What Happened to Maura Murray?  


{Narration,  Lara comments,  Kate comments}

The Information Regarding the Incident: 


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


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!


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.