Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lavoie Says Fred Murray Explained Mystery Rag


While in Haverhill last week, I caught up with Mike Lavoie, the man who towed Maura's car from the scene of the accident the night she disappeared. His first reaction when I asked about Maura and that night was anger. "Can't you see I'm working? I'm busy. And I'm tired of talking about it."

Eventually, he calmed down, though and shared some details about that night 7 years ago.

"I was laying on the couch when I got the call. I got the truck, got out there pretty quick."

He noticed the rag and asked Fred Murray about it later. "He said he told her to put it there to keep it from smoking. The car was not running well."

It was an odd thing to say to anyone who knows cars. A rag in a tailpipe is a good way to stall a car.

Okay, here's my problem. I have a kid. I try putting myself in Fred's shoes to understand where he's coming from. Think about finding yourself in this situation. Your kid's gone. Missing. And there's this weird detail about a rag in a tailpipe. Even if he really did tell her something so incredibly wrong as "stuff a rag in the tailpipe if your exhaust is smoking"--and we're talking about a guy who understands nuclear medicine, here--would you try to explain that detail away if you didn't know for sure? If there was a possibility that some bad guy had stuffed the rag in there to stall her car? Why would you give a defense as to why the rag was there? Why was it important for police to know that he, Fred, had given Maura that rag in the first place? The whole thing is hinky.

49 comments:

  1. On May 27, 2011, I met with a Massachusetts private detective who is very knowledgeable about Maura's disappearance and has worked on it in the past. He asked whether I killed her. I told him no.

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    1. Weird. I just heard about this case- and my family/friends always laugh me that I
      Psychic. I was in the shower and thought- there's a guy with a common name 4 to 5 letters that killed her, and it was by accident, but it still happened. I was thinking Chris or brad, but Mike would fit the bill. Furthermore I thought of blonde, grey or disappearing ( receding ) hair.......

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  2. I should have said in my previous post the that Mass. PI requested the meeting, not me. It is chilling, to say the least, to have been asked whether or not I killed Maura Murray. The PI is a very intelligent, highly regarded, expensive PI with advanced college degree(s). He said he never works pro bono. He retired as head of the Massachusetts State Police Behavioral Sciences Unit. He said he was involved (as a PI) at the beginning of the Murray case, not long after Maura's disappearance, but did not continue. However, it is hard to believe that he would have spent over an hour of his very expensive time talking with me on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend (2011) if he didn't still have some interest in the case.

    Given the cost of employing him, it's hard to believe that the Murray family is footing the bill. That means someone else with very deep pockets is paying the Mass. PI. Public spirited citizen?

    It is a really awful, awful feeling to have been asked whether or not I killed Maura. It's not like some ordinary guy in the street asked me. A high-powered PI who is very knowledgeable about the case asked me. Just for the record, I did not kill her. The PI and I are both from the Amherst/Northampton area. But for some reason, the focus of the investigation seems to be solely on Haverhill NH.

    I doubt too many other people have been asked point blank whether or not they killed Maura. Therefore, I can only conclude that the Murray family believes I am a suspect, perhaps the only suspect. The NH police have never contacted me about the case. Only the western Mass. PI, who seems very current with the case, has talked with me about it.

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  3. The only way I could see Fred telling Maura to put a rag in her tailpipe is if he thought that she was only using the car to ride around town. I'm sure he wasn't thinking that she was going to go on a road trip. She actually got pretty far with in in there if this is the case. At least we know she didn't put it in there after she wrecked. I could never wrap my mind around that theory as being true.

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  4. I believe the tow truck driver, primarily because he has no reason to lie . . . then or now. A detail like this illustrates why it is so important to understand this family dynamic and the personalities Maura was surrounded by.

    When I think of "rag in the tailpipe" I think suicide immediately. I'd theorize that Dad Fred would think the same way - especially factoring in Maura's erratic behavior during his visit and him wondering wth she was doing in this location wrecking/alcohol in car etc . . . and apparently his instant reaction was to deflect away from the obvious implication of a rag in the tailpipe with the excuse that he told her to do it?

    Is Fred Murray the type that cares greatly about "appearances?" Is he a devout Catholic who fears for the mortal soul of a suicide?

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    1. interesting thought. if Fred is a sociopath (which seems likely) he would definitely be concerned about how his daughters actions reflect on him... that's a trademark characteristic of a sociopath. interesting indeed

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  5. I agree with aud. Fred was trying frantically to reframe this detail to point away from suicide.

