in their athletic pursuits. He ran with them, coached them and by all accounts was pretty tough on them with training. Julie went into West Point, which then became younger sister Maura’s dream as well. And she did it. She was accepted at West Point, thanks to a Senate nomination from Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy (which is standard procedure for those of you that aren’t aware, you need to secure a Senator’s nomination to get into West Point) enrolled as a student in the chemical engineering program and became a part of their cross-country team. Now previously, we have read that no one knows why she left West Point in her second year. Some speculate that there was an Honor Code violation. While that was the excuse used in several places, there was no reasoning as to *why* that was thought at the time. Here is the exact wording of the Honor code at West Point: 

The Oxygen documentary is thorough, 6 episodes long!

“At West Point, cadets learn about and prepare for the ethical demands of officership by living under the dictates of an Honor Code, which states: ‘A Cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do.’ Its purpose is to foster a commitment to moral-ethical excellence and an insight into the broader, more comprehensive professional military ethic.” [not an affliate link to West Point]

Lara: Leaving because of an Honor Code violation seems like something that was pulled out of someone’s butt, in my humble opinion and coming from the perspective of an ex-Army wife, whose ex-husband spent several summers at West Point as an active duty soldier to participate in training cadets. I am familiar with the lives of enlisted people. If Maura had been booted for something like hazing, whether the victim or the hazer, or for stealing, there would be police reports. I can’t see anyone being able to keep that a total secret all these years. Honor Code violations can be almost anything from cheating on an exam to being found in another student’s room in a sexually compromising position to stealing. Not knowing Maura personally, I have no idea if she would have been one to break the Honor Code. Although, seeing as how she was caught stealing in the future, that tells us two things: One, she was not averse to stealing, she may have done it before. Two, she’s not a savvy criminal, seeing as how she got caught, so she may well have stolen something at W.P., gotten caught and subsequently kicked out. In all honesty, does it make a difference as to whether she chose to leave or not? She was no longer a student there.

Kate: The first thing I thought of was Maura and the stealing the credit cards incident…but you’d think if she got caught for that once and kicked out of WP that she wouldn’t then do it again? This is a big jump but considering her sister is a (recovering) alcoholic, addiction may run in their family and it takes on many forms. Maura could be developing an impulsion to steal…just a little psychology from an unqualified person! 

The Maura Murray blog states: 

“Maura decided the military was not for her and she transferred to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she decided to pursue a career in nursing.” [plain ol’ link]

And perhaps it was as simple as that. Maybe Maura hated military life. Maybe she hated chemical engineering and wanted to be a nurse, which wasn’t a program available at West Point. At any rate, there are no indications that Maura was unhappy with transferring or with her new major of Nursing. She transferred to University of Mass-Amherst and to everyone looking on, she was happy there. The fact that Maura also finished her homework and turned it in, as well as notified her professors she would be gone, indicates she intended to come back. If she was leaving permanently, why have the professors looking for her return in a few days or a week? Why do your homework and turn it in? True, she could have been trying to dampen suspicion, but still: she’s a grown woman in the eyes of the law. Leaving on her own would have been defended by the police. “Adults just leave sometimes” and all that. It’s not illegal for an adult to leave their known areas/address and not tell anyone. 

Maura Murray as a cadet at West Point

Maura running in track meet for HS. Credit: MauraMurrayMissing.org

Lara: This alone is suspish to me! If she had planned far enough ahead to think of details like her homework and telling her profs she would be gone, why would she then jeopardize her whole plan by drinking and driving? How easily does one get caught drinking, swerving, doing a 360 on the icy road, hitting–I don’t know, a tree? She would clearly have gotten caught.  She wouldn’t have gotten very far at all in her escape plan, if that’s what it was. Of course, there are other speculations about what happened after the accident that we’ll get to in a moment. Which could have helped her plan. 

Kate: Nah, man, you never do homework just because…I don’t think it was Maura’s intentions at all to be away long term. If she wanted to go, she would just pick-up and go. No need to inform profs or turn in homework, etc. In my mind, the drinking is just because she’s clearly upset by something happening in her life, she was drowning those sorrows, baby. Smart? Of course not.

Generic New Hampshire pic. Credit: Photo by Balazs Busznyak on Unsplash

Maura & Billy

Billy & Maura (from James Renner’s site)

So, Maura has transferred from West Point to Amherst, *true* reasons unknown. She’s engaged to and dating Billy Rausch. Yeah, that guy. Now in Chapter 1, we talked about how he was cheating on her and how that really impacted her, according to some reports. Turns out, it was just a general “trouble in paradise” sort of situation because they were cheating on each other. 

