Monday, August 1, 2011

How the accident probably happened.

Tucked away in the scant public records made available on Maura's case is a letter from the Woodsville Rescue Ambulance to then-chief Jeff Williams. It lists the names of EMS and fire dept. crew who responded to the scene of the accident on Wild Ammonoosuc Rd. Then, below that, is this auspicious sentence: "Also, Dick Guy mentioned that he had noticed a couple of odd things at the MVA [motor vehicle accident] that he is curious if HPD [Haverhill police dept.] was made aware of."

I found Dick Guy last week at his TV repair shop in Woodsville. He's an affable guy who considers EMS more of a hobby, a part-time passion.

"Everything about the scene of the accident was weird," he says. "If she had just lost control of the car coming around that corner, she would have impacted the North side of the curve. She didn't. She clipped the corner. She sheered the snow bank clean off and continued on to the other side, where it turned the car around."

Guy then drew a freehand map of what he saw that night, which is posted above, showing the sheered-off corner.

"To me, I'd say the car stalled and she was trying to regain control as she came to the turn."

And that brings us to the strange rag they discovered stuffed into the tailpipe. It's a good way to stall a car, he said. Guy doesn't think a car would get a mile down the road before it stalled out with a rag stuffed into it like that.

"There's only two explanations for the rag in the tailpipe," he says. "One, someone stuffed it in there to get her to stall. Two, someone put it in there after the accident to muddy the waters."

I believe Guy's interpretation of events. Impacting that corner better explains the damage done to Maura's car, too. But if someone did stuff a rag into the tailpipe to make the car stall, when and where, exactly did that happen?


  1. This is the first I´ve ever read about the likely way the accident happened.
    Why has this never been reported before?
    Just goes to show what a sloppy job the media have done on this case, very much including the NH
    Yes, it does seem likely that the rag in the tailpipe caused the Saturn to stall.
    It could conceivably have been put there by a perp when Maura went to pay after having filled her car up somewhere near Swiftwater/Bath, most likely in Woodsville.
    I don´t know whether the Swiftwater Store in Bath (on Rte 112) used to have gas available back in 2004 as is apparently the case now, but if Maura filled her car up there, surely that would have been reported to LE?
    Another problem with this scenario is that the rag is supposed to have come from Maura´s emergency kit in the trunk of her car.
    How could a theoretical perp have known how and where to find that rag within the short time frame it would have taken Maura to pay for the gas?
    It has been reported, though, that Maura´s Saturn apparently was running on three cylinders only, which might have caused the engine to temporarily stall without there being a rag in the tailpipe.
    There have also been theories suggesting that Maura either put the rag in the tailpipe herself in order to stop the car from "smoking" (running on three cylinders) or as a kind of warning to passing motorists after the accident, since the rear end of the car was sticking out into the road area.
    Also, IIRC it has been said that the rag was quite clean, so unlikely to have been jammed into the tailpipe for a very long time.

  2. Guy's drawing of the MVA is vastly different from Smith's. Why? Surely Smith, who went to Westmans would have noticed the missing snow bank, and included that in his accident report.

    The new photos of Maura's car damage more reflects Guy's analysis today.

    The original damage was, IMO, not inline with a sheared off February snowbank.

  3. I think that someone put that rag in her tail pipe with bad intentions. I also think it likely that she stopped to get gas and possibly had someone look at her car and this is when the rag was put there. It probabley had to be done with in a couple miles of where she wrecked. I think that person was then waiting for her to stall and probabley waited around for the right moment to offer her a ride. I think that it would have been likey for Maura to get in the car with this person since he would have been the one she had just talked to. He probabley acted as if he just happened to be passing by and offered her the ride when he saw that no one was around. As far as the rag coming from her trunk, no one seems to know for sure if that was the case. Even so the perp could have asked Maura to open her trunk for what ever reason when she stopped for gas and or help with her car.

    1. this is the most logical and coherent explanation i have seen for what happened at the accident scene. i might add that the second party may have been someone MM was deliberately linking up with and the gas station may have been the link up point. that would eplain how he was able to get the rag out of the trunk without arousing suspicions, perhaps to check the oil or some such.

