Once you get past the published news reports on Maura Murray's disappearance, you might find yourself reading through various messageboards where people have written thousands of posts about this unsolved mystery. On these unregulated boards, people can post rumors with no verification and name "suspects" with little fear of libel charges. Two of the most commonly named suspects are Butch Atwood and Rick Forcier. And, in my opinion, neither one had anything to do with Maura's disappearance. In fact, both tried to help in their own ways.
First, Butch Atwood. He was the bus driver who stopped to ask Maura if she needed any help shortly after the accident. He offered to call the police but Maura pleaded with him not to. She said she had already called Triple-A. Of course, having lived in Haverhill for some time, Butch knew this was a lie--phone reception is for shit up there, even worse in 2004. Ask anyone up that way about Butch being involved and they will laugh at you. You see, Butch was a fat man. Morbidly obese. Maura could have easily have run from him. Secondly, Butch's house was not vacant. He lived with his mother and common-law wife at the time. They were home. He was seen sitting in his bus. Oh, and he--or his wife, rather--were the ones who called the cops. Butch was never a viable suspect, in my opinion. He has since passed away.
Then there's Rick Forcier. He lived across from Atwood, on the corner of Bradley Hill Rd. and Wild Ammonoosuc. At the time, he lived in an ugly trailer next to the house he was constructing in his spare time. Today, only the house remains, and it's a beauty. Forcier becomes part of the story several months after Maura's disappearance when he comes to police and mentions he might have seen Maura running near East down Ammonoosuc the night she disappeared, on his way home from work. People were immediately suspicious, wondering why Forcier waited so long to come forward.
I spoke to Diane and Rusty Cowles, who lived across from Forcier on Bradley Hill and still see him to this day. Forcier explained to them that it was only when he was going over his bills that he pieced together that he had been working in Franconia the night Maura vanished and must have been coming home about a half hour after the accident. He thought back on that night and figured it must have been the same evening he saw what he thought at the time was a teenage boy in a hoodie crossing the road quickly in front of him, near 116, several miles East of the crash site. He wondered if it could have been Maura.
Of course, Forcier is at least a little responsible for some of the suspicion people have about him. When people asked him about it, he liked to joke that Maura was living in his house and that "she's a great cook," according to the Cowles. That was Forcier's sense of humor. When the police started asking pointed questions and demanding to search his trailer, he figured his ex-wife might have shared that joke with detectives.
Rusty Cowles says eventually Forcier sold his trailer and had it trucked away. When he did, the state police pulled the truck over and searched the trailer from top to bottom, a clever way to get around a search warrant. Forcier has since moved away from Haverhill to be closer to his kids. He has not responded to a request for an interview.
Niether of these individuals seem like viable suspects to me. I'm a little confused why Fred Murray made such a big deal about them.