Lara: Really, Billy is not any kind of a peach, so it seems like she dodged a bullet. Maybe Maura wasn’t even that upset about “needing space” after all! 

Billy is later on accused of sexually assaulting several different young women. 

Kate: Wow, Billy. Just wow. Also, I am interested in the whole Maura cheating thing….with who? One person? Whoever she fancied? I need deets. 

Lara: I know I saw this detail somewhere, but I’ve read so many different articles, I now cannot locate it (of course) but I am pretty sure it was a coach or assistant coach of the cross-country team she was on there at the college. 

Investigation Discovery states: 

“The first reported contact Murray had with anyone on February 9 was at 1 P.M., when she emailed her boyfriend, Billy. She wrote: ‘I got your messages, but honestly, I didn’t feel like talking to much of anyone, I promise to call today though.’”  [absolutely no affiliations here.]

This contact happened on February 9th, around 1:00pm the day she disappeared. We don’t want to launch into the timeline of her last day yet, but thought it was important to clarify where she was with Billy and not interject that later. So it sounds like Billy is really trying to get in touch with her, and she’s been ignoring him for awhile. Also important to note that she herself says she does not want to talk to anyone. There is no history of Maura being depressed that we found, or having other mental health issues. This leaves us thinking her not wanting to talk to anyone is a situational depression or low of some type. Whether that was just from Billy or from a combination of factors, there’s no way to know. 

Lara: Now, I email my boyfriend, but we are long distance, so we communicate pretty much any way we can! But it seems weird to me here. Although, if all the cheating is out in the open, emailing is a response with some distance, so maybe it does make sense here? 

Kate: Boy was probably blowing up her phone! Email is an easy way to respond and get him off her back for a while. She put a pin in it and I hope her plan was just to ghost him all together, honestly! Mail that ring back, girl. 

Besides Billy, there was some family drama and entanglements. 

You’ll remember that Maura borrowed her father’s car and then had an accident. There was some question about his reaction, but according to Fred himself, Maura was more upset than he was! He told her insurance would cover it, he rented a car for himself and sounded pretty practical-minded about the whole thing. After watching the Oxygen docu-series [<–heads up! affiliate link!], The Disappearance of Maura Murray, he does seem to be a down to earth guy, so that statement sounds like it would align with his personality. But that’s all just conjecture, of course. 

Now, you may have heard there were theories, speculation, about Fred having molested or sexually abused his daughter. This was something put forth in James Renner’s book, True Crime Addict, which is all about his obsession with the Maura Murray case. I remember really liking the book up to that point and then feeling kind of shocked that he threw that in there at the end. 

Lara: It’s been awhile since I read it, to be sure. I remember being really excited to read it, it was full of information, but I do remember thinking that it ended on a really weird and sad note. I don’t know why James Renner felt the need to throw that in there. 

On the docu-series, Fred was asked directly about this accusation and he was adamant that no such thing had ever happened! He was angry that Renner put that in the book for all to read and there was no basis for it. (Although Fred admits, he never read the book.) There is much speculation about this on the internet and where Renner got it from, but from what we could find, this all stemmed from a search that Maura did on her computer about child abuse. One of Maura’s friends from college that was interviewed on the Oxygen docu-series said that that was a college class assignment, that they were all supposed to research the process of reporting, the signs of abuse, etc. So that made total sense to her! 

Lara: PEOPLE!! Stop jumping to conclusions and just making shit up!! GEEZ. People thought it was weird that Fred didn’t read Renner’s book, but you know, if you are already breathing and eating and sleeping your child’s disappearance and full of worry, I don’t know if I’d want to read someone else’s opinion on it, you know? Especially someone that doesn’t know the family, is just a reporter and it feels like he is trying to make a buck on something terrible that’s happened in your family! Why write a book about an ongoing, open case except to capitalize on its current popularity and hope it sells a lot of books? He clearly didn’t interview the family and I’m not sure that he called and tried to get an interview? But if he did ask and the family declined, then you as a journalist have an ethical duty to not write things about them that you could not verify. Period. So. Minus ten points for James Renner! Minus *another* ten points for calling his own book the “definitive book on the Maura Murray Mystery.” yuck. (disclaimer: I do not track points, they do not mean anything, but I will continue to award and take them away as I see fit!)

Oxygen docuseries screenshot.  If you click on the pic, it’s an…(you guessed it!) affiliate link!!

Author, James Renner. His blog.

Not an affiliate link.

Julie, Fred & Maura Murray

Wait, let us check…YES. This is an affiliate link!

Kate: We do what we want around here, so good luck keeping your points in this case. 

