Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Phone Call

In 2004, Maura Murray worked the security desk at Melville Hall to earn some spending cash. At the time, her supervisor was a young woman named Karen Mayotte, a History major with an interest in World War II Holocaust studies. Some believe Mayotte holds an important clue in Maura’s disappearance, as some newspapers claim she witnessed Maura crying after receiving a phone call during a shift four days before she vanished.

I met Mayotte one cold New England night at a small pub and though I protested, she graciously treated me to some clam strips and Sam Adams. A bubbly, charming woman, Mayotte is the mother of four kids and works as a 1st grade teacher at a school in Massachusetts. Seven years later she still remembers Maura and the night of the phone call in great detail.

As a security guard, Maura’s job was to sit at a desk near the entrance to Melville and check the ID’s of students as they entered the building—the ID’s were color-coded and corresponded to specific dorms. Her shift started at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 5.

The dorms at UMass are divided into six areas and each supervisor is responsible for one area. Melville was located in the southwest section, a region known as the craziest part of on-campus life, mostly due to the sheer number of students packed into the buildings there. The night of the phone call, Mayotte was the lead supervisor, responsible for the entire campus, and was slowly making her way across all six areas.

Mayotte knew Maura well, having spoken to her many times on nights like this one. Once, she’d found Maura reading a book about hiking in the mountains and they had talked about the different trails in the North Country. Maura, she recalls, really enjoyed the trails along Mount Washington.

“I think around 10:30, 10:40, I got down to the southwest area and I checked in with the supervisors, there,” recalls Mayotte. “One of them said, ‘Something’s up with Maura.’ She had been crying. I went to see what was up.”

When Mayotte arrived at Melville, Maura was staring straight ahead into empty space. A nursing book lay open in front of her. “I don’t know how to explain it. She was just completely zoned out. No reaction at all.”

Mayotte asked her what was wrong but Maura was unresponsive. Then, she started crying. She noticed there was a cell phone sitting on the desk, which was against regulation, but something she was willing to overlook. After a few moments, Maura said two words: “My sister.”

When she let two students enter without checking ID’s, Mayotte realized she was in no shape to be working the desk. Mayotte called her boss, shift supervisor Nate Witmer, and reported Maura’s condition. Witmer agreed that they should send her back to her room. Maura was so worked up she couldn’t sign out so Mayotte did it for her. She asked Maura if she could pick up some “Dunkins” and hang out with her until she felt better, but Maura said she had nursing in the morning and wanted to go to sleep.

“I knew she was not in a good state,” says Mayotte. Mayotte told Maura about her own struggles and recommended she talk to someone at the university’s counseling center, which is open 24 hours. Mayotte walked her to Kennedy Hall, where Maura had a single room all to herself. She gave her a hug and watched her walk up the stairs toward her room.

It was the last time she saw her. The next day, a Friday, morning classes were canceled due to snow. The following Tuesday, she filled out a report of her interaction with Maura that night and filed it with local law enforcement. She has never spoken to detectives working the case.

22 comments:

  1. I've considered that Maura was at the perfect age for the onset of schizophrenia, and while this idea probably would play no part in discovering what ultimately happened to the poor dear, it would explain a lot of the erratic behavior - perhaps starting as early as her departure from West Point(?) She may have been "self-medicating" with alcohol, as I've read conflicting reports that she wasn't known to be a "drinker." Maybe the phone call from Sis WAS innocuous and Maura was deluded during the message and had the strange reaction to a benign call . . . or maybe the call DID deliver disturbing news.

    Hope you can find out . . .

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  2. I wonder why her sister claims that there was nothing upsetting in her conversation with Maura that night? It obviously looks like it *was* the conversation with her sister that had Maura really disturbed and upset.

    I feel so badly for the family, but it seems to me that they are hiding things about Maura's life that may be important in figuring out where she went. I think that they are protecting her (which I would do for my family member), but in leaving out key elements of Maura's story, we are less able to piece together what happened to her that night.

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  3. I would be more likely to believe that Maura had undiagnosed bipolar disorder rather than schizophrenia. Schizophrenia leaves a sufferer completely unable to function during a schizophrenic break, and it would be obvious to anyone around her that she was seriously mentally ill. It is an extremely disabling mental illness. Bipolars also have a tendency to self-medicate, to become promiscuous during a manic phase, and to have severe mood swings. But bipolar is harder to recognize as a mental illness,and a lot of people just view it as bad or puzzling behavior.
    I think her sister is hiding something about Maura, and obviously the phone conversation was upsetting to at least one of them. The sister may also feel a lot of guilt, or could even be in denial about the details of what was said that night as having had any effect on Maura.