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  6. Was the PI R.C. Stevens?

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  7. James,
    I very much hope that the initial anonymous poster will contact you directly. His story seems riveting, and perhaps, the P.I. inadvertently revealed details to him that are not widely known in this case. This has, without question, been the most intriguing set of posts on this blog to date.

    I dearly hope that the initial anonymous poster will contact James, even if it means maintaining his anonymity. I believe you may have information that could benefit this case moving forward.

    Regards,
    MN in Ohio

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  8. I know Fred Murray very well. I think whatever was possibly said was taken completely out of context. What you don't understand is that he loves his children unconditionally, and I don't believe, if he actually said that, it was meant as a means to deflect the possibility of suicide. If Maura had indeed committed suicide, or attempted it, then Fred would have some closure to this, and would not be engaged in the ongoing pain that is associated with his missing daughter. He searches constantly for her in his thoughts, and prayers. He is a caring father who used what little he had to make his daughters the best they could be. Suicide was not what Maura was doing. As many have said before, she was more than likely trying to get away to clear her mind. People can speculate about where she is right now, but at the end of the day we need to focus our actions on trying to find her, not inflame the passions of anyone.

    In my opinion, Mr. Remmer, and you will probably delete my post, you are doing no more than attempting to elicit Fred to speak with you. To explain his story, so that you can print it. At the end of the day I truly do not believe this underhanded tactic will work. Fred is an honorable man, who raised honorable children, and set them up for success in this world where many children from similar backgrounds do not survive. His daughters are runners. They run distances that others could only dream about running. They push themselves beyond any measure of human comprehension.

    I did not have the pleasure of meeting Maura, but am very close to those close to her. I believe that her passion, her running, would allow her to push everything aside, and suicide was not an option. She runs to clear her mind, to focus her, and to get rid of all the negative thoughts that may be going through her mind. It is hard for the average person to understand the addiction that comes with running, and how it is therapeutic to an elite athlete like Maura, but to those who excel at it, this battlefield of human determination make them realize that even the impossible can be accomplished. That even those things that are hardest to achieve, and hardest to overcome, can be met head on and overcome. If you knew the family like I do, you would not have made such wild accusations.

    Journalism is a right protected under the First Amendment, however, no right should be absolute when it is used in a borderline abusive manner. Shame on you Mr. Remmer.

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    1. An honorable girl who used stolen credit card numbers and clearly had a drinking (and driving) problem. Not passing judgment - but you don't know what people are capable of.

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    2. Beautifully said mr.Anonymous@august 7th...Im new here.. Im glad someone came to mr Murray's defence I don't know the murray family and I also believed Maura did not commit suicide aswell and that mr Murray's word's were twisted he seem vry broken and as a parent myself I can't help but to feel for him..

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  9. to me those post seem eerily familiar. _ think its " Beagle" who post on topix frequently. he post alot of weird stuff. including things about Maura' eggs being harvested and just a lot of weird things. so yeah i think that first poster up here is "beagle". such a weirdo.

    " who post on topix frequently. he post alot of weird stuff. including things about Maura' eggs being harvested and just a lot of weird things. so yeah i think that first poster up here is "beagle". such a weirdo.

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  10. MN in Ohio, the "anonymous" poster is well known on certain message boards pertaining to Maura Murray as a prolific (often obsessive) contributor, with theories ranging from abduction for egg harvesting to water supply contamination. Sounds riveting, until you've heard it a thousand times.

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  11. 8:38: I think you misunderstand. I do not believe Maura committed suicide.

    As for Fred, I don't think I've ever come across another missing persons case where a parent would not speak to reporters. It's not just me. He's done this to other journalists, too. Why would a parent not want to speak to a reporter when his daughter is missing? That just makes no sense.

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  12. I don't think Maura is a suicide either - just was speculating on why her dad would possibly tell the tow truck driver he had advised her to put a rag in her tailpipe - which defies common sense. The simple solution would be for the dad to clear the whole matter up by speaking out, right?

    I just don't understand the lack of cooperation either. Is it a control issue that Fred Murray didn't select/hire James Renner to do investigative journalism?

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  13. Yes, James, Marybeth Conway was asked to do a piece for her award winning article and she said he (Fred) would NOT return his calls. He wanted the car smashed, crushed. Something in there we should known't about? He didn't want to pay the towing fee........I thought he wanted to look inside. Was he given time to do that and found nothing. Now they're holding it as evidence?