  4. Not for anything and somewhat off topic but a significant aspect of Maura and her relationship to the car formed an important source of discussion on the old Maura Murray board; that is, we often wondered how a young woman who was too nervous to drive this car to classes and so bummed rides from friends, was somehow compelled to drive said car hours into the north country where the driving conditions were likely to prove too much for the vehicle to negotiate, not to say anything of Maura's ability to handle the car under such circumstances should they have arisen.

  5. If all of the purchased alcohol was accounted for, do you believe Maura was drinking that night?

  6. Somebody was. There was wine all over the ceiling.

  7. Things that I wonder:

    1. Was Maura under investigation, either by authorities (grand jury, whatever) or school officials at the time of her disappearance?
    2. Did she witness something she should not have?
    3. If she did wander into the woods and die, what are the odds she would have been found by now?
    4. Did any of her family/friends growing up disappear for any period of time? i.e. go away to clear their heads without telling anyone?
    5. Did she have a passport? If so, where is it now?

  8. How does wine on the ceiling necessarily mean Maura drinking? It's an assumption. It could easily have gotten there as a result of the accident.

    To the previous commenter, no. Maura was not under investigation for anything at the time of her disappearance.

  9. 6 pm--how do you know that? You do realize that grand jury investigations are conducted in secret, right?

    Can we please all cut the crap here?

  10. In my opinion, I don't think a perp put a rag in her tailpipe. Seems outlandish to me.

  11. Maybe an animal ran across the road before the turn OR she dropped something, tried to pick it up then looked up and saw the road curving sharply.

  12. All this blog is doing is helping build a great defense for when a person is ever charged. Good job Renner - keep it up!!

  13. Early on didn't Fred say he advised Maura to put a rag in the tailpipe if there was smoke coming out? I'll look for a link for that statement.

  14. Here's the quote from the link below:

    "Some have speculated the rag found stuffed in the tailpipe of the cook 1996 Saturn Maura crashed in Haverhill indicated either a suicide try by carbon monoxide or a predator's ploy to make the car stall. But Mike Lavoie of Lavoie's Auto Care Center in Haverhill, who towed the Saturn that night, said he later spoke with Maura's father, Fred Murray, about the rag. Lavoie said it couldn't have been used in that manner as part of a suicide attempt. "Her father said he told her to put it in, that it would keep the car from smoking. It didn't run that well," Lavoie said."

  15. A few thoughts:

    1. I agree with one of the previous posters here.
    Why is there no mention of the likely "cut" snowbank at the Westman property in the report on the accident as written by Haverhill PD Officer Cecil Smith?
    How could such a thing have been overlooked by CS?
    I believe he even went up to the Westman house enquiring about Maura shortly after having arrived at the scene.
    Surely the Westmans must have noted all this as well if Maura´s car indeed "cut" through part of their property at the Weathered Barn curve?

    2. Regarding whether Maura was under some kind of investigation at the time of her disapperance there have been a number of unconfirmed rumors concerning this.
    Today there are a couple of interesting posts on the Maura Murray thread on the Topix Franconia forum, which if true would give a new angle to Maura´s vanishing.

  16. A poster on Websleuth´s Maura Murray thread has today contributed some interesting info regarding the location of the tailpipe on a Saturn. Apparently the tailpipe is located to the right and underneath the bumper, which would make it very difficult to reach without crouching down.
    If this information is correct, it would have required quite some effort for Maura to put the rag in the tailpipe - and it wouldn´t really have been of much use to warn oncoming drivers since the rag would likely have been difficult to spot given the location of the tailpipe.

    Also: I would imagine that the tailpipe would have been pretty hot and that Maura easily might have burned herself if she had been trying to insert the rag into the tailpipe.

    This makes me question the previous information that the rag was part of Maura´s emergency kit in her trunk.
    I guess we just do not know that for a fact.