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  4. Thank you so much for writing this blog. If you happen to publish a book on this eventually I will definitely buy it. The truth is being concealed here. From what I've read Maura bought a lot of alcohol before she disappeared. There is something really wrong with a person that buys that much alcohol and then takes it off to be alone. (if she was going to be alone). Who knows? I wish I did.

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  5. Maybe she was pregnant and had just had a call confirming this and she went off to have an abortion? People get mixed up in stupid situations all the time they think they can get themselves out of. Have you considered looking into the stories of Brianna Maitland, Branson Perry, Jennifer Kese and Brandi Wells in the future? Thanks for caring about Maura enough to het her story out there.

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  6. I agree with the person who posted about bipolar disorder. I've wondered about this from the first time I heard about Maura's disappearance. The question is: is there a history of mental illness on either side of her family? Sadly, many families are reluctant to discuss this sort of thing with outsiders and may even deny it within the family. But this could be a very important thing to know in examining this case.

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  7. I personally think the family knows something we don't... and that's a shame, for us people who think about this, and try to solve it by doing something like this.. following a site written by a caring person who wonders what happened.. we're all looking at every available angle..and i think we all agree that there are a few things that are not adding up..and i think some of the family may not be admitting it.. maybe since she was viewed at as being an 'overacheiver' and since her fellow siblings did well..and she was expected to run everyday.. maybe her father was very hard on the kids.. but the kids won't say it..and maybe when she hit her father's car on the side rail he screamed at her.. maybe with her other stress from school, being an athlete, and her long distance relationship.. on top of her sister's troubles with her then boyfriend was too much for a 21 year old girl,

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  8. This is a long shot, but I read in another post that Billy Rausch had cheated on Maura with her sister's friend. What if she found out that he cheated on her with her sister, too? Again, this is a long shot, but it would explain why she would be so upset and something that no one would want to admit.

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  9. I'm guessing from phone calls, we know that her sister was the only one she spoke to that night. If she wasn't, maybe Maura lied and said her sister was the reason she was upset, but it wasn't true? I think about this case a lot. I wonder what's being hidden.

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  10. I came across the following excerpt from The New Hampshire Sunday News (10/28/07):

    "The source of her distress, Maura told the supervisor, was a phone conversation with Murray's sister. Since married, Kathleen Carpenter remembers finishing a phone call with Maura at about 10:20 the night of Feb. 5, but doesn't recall talking with her sister in the early-morning hours. Kathleen, who said she had talked about troubles with her husband-to-be during the nighttime conversation with Maura, said her sister didn't seem upset. But, she added, Maura and Billy were having relationship troubles at the time. Kathleen said she takes sleeping pills at night and didn't remember a later call. She believes her sister went to the White Mountains to sort out her troubles with Billy. 'I think it was stress. I don't know what her and her boyfriend were going through,' Carpenter said. 'I kind of think that might have triggered it. They weren't getting along at that time.'"

    -TJ

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  11. I tend to agree that Maura's catatonic state is more significant than the actual content of any phone call she had. In other words, her extreme reaction to the phone call shows some underlying depression/anxiety that rendered her unable to function. She probably could no longer concentrate on her studies in that dyfunctional state and had to pack up and leave town. Do we know when she got news of her fiancee cheating on her? That in itself was probably enought to push her over the edge, if true. She looks like a fairly all-American girl who would want a wholesome relationship with a prospective husband. Also, let's take a look at the impact of her running/sports on her mental health. Extreme exercise can release endorphins allowing someone to manage a fragile mental state without medication. Had she stopped running recently or cut back or was there any change to her routine? A sudden increase in alcohol intake would also certainly wreak havoc with an underlying mood disorder.

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  12. I find it to be strange that one of the last people who saw Maura, especially in the state she was in..was never approached my detectives trying to piece this case together. The only thing this woman mentions was Maura just said 'my sister', and that was all. Was there anything else Maura added to the conversation with her? Did Maura use this call as a cover up, so that taking a week off from that job and classes on campus would seem more believable? Was it really just a cry out for help/attention. I haven't met too many people in my life who were so bothered by a phone call where they completely 'zoned out' and seemed unresponsive.

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  14. Hello! I recently came across your blog while doing a quick and casual google search to see if there had been any updates on this case since it was featured on the television show Disappeared.I always try to go through the seasons and search each one as I find quite a few have been solved recently, I am sad to see this one does not fit in that category.

    This case in particular has always interested me. The first reason being that it seemed much more vague and that there was most likely details about Maura's life that were not coming full circle in the program. As I have sifted through your blog I am finding that my hunch was right on that.