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  14. Fred spoke to this affect:
    Some scum bag grabbed her, she was just down the road and what did your guys do....she would be here with me now if you'd have driven that way. More and more I think this rag was an up yours statement to dad.
    I think she planned the whole thing out and well before the holidays.

    Just me

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  15. The car is evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation. It is not going to be released so long as the case is still open. This is a simple fact of law enforcement. No matter how slow they are to process and move towards closing a case, the property that is in evidence will continue to stay there until the case is closed, and at that point it can be released.

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  16. To August 8 @ 6:26 pm.......agree; however, with it being evidence, why isn't it secured?

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  17. I thought that we were done with this ridiculous assumption. That a rag will stall a car. Sticking a rag in the muffler will not cause an engine to stall. This only worked seventy-five years ago with low compression engines. All modern engines are high compression and stuffing a rag in the exhaust is virtually impossible when the engine is running and if off the engine will spit the rag out like nothing. Short of pouring concrete in the exhaust you will not stall an engine by stuffing something into the pipe. The freaking exhaust is so hot it is virtually impossible to do when the engine is running even with a broom-handle. If you stuff it in when cold it will blow out. Don't believe me, try it. I did as a kid. No matter how we tried, we could not make the engine stall. Oh yeah, we used potatoes also. Still couldn't make it stall.

    Bill

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  18. I made almost the same exact comments about the rag in the tailpipe on one of your blog entries a couple weeks ago. The rag in the tailpipe, if ever figured out, is going to be a key. Obviously, that isn't going to be accomplished. Fred Murray needs to AT LEAST come clean about that. If he gave her bad advice, he gave her bad advice. Fine. It isn't why she is missing. If he didn't, she was probably trying to kill herself. I don't think it is intellectually honest to say he is trying to deflect it from a situation of suicide. He came out from the beginning and made it sound like that's what it was. Maybe he did it with a foggy mind, just thinking out loud. The rag in the tailpipe is key.

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  19. with the way her car was described as ending up after the wreck, the tailpipe of her Saturn would've likely been the part of the car sticking out into the road. It wpuld make some sort of sense that on a pitch black night with a dark car that you would want to alert on-coming traffic with something bright or shiny from colliding into the car. I believe Maura stuck the rag in the tailpipe right before she left the scene heading east.

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  20. To; Anon @ August 9, 2011 7:24 AM.

    The reason being is that although the case is still open, the NH police are not "actively investigating." What I mean by that is the fact that they are probably keeping the case open, but not moving the case file. Also, when cars are physcial evidence, they are usually kept on a lot (not covered necessarily). You would think they would try to keep them out of the elements, but it just doesn't happen because of the available resources. It sucks, especially from the perspective of defending or trying the case, but it is how law enforcement officials think. What is worse, when they catch the person who grabbed Maura, any evidence gathered from the car will be subjected to a challenge by the defense attorney. They will probably argue that their is not a proper chain of custody for the car, and as a result all of the evidence gathered from it should be excluded. A judge will probably not throw it out because that goes to the weight of the evidence as opposed to its admissibility, but nonetheless, it could cause a problem in the future.

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  21. I agree with 8:39. She put the rag in the tail pipe because she wanted to warn people that the car was broken down on the side of the road. I also do not know why anyone with a missing child would not want their child's picture on every book, magazine, newspaper etc. I wouldn't care if it said I was the worst person in the world, as long as my daughter was found and people were aware. It has been a long time, I would never give up and would want to plaster her face everywhere. There have been several cases recently about girls going missing and people thinking they were dead but they were kidnapped. There was one on Anderson Cooper the other day. You just never know. People need to see Maura's face!

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  22. I don't agree that rag in the tailpipe was put there to warn people the car was broken down -- with all the snow in the area, a white rag would not "stand out", it likely would be hard to distinguish from the snow around the car.