  17. Nothing with the tailpipe makes sense. If Fred told her to drive with a rag stuffed in the tailpipe of the car, he must have wanted it to break down or he is really, really dumb. Cars won't last long with a blocked tailpipe, and if it's blowing out that much smoke, I don't think someone would last long INSIDE the care with the tailpipe blocked. If there really was a rag stuffed in the tailpipe, that is very, very suspicious and either A) someone WANTED the car's engine to fail or B) She was trying to kill herself. There is no other reasonable explanation.

    1. I agree with all of this except the fact that she was trying to kill herself.

    2. There is a lot of flotsom in this case, stuff more related to why she sneakily left school (her court case, her drinking, her car crashes, her breakdown)but does this play into what happened to her after her last accident?

      To me that part plays into three points...

      1. the rag in the tailpipe. you cannot drive a car for long with a blocked tailpipe. It used to be a prank to put a potato in someone's tailpipe. The intent seems sinister. Someone put the rag in the tailpipe not long before the accident. There is a gas station only a mile before. Could she have stopped there and someone disabled her car?

      2. Supposedly AAA paperwork was on the seat of her car. This implies that she was not planning on getting picked up but did plan to call AAA (and maybe failed because of cell phone difficulties. The implication is that when she left it was not planned.

      Put these two points together and it seems the person who disabled her car came by and picked her up in what seemed like a coincidence or good fortune to her.

      Unless there is osmething that rules him out, I think the trailer guy is a good suspect for this, although it could be anyone who saw her at the gas station.

      3. The father's reaction to the rag revelation was odd too. Why did he account for it in such a silly way? Is this point part of the flotsom or something more sinister?

  18. hi all, about the sheared off snowbank another vehicle could have been trying to pass the saturn or stop it.the rag in the tailpipe i am guessing is a generic shop rag found in most shops garages and going from memory here but when Mr Murray searched the saturn the police had the contents so how would he know if the rag came from the trunk of the saturn

  19. Regarding the snow bank, there was very little snow in the area that February and the banks were much smaller than usual. It was definitely colder than usual overall, but much less snowy.

    There was gas available at the Stage Stop, but I don't believe the pumps took credit cards so Maura would've had to go in to pay. The owner/clerk would've surely remembered that as its a pretty desolate area at that time of year and she did recall the Red Truck being in the parking lot.

  20. You know I might agree with the Anonymous post (and btw - pick a name/any name it's not complicated, geeez Louise!)about providing defense ideas should someone be arrested, but GEEEEZ LOUISE again, lol, this case couldn't be any colder and from where I'm sitting, I think any attention would be WELCOMED! (?????)

    Does anyone think there's an arrest imminent?

    I think if Maura's dad really did make the ridiculous comment that he'd advised her to put a rag in the tailpipe of a vehicle that wasn't hitting on all cyclinders, that it was a defensive knee jerk reaction to the idea that she was suicidal.

    I don't believe for a second that the rag was to warn oncoming motorist, but with that said, I also have no clue as to what it was placed there for.


  21. she DID NOT see the red truck. only ro DID.

  22. @Anonymous 4:04 AM:

    The temperature that night was actually warmer than usual --- around 30 degrees. This wasn't my own discovery. I think John Avellar found it. I'll try to find a weather archives link and post it soon.

  23. Interesting. I'm hoping no one got seriously hurt from this accident. I just have to ask if there were skid marks on the road because this would tell investigators exactly how the car turned in that corner instead of relying the whole story from the witness.

  24. Caught this case on tv last night, I think it was Investigation Discovery or whatever... any way after dreaming about this case I jumped on to the computer and found this blog. After reading all the comments and thinking about the case myself, I am so shocked and excited to read this post. The show left a lot of un answered questions, and this has been a good way to answer some of them.
    I am following the blog now, in hopes you find the answer.

    Good luck to you

  25. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought they said she had stopped at the little store known as the Way Station to get gas, right before the accident. If Guy is correct saying a car would stall within a mile after a rag was stuffed in the tailpipe, well then this makes sense because the Way Station, formerly The Stage Stop, is about a mile from where she crashed. Was somebody at that store that chose Maura as their victim. Please do correct me if I am wrong again, I just was under the impression Maura stopped somewhere for gas right before the accident. Just an idea if this were the case.