Yeah for real, I personally wouldn’t read any book written by Joe-Schmoe about a family member that disappeared. Especially one I did not consent to and supply any information. HELLO. Not suspish at all. Like you said, Maura’s disappearance is Fred’s LIFE. He’s living it. I also believe if there was any abuse, one of her sisters would have come forward by now. There would be some other sign that Maura and/or her sisters were abused as children. That’s not something you casually throw in a book because she Googled “child abuse”. Get out of here.   

On to older sister Kathleen. Oh Kathleen! <shaking our heads at each other>  She was interviewed on the docu-series and, I’m sorry, but she seemed like a space cadet. Not just awkward in front of a screen, but like, weird. At one point, the interviewer asks a question and Kathleen tilts her head and looks up and off to the right *just like she is listening to someone else we can’t see*!!  She pauses for a long moment and then turns back to the interviewer to answer. There was a profiler that was hidden in another room watching via camera to make notes on Kathleen’s body language. 

Lara: I was braced for the same reaction I had just had, but no.

The profiler noted that Kathleen was very stiff at first but she relaxed as the interview went on and she felt that Kathleen was truthful. I.e. Kathleen was not hiding anything about her sister’s disappearance. 

Lara: I have been dying to talk about this part!! I was like: is she talking to spirits right now?! What is happening?? Did the interviewer not notice that?? And the guy helping the interviewer (guess I should know names, huh?) was sitting with the profiler in another room. I think the profiler says something along the lines of: did you see her look up to think? That usually indicates someone searching for an explanation rather than telling the truth. But that was it! Neither of them thought Kathleen was acting strangely! 

Kate: This just solidifies that Kathleen is a POS. She’s probably feeling major guilt over her role in making Maura so stressed and upset! Just own up to it, woman. 

Lara: I don’t know if I would describe her as a POS, but she’s certainly got her problems. And I don’t think she was helpful at all. She also, in other video clips from news at that time, kept repeating that they were going to keep looking, etc etc, but it seemed really…Stepford-wife-like? Just the same exact thing, not a whole lot of emotion or energy when saying it. Of course, she could have been tipsy or high at the time, who knows? 

Is THIS an affiliate link? Gotcha!! It’s not.

Kathleen admitted that she had talked to Maura while Maura was at work. Kathleen had been in rehab and apparently, her partner had picked her up from the facility and immediately stopped at a liquor store to get himself something to drink. With his newly sober partner. Whom he encouraged to come inside with him and despite being angry with him (according to Kathleen) she did just that, relapsing within hours of being released from rehab. She said she told Maura about it on the phone the night Maura was working. According to Maura’s boss, Karen, Maura was absolutely stunned by her phone call with her sister. This may well have made Maura feel that she just had to get away from everything. 

Lastly, Maura’s own car, a 1996 Saturn, was on its last legs. According to Fred, there was a messed up cylinder that made it sound awful and she really shouldn’t have been driving it. (This was verified by a mechanic that demonstrated on the docu-series what a 1996 Saturn would sound like with a cylinder down.) Fred said he and Maura had already looked at cars and the day she left, he transferred $4,000 to her account. People have questioned this, since it was reported she took out all the money in her account, which was $280. Fred could have easily just transferred the money after she had already been to the ATM.    

Maura’s car, the 1996 Saturn, at crash site.

Lara: uh duh. 

Kate: For real, this isn’t 2020 instant transfers on your bank app. Maybe it took 24-48 hours. 

Lara: Another excellent point that I hadn’t thought of!! lol 

Generic backpack in the snow. Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

On to Maura’s last known movements. 

Maura definitely did a lot of prep before she left. Remember, she didn’t tell anyone about her plans. But she packed a bag, called a condominium where she had stayed before in NH (although, according to Wiki, she did NOT book a room), finished her homework, lied to her professors to cover some time off, took out cash, grabbed some alcohol and off she went. It was noted that she took not only everything she needed to spend several days away, including clothes and toiletries, she also took school books with her. Putting ourselves in her shoes, it sounds like some quiet time in a place that’s familiar and potentially calming, with some alcohol but with plans to, at some point, have some down time to do school work. This doesn’t sound like someone who is heading out to party, with her homework in tow, traveling alone, with no one knowing where she’s going. 

UMass Amerherst campus, circa 2018. credit: UMass website.