    It is a shame that many of these details seem to be like pulling teeth with the family and close friends of the family(or anyone connected to the case). I understand not wanting to paint a picture of person you love with a bad character, however I think those holding back information or not being fully truthful is really doing this case and all those spending time and money on it a severe injustice.Just because there was some obvious bad judgements by this young woman does not mean that she was a bad person. She was in fact a young woman with a lot on her plate (school, sports, relationships, and dealing with the aftermath of situations she put herself in, and very high standards to keep with family especially in my opinion, her father-let alone the things we do not know as of now) with what I think to be possibly mental illness such as bipolar disorder. That is just my opinion however.

    I also have found this case interesting due to being a very young woman with a lot on my plate and "disappearing" for two months a few years ago. My own expierence made me really feel attached to this case and I felt that I could understand certain things and view certain things differently than some due to being in this womans shoes, vaguely obviously, but being in those shoes myself at one point.

    I am disappointed however that this phone call was not featured on the show disappeared. This seems like a pretty important piece of the puzzle to me that was left out. Once again, I have never left watching that show feeling like it was so vague until that specific case, once again leading me to believe the family wants certain things left out for character sake maybe not of simply Maura but many people within the family circle.

    I look forward to slowly reading through each blog and comments left to update myself and see what else I can learn about the case. I wish you nothing but luck and success in the search for answers in this case and will be reading right along your side.

    Thank you for your time.

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    1. I could have sworn that the call was mentioned on Disappeared, because I remember thinking it was very odd for her to say that she'd had a death in the family.

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    2. No, the call wasn't mentioned. She emailed her professors and told them that she was leaving for a week because of a death in the family.

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  15. I forgot to mention my concern on why investigators have never spoken with Mayotte themselves? This seems like an important clue, if for nothing else Maura's mental state. Makes you wonder what else investigators have not cared to follow up on.

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  16. Maura Murray had talked on the phone with her sister that day. It may be possible MM had planned for a long time that she was going to disappear & start a new life. A nice phone call with her sister may have triggered her to become upset after she realized that was probably one of the last times she would hear her sisters voice and how hard not talking to her sister would be. It also makes sense to me why she would have the phone on the table (right in front of her bosses) & not check the ID's.. She didn't care about professionalism or if she would get reprimanded or fired at this point! She knew that she wouldn't have this job much longer anyway.

    However, having the Nursing Book on the table in front of her seems to offset my theory as well- why study if you know you're going to leave your life and it won't matter anyway?

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    1. a few theories,
      If she did plan on disappearing and starting a new life it doesn't mean she ever planned on giving up her possible future nursing career, because she would still need some sort of career to support herself especially if she was leaving behind everything she ever knew and starting completely over with basically nothing, which would make sense why she continued to study.
      or She needed a cover because she was an overachiever and she didn't want people suspecting something if she just decided to stop studying altogether, or studying could have kept her mind off of whatever it was that made her decide to disappear and start a new life only if she actually did disappear to start over..

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  17. To me, the call and her reaction seems obviously calculated; a set - up for her following email. She must have been planning her vacation/suicide/car dump/runaway and knew that being emotional and only saying "My sister" she figured the supervisor would put 2 and 2 together and assume her sister died and freely give her the time off. It is the only reported erratic emotion from Maura before she left.

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    1. I have been keeping an eye on this story for some time. I came back to the beginning of the blog to re-read it. To see if I missed something. Your theory…well, I am on the same path. I do not believe she committed suicide. However these things are not so cut and dry. Just because Maura said “ my sister” does not mean anything. People lie, people cover, people mislead, people misspeak without thinking. People read into things just as much. Maybe her sister called to tell her any number of things… maybe her sister didn’t call at all. Maybe her sister is telling a lie about having a conversation with Maura. There are many reasons she may have done this. To cover up something, to aid her sister? Or maybe they actually spoke… but I don’t think they did ;-)

      I think her sister spoke to her at all…. I think Maura was in a very difficult spot.. and she did what so many of us do… they say what they can without saying to much… so she needed a break, needed something… she simply said “my sister”….

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    2. You sound about as dense as some the investigators on this case: they give the search dog a new glove of hers to get a scent from (dumb!), they work thier search "outward"from the crash site rather than into the woods (deep into the woods mind you). It's more than possible Maura was bipolar which does not mix with alcohol, she had 2 car accidents within 3-4 days. Bipolar disorder would make her vulnerable to so many dangers, especially all of the nuts out here, thousands of people come up missing and found murdered every year but thousands don't do what .youv'e suggested. I also wondered why did the boyfriend's mom do so much talking on "Dissappeared" as if to protect her son's part in this. I also think the "my sister" comment could have been in response to someone telling her he had cheated with her sister. i guess your perception depends on your life experiences. Some people don't have much.

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