  26. If Maura didn't walk away from her first car accident (when she wrecked her father's brand new car, causing about $8,000 worth of damage), then why would she walk away from this one? If she was afraid of further upsetting her father, well, it was an old, beat up car that they both were planning on getting rid of anyways. It was cold, winter, in the middle of the night, and she didn't seem to have any resources, that we know of. She may have left on her own will, to avoid a dui, but during her first accident, she was also intoxicated but didn't leave then. I watched the 'Maura's last known drive' made by her father. Taking the same route she had, there is a small gas station which she would have passed about a mile before her car accident. I read that the gas station closed around 8pm that night, and the person who was working there that night said they didn't see her come in at all. If Maura had intentions of committing suicide, I doubt she would have stopped to get snacks, alcohol, and tried to make plans to stay at some resort or lodge for the supposed week she took off from school. I do think she probably wouldn't have been thinking rational like that, and would have just drove to the white mountains.

    If she wanted to hide from law enforcement, to avoid a dui, I do think she would have tried to walk to the gas station, anything that was open and was heated, or to use a possible pay phone. Watching that video on youtube, I was actually quite surprised to see that particular road wasn't as 'desolate' as I seemed to think it would be.

    This case doesn't make sense because someone is obviously lying. It seems very suspicious to me that the dogs lost her scent 100 yards, where it would place you by Butch Atwood's house. It also seems suspicious to me how Butch seems to have changed his story on a few occasions, as well as selling his house and moving to Florida, not long after Maura's accident.

    If I was leaving my car, to go anywhere, to take a walk, to go inside someone's house, I would lock the doors, as well as take the most important items out of the car: wallet, keys, phone, etc., etc.. I want to say a big piece of evidence would be if her car keys were missing, or still inside the car.

    People speculate on others' personality all the time. But the truth is, normally, we don't have killers out on the streets, in an every day neighborhood, in an every day community. If most people 'fit' a 'killer's profile' then I'd like to say most people wouldn't get murdered now a days. There's a first time for everyone. I'm just throwing that out there as an option.

    1. Always believed she was under the newly poured concrete for garage, then property put up 4 sale

  27. The snow at the so called sheered off snowbank is 3 feet high. You can watch the wmurtv news clip to see that corner. Even 2 days later that corner is in one piece. The damage is inconsistant with the sheer off theory as well. There is a 45 degrees head on/""oblique"" damage on that car. Nothing on the driver's door side to hint a sheer. Moreover a sheer does not cause a front screen head bang.
    Now some maths: it takes a car with a 35 miles speed approximately 130 feet to come to a full stop on a snowy road when breaks are applied. Now, that corner is about 180 feet from the crash site, plus you are saying that the damage at the front driver side is caused by a crash to that corner. That crash alone should decrease the stopping distance by half.
    Even if Maura did crash/sheered that corner (by the way, Guy's drawing is far from being accurate, that corner in fact is not a corner, it is a very wide arc) the car should have crashed to the right bank much earlier (much closer to the yellow arrow road sign).
    On top of that police report shows 2 distinct pairs of tyre impressions reflecting from the crash site. I hope those arent inaccurate as well. And if the tyre marks on the report are accurate, then there should be direct damage either on the front passenger side or on the rear driver side, but there are none.
    I will try to remodel the crash with a crash simulation software later if i can find time, but i am pretty sure Guy's drawing and his sheer off theory is not consistant with neither the damage nor the last position of the car.

  28. Is there any estimate from LE on how fast she was going? Could it have been an issue of driving intoxicated, rag placed in tail pipe and being chased? It seems like a lot of damage for hitting a snow bank?

  29. The accident report states she hit several trees, and doesn't even mention the snowbank.

  30. While all avenues must be looked into, it would still be best if they would at least correspond to facts available. But then again, with the conflicting information available and with little to no new info coming in, it really is hard to see new angles into the case. Although, information like this are vital to distinguish possible false data or see through false trails.


  31. As a former traffic investigator, now homicide Det, I have always had questions about the damage to the Saturn. Wish I would've been on scene. Looking at pics, something doesn't add up to me. Esp with that model of car and the issues the car had. I do agree with this assessment for the most part, more so than any other