UMass Residential Area. Credit: MassLive

We also want to quickly address the fact that State Police say that Maura’s room was packed in boxes, even art was off the walls and set on top of the boxes. This was February 9th. College had just resumed the week before. Maura may not have wanted to leave her stuff on campus for 6 weeks of winter break. Conversely, the college may not want to be responsible for people’s items and students are ordered to pack up their shit and take it with them during Christmas break!  Campuses sometimes close completely for Christmas/winter break and they want campus empty so all staff can be off.  

Maura may have ended up in a new room when she returned, for whatever reason, and that’s why all her stuff was in boxes. But again, saying that she was packed and it shows that she was intent on leaving does NOT match with then taking only her personal items and some school books. Why not pack up all her stuff, or as much as she could, into her car if she were leaving permanently? Personal items and some books is not permanent. People don’t take their school books if they are running away! They take childhood things that mean a lot, their favorite sheets, their comforting books, framed photos, anything that would help make the new place feel a little more like home. If she was running for her life, she wouldn’t take school books and she may have taken more clothing, not knowing how long she’d be gone. 

We are going to do some timestamps here, because they become important in a few places later on but we don’t want to get all bogged down with the timeline details either.

3:15pm:

Timestamp on the ATM screenshot of Maura removing money from her account. She is wearing, if you’ll remember, a white jacket that was unfamiliar to all family and friends, they have no idea when, or where, she might have gotten it. Also, the police fiercely held onto this little video for a very long time and only released a few screenshots in the end. No one can understand why the minute long video of her getting money at the ATM was withheld and the police didn’t explain themselves, apparently. 

It was noted that her next stop was the liquor store. One source says she spent $40, another source says specifically that she bought a box of wine and a pack of beer. At any rate, she is captured on video camera here, and she is alone. If you’re keeping track, she still has $240. 

4:30pm:

I am not sure where this came from, but several places note that she left Amherst around 4:30pm. I don’t know if this was verified via traffic cameras or what, but that is a time in the timeline. 

4:37pm:

Maura checks her voicemail. It’s the last recorded use of her cell phone. 

7:27pm:

This is the recorded time of the first 911 call places in Haverhill, NH.

Faith calls 911. It’s pretty straightforward. She tells the 911 operator that they have a car that has gone off the road, she did NOT go out to investigate, she tells them she is past the weathered barn. Which apparently everybody knows what you mean when you say, the weathered barn. #smalltowns 

Lara: Maura’s last phone use being 3:15pm seems questionable to me. Sure, she lied about calling roadside service to Butch the bus driver, but if she didn’t call anyone for help, what was her plan?? Just start walking? Was she close enough to her undisclosed location to think she could make it walking? (I mean, she is a cross-country runner.) There were no sidewalks, no streetlights. If I were alone and had just had a fender bender, I don’t know that I would start walking on a dangerous road in the dark. However, remember she had been drinking, and maybe she didn’t want the police called because she was afraid she’d be arrested for drinking and driving?

Kate: Also…could she have gotten lost for a hot second? Did she have her Mapquest directions printed? Getting something to eat is totally believable but also, if it’s been a while since she’s been up to the area, it’s also possible she took a wrong turn or two accidentally. Just saying. 

Lara: Good point. I keep forgetting what year this happened, so she wouldn’t have had a smart phone or GPS. What if the last time she had been was with family and her Dad drove? Making it the first time she had driven the route herself. 

According to Google Maps, Amherst, MA to Haverhill, NH is 135 miles, approximately two hours and 12 minutes. Now, maths is not The Dark Sisters’ forte, by any means, however, we do know that from 4:30pm to 7:27pm is three minutes shy of three hours to get from one place to the other. So there’s about 45 minutes in there where Maura’s time is unaccounted for. She had to have stopped at some point for almost an hour. The Oxygen docu-series covers this as well and the investigators make the drive themselves.  They decide Maura must have stopped to get something to eat, it was the time of day for eating some dinner, so they do as well.

Map for driving from Amherst, MA to Haverhill, NH, courtesy of Google.

At this point, the idea that Maura was traveling with another woman, whom she could have picked up on this stop, enters the list of theories. There is a second stop for alcohol (why??) and the woman who helped Maura swears there was someone else with her, another woman. However, Butch the bus driver guy specifically says there is only one female and nobody else has been listed as missing, so this seems to be just a dumb theory with no basis. In our inexperienced opinion. 

Okay, so Maura has apparently, theoretically, stopped to eat, get more alcohol, potentially pick up a ghost passenger and has finally arrived at the infamous curve in the road where she basically wrecks.

Screenshot of Faith’s 911 Call Transcript.

Credit: 107 Degree Blog has all sorts of official documents!

Credit: Not without Peril. This site has a *ton* of different maps and things, loads of information.

Screenshot of Butch’s 911 Call Transcript.

Credit: 107 Degree Blog has all sorts of official documents!

There is, as you might have noticed, a *whole line blacked out*! That is a long line! That is not an address! AND it was clearly not in response to a question from the 911 operator! Now, the operator, according to the transcripts, does seem to cut her off, so maybe Faith was completing her thought about not going out to check on the car? Maybe she explains why she did not go out and check? There is something important there, or it would not have been redacted. Furthermore, this is the family that refuses to speak to anyone, not reporters, podcasters or even police, it appears. There is no follow up information that can be found where the police talked to the people who called 911. 

Lara: How long had she been sitting by the road? Just because Faith calls at 7:27pm it doesn’t mean that that is when Maura crashed. Was the crash super loud? Squealing wheels? Maura has this 45 minute window that is unexplained just getting to the area. What if she spent that time by the road, checking on her car, getting her bearings? Did she call someone to come pick her up and she was just waiting? Or did she stop for a meal, get into an accident and Faith heard it? There’s a lot of wiggle room here.

Kate: This is a very good point, with all the snow in the area, the sound of the car going off the road could have actually been pretty muffled. Being picked up does seem plausible, however, according to police, the last phone call Maura made was around 4:30PM that day, presumably right before she started her drive. This goes back to the second person theory. Was there? Wasn’t there? That person could have called. This is the part that hurts my brain. I go back and forth!

Butch’s house on the right with the windows. Maura’s car would be on the left, further down the road just a bit, facing the wrong direction.

Butch’s house from the other direction; you can see his bus parked on the left up ahead.

Butch Atwood, bus driver

7:42pm:

Now the second call to 911 was made by our friendly neighborhood bus driver, Mr. Butch Atwood. He is interviewed by the news and everything! He passed away in 2009, but it seems his widow has also spoken to a number of people as well. 

Mr. Atwood–let’s call him Butch–Butch was coming home from his bus route. 

Wait. 

He was just coming home from dropping off kids after school at… 7:30pm or so? That seems awfully late to me! Maybe he was driving the activities bus and didn’t even pick kids up until 5pm or something, but it just seems late. It’s dark. Okay. Moving on. 

He stops and asks Maura if she’s alright and does she need help. She apparently tells him No, and that she’s just called AAA. Maura’s second lie in her journey, that we know of. The death of a family member being the first one. Granted, she is a young woman, alone, her car is busted up and not working and she doesn’t want to get in a freaking bus with a strange old man. WE GET IT, MAURA!! Lying is 1000% acceptable in a situation like this. Listen to your gut! 

Butch apparently finds this odd as it is his personal experience that there is no cell service up that way and by his house. He doubts she could have called AAA. Cell phone records show she did not. But any woman would understand why she lied to him and spurned his offer of help. 

Lara: Here’s my thing. He literally lives down the road. Like, a three second drive further up the road. Why is his call just coming in at 7:42pm? We don’t know if Faith heard the accident or how long Maura was sitting there before Faith called 911. Was Butch talking to Maura at the same time that Faith was on the phone with 911? What time did Butch actually stop and talk to her? Was it longer than the snippet he said it was? 

Kate: Okay, one of our sources does say that once you get to Butch’s house, you can’t actually see where Maura’s car was sitting, it was just around… the riverbend! (Pocohontas moment). So Butch backs his bus in, goes inside to call 911 – has issues getting his call to even go through (in the 911 transcript he’s like WTF is up with the phone lines tonight??) THEN he goes back out to the bus to do paperwork. He does say he saw a few cars go by but doesn’t hear anything suspish…meaning car doors opening/closing? People talking? 

This YouTube video is amazing. We were looking for video of Butch talking to the news, so you could get a feel for him as a witness when we came across this. Good stuff and theories we haven’t found anywhere else! It’s only seven minutes or so, take a look! 

This video introduces a whole *other* world of inquiry! She’s totally right! If Butch backed up into his drive and the scent stops across the street, why didn’t he or his wife see anything else? Weren’t they curious about what happened to this young woman? Wouldn’t they have been looking out of one of those many windows that face the road, watching for the police? This is out in the middle of nowhere. This must be the most exciting thing that’s happened to them in awhile! 

Lara: I, personally, would have been watching from a window while talking to the 911 operator! I mean, they need immediate feedback and blow-by-blow reports on what’s happening, right? I just can’t imagine everyone in the area not craning their necks and looking around! There just *has* to be more that was seen!! <said in my best Daphne from Scooby Doo voice>

Okay. We’re exhausted. This is like 12 pages long on Google docs, so we’re going to stop here. We didn’t even *get to* the police investigation! Shew! This is one involved story! 

Thanks for reading! 

Xoxo, 

Lara & Kate

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Oxygen channel documentary.

A Jental Heart Blog, Category: Maura Murray

Maura Murray Mystery site, run by James Renner.

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Ch.2

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Ch.1

What Happened to Maura Murray?  

 

{Narration,  Lara comments,  Kate comments}

The Information Regarding the Incident: 

Report Type: DISAPPEARANCE

Where: Woodsville, New Hampshire

When:   February 4, 2004

How:  911 Call from home across the street from a car accident

What: College student Maura Murray, age 21, crashed her car into a snowbank on a trip no one knew she was taking. Nearby neighbors called 911, but by the time the Police got there, she was gone. Without a trace! (cue woo woo music!)

Major Players: 

Maura Murray: Person at the center of the investigation.  21 years old, University of Massachusetts student who crashed her car in a snowbank on Route 112 near Woodsville, New Hampshire, a village in the town of Haverhill. Other than there being a childhood vacation spot in the general area, there was no reason for Maura to be in that area. Biggest unanswered question in this case: WHY was she driving north in the first place?  Lara: Never. Answered. (Despite a slew of investigations and loads of theories.)

 Fred Murray: Maura’s father.

 Bill Rausch: Maura’s cheating boyfriend (Lara: he seems like a weirdo)

 Kate Markopoulos: Maura’s friend from college

 Kathleen Murray: Maura’s older sister (Lara: something is off with this one as well)

 Julie Murray: Maura’s other older sister

 Kurt Murray: Maura’s younger brother

 Jeff Williams: Former Chief Police Department  of Haverhill, on the case

 Cecil Smith: First police officer at the scene

Missing Poster

Julie Murray, Maura’s older sister

CHAPTER ONE: The Basics

Maura Murray was a 21 year old star athlete and bright student, who got her life in order, bought some alcohol, got in her janky car and began driving north on February 9, 2004. Everything and everyone important to Maura was south. The only thing north was an old vacation spot she used to frequent with her family. So the assumption is that she was heading there.

Lara: You will hear the word “assumption” a lot in the course of this case.

 

Maura’s own car was not in the best shape, so she had borrowed her dad’s car the week before while he was in town. She was driving to a party when she struck a guardrail. The car was fairly new and the damage was $10,000 in repairs. So Maura was back to driving her Saturn on the night she disappeared despite a known cylinder misfire. It would have been chugging and skipping along as she drove, according to a mechanic in the Oxygen documentary

The accident she’d had in her dad’s car was just one of the things weighing on Maura’s mind. She had been, according to people who knew her, anxious about telling her dad, Fred Murray, about the accident because he had a temper. Close friends of Maura’s said Fred did have an angry outburst when he was told. 

On her drive up, Maura stopped at an ATM to empty her account, withdrawing the $280 she had left. In the ATM snapshot, she was wearing a white jacket which none of her friends or family could identify. Then Maura stopped to buy alcohol, more than enough for one person: a pack of beer plus a box of wine. 

Lara: When I watched the Oxygen documentary, which was ridiculously thorough, they kept questioning why she was taking so much alcohol. If she was having a hard time in life right then, maybe she was just going to the cabin with alcohol. To drown her sorrows. And mope for the weekend. I mean, is it that hard to imagine a 21 year old would want to run away for the weekend?

Katie: Sounds like a gal trying to get drunk…and knowing the few facts of this case, she’s 21…upset and no offense to 21 year olds – they don’t always make the best decisions… 

Maura finished her assignments for nursing school, and also confirmed a weekend away in the future with a friend. She also emailed her work and her professors, claiming there had been a death in the family and that she would not be in for the next week. Her family says no one died in their family and they have no idea why Maura would have lied.

Lara: Okay, so not a weekend to mope. But her life was really hard right then! (emphasis from various writers/reporters/podcasters who claimed her life was a train wreck at this time) Maybe a week seemed necessary in the moment! Also, this is not hard, people: If she said she was sick, she ran the risk of people coming to check on her. If she said she was going out of town, people would want to know where and why. Saying there was a death in the family checks all the boxes she needed, to guarantee that nobody at work or school would bother her for a whole week. But what did she tell her family? 

Katie: Now I’m thinking she’s going to run out of booze and have to really contemplate life the rest of her week-long jaunt. I agree, she covers her work and school obligations with saying there has been a death in the family. But for real, a week is a long time to go “off the grid” as a kid in college. Maura was in close contact with her family and friends, she had to have known they would be looking for her.

L: There are five of us kids in our family. Literally none of us could disappear ever.

Maura at the ATM machine.

Julie, Fred & Maura Murray

The Oxygen documentary is thorough, 6 episodes long!

Maura & BILLY!

Maura’s father being angry at her for wrecking his car was just one thing Maura was dealing with at the time. She had also discovered her fiance Bill Rausch (L: let’s call him “Billy.” I just like it better) that Billy had cheated on her. The couple, as reported by family and friends, had been very close and Maura was described as “devastated” by the news. (More on this douche canoe later. It gets real weird.)

Katie: What a freaking rat, but also, who needs a fiance at 21? Live your life, Maura! Anyway, I can definitely see THIS being a catalyst to run away for a while. Maybe she figured by the end of the week after having this time alone, I’ll be able to deal with everything happening around me.

Lara: You’re right, at 21, finding out the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with was cheating? I mean, I was married at 20.

Three months before that, Maura had stolen credit cards and then ordered food with them. She was caught, although the charges were later dismissed. She reportedly was ashamed and embarrassed about that, but it was three months earlier than her disappearance and it seems like maybe that shouldn’t be weighing so much on her mind anymore. Especially since the charges were dropped. 

L: Personally, I can’t see how this was a factor in her stress level. I could see if court was pending, and she faced jail time or huge fines, but it was all over with by the time she left, with no ding to her record.  

K: This is really strange to me and seems out of character for Maura…she has a job at school…why would she even do this? This could be additional insight into things going wrong even earlier leading up to her disappearance. Or maybe she just did a dumb 21-year-old thing. 

Some really hang a lot on her confirming plans with her friend, but if Maura was planning on *not* coming back in time, she probably would have confirmed plans so she didn’t raise suspicions. 

Lara: What else was she going to say? “Sorry, I have plans to disappear this weekend, I won’t make it?” 

K: If I just wasn’t planning on coming back…I would NOT have done that homework. Just saying!

L: lololololol That’s what one of her friends said on the documentary. 

Could this have been a type A personality quirk? As in “I cannot leave this undone!!” type of thing? Or was she normally type A about her schoolwork and she knew that leaving it undone would set off all kinds of red flags? 

Now, the night before she disappeared, she talked to her sister Kathleen on the phone while at work. Her sister was a recovering alcoholic recently released from rehab.  Her boss noted that when Maura hung up the phone, she was crying. When her boss asked if she was okay, the boss noted that Maura was “just completely zoned out. No reaction at all. She was unresponsive.” (Supervisor quote, per Wikipedia who got it from: Renner, James (2016). True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.)  Further, she just mumbled “my sister,” when asked what was wrong. 

Kathleen Murray, Maura’s older sister

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Maura Murray as a cadet at West Point

So the night Maura left, she could have been worried about her father and the expensive repairs to his car. That her fiance was cheating on her. That something was up with her sister. Those are her current, primary issues. Again, some stories will try to drag in that she left West Point early and transferred to UMass to study nursing, which seems weird and therefore must have been a factor. But again, that had been months ago. 

Lara: I can’t imagine still dwelling on that. More than likely, her cheating fiance was uppermost on her mind followed by her family issues. And maybe her wreck of a car that was barely functioning, although her father said they had been car shopping for her. So that seemed taken care of. 

K: I read on multiple sources that her sister was a recovering alcoholic and she had recently gotten out of rehab. Her sister’s fiance promptly took her to the liquor store. WHY?? Who is that asshat? But the night Kathleen called her, it was to tell Maura that she had basically relapsed right away. I could see this being devastating to Maura, we don’t know what their family went through with that whole part of their lives. Maybe it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Maura? She packed some of her things for this mystery trip but also, much of her room at school was packed. Maybe she felt she needed to be home with family, support her sister, contemplate her own asshat fiance, etc. and she could not focus on school? She would go away for the week and come back ready to face everything? 

L: Yes, I heard her sister Kathleen describe that situation herself on the Oxygen documentary. They also said, for some reason, they didn’t know if Maura had just gotten to school and hadn’t finished unpacking, or if she was packing up. This happened in February! There should have been no boxing or un-boxing!  I’ll see if I can find anything else about this…

Anyhoozle: Maura ended up crashing into a snowbank on an almost 90 degree turn on Route 112 in New Hampshire.

Maura was going around a curve that turned to the left fairly sharply. She ended up on the far side of the curve in the right lane but facing traffic. She had turned, from the looks of it, too early and too hard, crossing the lane of opposing traffic, hitting the snowbank or a tree on the left, right at the curve in the road, bouncing off and sliding back across the lane of opposing traffic while spinning and coming to a rest facing the wrong way but back in the lane she started in. Make sense?  {see diagram!}

Bus Driver who stopped to help, but was turned down.

While still in the car, a local approached in his bus, just off his shift and heading home. He stops and asks Maura if she needs help. She declines and says she has called triple A. The local finds this odd as he knows first hand that there is no cell reception up where they are so he knows she couldn’t have called anyone. 

Lara: This guy has a creeper vibe in the video I watched. I’m sorry, but he does. And he was driving a bus! Women are taught NOT to take (large, weird) rides from strangers when stranded on the side of the road! This witness died in 2006? So we’re just stuck with his testimony. But I can’t blame her for saying no and lying to the guy. Classic woman behavior code for: No thank you, you give me the creeps! But also, tuck this little interaction away for later. To me, it impacts one of the theories.

Katie: Exactly, he must have given her creeper vibes. Ugh poor Maura was probably like FML. This is the worst. 

He drives home where he tells his wife about the scene and calls 911. Another neighbor along the road has also called 911. Between the time the first 911 call is placed and the time the police get there is a 19 minute window. In that time, Maura disappears. Just vanishes. She’s out in the middle of nowhere, houses are all spread out, there’s no cell service, no sidewalks, no street lights. There is snow and forest. Where did she go? 

K: Why is everyone calling 911 and no one is seeing if the driver is okay? Did they hear the crash, call 911 and then just walked away from their windows? In an area with no cell service, THIS has to be the most interesting thing happening, for sure. No one saw a young woman get out? Did they see the bus and just think, oh it’s all good…the bus has arrived?? 

L: This only gets weirder when you hear more about the police investigation and how uncooperative they are, for the most part. But there’s evidence that they were watching, for sure! 

Okay, we gotta pause here because we need to list the questions we have so far: 

  1. Why did she lie about a death in the family (which no one would question her on) and what did she plan to do that she needed or wanted a whole week off alone? 
  2. Why didn’t she tell anyone at all where she was going? Not even for safety’s sake! Did she feel safe where she was going? Or did she just really not want anyone to know what she was doing? 
  3. What was so urgent that she needed to drive an unsafe car for hours into New Hampshire?
  4. Why did she complete all her assignments and responsibly make sure that everyone who would be expecting her that week would know that she would be out of town? 
  5. Why did she clear out her bank account? 
  6. Okay fine: why did she buy so much alcohol? 
  7. Why did she refuse assistance from the local person driving by? 
  8. Why did none of the neighbors come out to see if she needed help, and instead  just called 911? 
  9. Why do all of the neighbors claim they have nothing to report, they witnessed nothing? (yet they heard the crash and looked out their windows, so clearly they can hear things from the road and they can see things and they’re nosy.) Is it just that they don’t want to be involved? Or something more…nefarious? 

Now, there is a reason this post is called The Basics: this is the bare bones story that was originally released. There is so.much.more to tell, tons of new info, the story gets fleshed out, it’s a load of information, we promise!

So next up:

CHAPTER TWO: The police investigations. And: Theories abound! 

Thanks for reading!

xo,

Lara & Kate

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Oxygen channel documentary.

A Jental Heart Blog, Category: Maura Murray

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Oxygen channel documentary.

The Disappearance of Maura Murray, Ch.2

Hello Dark Ones…

Welcome to the blog The Dark Sisters.

My sister Kate and I have been talking about doing a podcast for at least two years now. We kept tossing podcast names back and forth, talked about our favorite podcasts and stories, we never seemed to lose our excitement over the idea. However, we live in two different states, a little over an hour away from each other. Neither of us can afford podcasting equipment, nor do we know how to edit audio. We also have people tell us, along with our older sister Steph, that we sound soooo much alike, which I know listeners would have a hard time with (not sure how we’re going to solve that!). So. We had a few hurdles. But at some point in the future, we would really like to convert to audio. Keep that in mind!

Finally, I wondered if we could get a similar effect by creating a blog. We came up with a name. We have a whole list of cases we want to cover. We are already getting story offers from friends and family, so that we have unique, personal stories to offer in addition to the big, famous, popular ones that everyone’s covered 20 times. We just decided we were gonna dive in!

Our goal is to start out posting twice a month. Now, I’m a single mom with three kids and a tiny budget, running my own businesses as a freelancer. Kate is working full time, has a husband and pets and is pregnant. To say we are busy is an understatement, but we just love these stories, so we’re really game to try to make this work!

At any rate, we have selected our first case. It’s a famous disappearance which has been covered a lot, I know, but I’m fascinated by it and Kate was agreeable, so off we go!