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  23. Regarding a blocked tailpipe; it CAN cause the engine to stall. I have no idea where "Bill" gets his info or if he has some weird agenda, but I loathe when people emphatically post incorrect and misleading info. In a compression engine, air (exhaust) must be expelled in order for air to be pushed through and the cylinder to function properly.
    In fact, some mechanics use a rag in the tailpipe to check for leaks elsewhere in exhaust system. That being said, is it possible she stopped at a gas station or garage where someone may have been interrupted before this test was completed and she drove off? If so the person responsible may not want to come forward in light of the events that unfolded.
    It doesn't make sense to me that ANYONE, let alone a father, would tell his daughter to do something so illogical. I also don't understand how the father would specifically know that the rag was from her emergency kit versus any other rag. Even if the one in her trunk was not present, how did he determine when it was removed. It could have been used weeks prior to clean up a spill, wipe a windshield, etc.
    It also doesn't make sense the it was placed in there as a warning for oncoming cars. On that year/model the pipe is not highly visible from under the bumper. It makes much more sense to turn on the hazard lights and/or have the towel sticking out of the closed trunk. Also, wouldn't the emergency kit contain flares?
    ~jd

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    1. This is an excellent point. How on earth did Fred Murray know that the rag was from Maura's car kit? Unless he had given her the car kit and had the same one himself, but it's a long shot. I am a young woman about Maura's age and if I showed my dad a rag, he'd have no idea if it was from my car kit.

      Fred Murray's actions and statements are just too strange to discount. What is this with refusing to meet the cops until 2 years out, and then only with 2 lawyers present? Spending the night with her? Storing pictures of young female relatives in his porn magazine? Wanting her car to be crushed? (If that one is true, it says something HUGE.) An "odd duck" indeed...

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  24. I wonder if Maura put the rag in the tail pipe after the accident to make it seem like the car had stalled and gone off the road, because she had been drinking.

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  25. when I read this post - I assume Fred doesn't mean to stop it from smoking while actually driving the car. I would think he might have told her to stick a rag in the tail pipe if the car is smoking once it's turned off. Still strange advice, but I never assumed anything malicious when I read he told her to stick it up there.

    It would prove really interesting to see the condition of the rag. It would make a difference whether she stuck it in after the accident (say, the car was smoking after the crash) or if it had been in there the whole time.

    Another idea would be to check for leaks- I've actually heard of this as a way. Perhaps she forgot to take it out after a stop at the gas station? Kind of dumb - but possible when drinking.

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  26. If it were my daughter, I would be wary about talking to a stranger about things that might not reflect on my daughter positively. When you see him in the Disappeared episode, his grief is palpable. To me, he seems to harbor a lot of guilt over the fact that he believed Maura believed she had let him down and I think it might be an over-compensation in attempt to not sully her name or memory. I think something about all these women abandoning their cars without a trace smells fishy, but I would bet my life that Fred has nothing to do with it. Just my two cents.

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  27. Mr. Renner,
    I think you as a journalist should find a Saturn or something similar and try driving with a rag in the exhaust pipe before speculating on this 1 mile stall distance further more.

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  28. Um, James, Fred doesn't "understand nuclear medicine." He's a nuclear med tech, which is essentially an x-ray technician. It's an associate degree job. Not saying he's not smart, but he doesn't necessarily understand nuclear medicine.

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  29. A few years ago when I read about Maura,the rag baffled me.I did some reading and asking questions about what would happen,I read that a rag in the tailpipe will cause exhaust to seep into car and cause unconsciousness.The accident report said the road was dry,and I do not believe she missed the curve,I think she was on the verge of passing out,went off the road and wrecked,she then opened door to freash air and regained control,started walking and met the wrong person,I looked over that area on Google and the woods are endless,I believe sadly,she is out there somewhere.I first believed she stopped somewhere close by for whatever reason and someone stuffed the rag and then followed her till the right moment.Then I read that her father told her about the rag so it is still a mystery about that.

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  30. Did Fred Murray ever get the forms needed for the insurance to pay for the damage to the car?
    Though the accident was not serious, I cannot help but wonder if Maura, knowing if the accident was reported to the police she would get into trouble, as she was on probation..
    I am seriously doubting she went and got those forms, she may have been upset, thinking she was going to leave her father holding the bag..
    Where in the HELL is the rest of that alcohol?

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  31. this story has stuck with me too, I only heard of it today and when I googled it I realized that this is the anniversary of when she went missing, very weird. But, here's my problem with the theory that someone grabbed her. Working only with what we KNOW to be true- we know the bus driver saw her and offered to call police, she refused. She said she called AAA but didn't. WHY would she not ask/accept help from the bus driver if she knew that help was NOT on the way? What was her plan? Why would she accept help from someone else when she had just refused help from someone in a school bus? (which to me would put me a little at ease if I needed help)What I really want to know is- what was her plan- if she refused help and did not call AAA, this is someone who was not looking to be saved/helped at that moment.

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  32. He( Mike Lavoie) noticed the rag In the tailpipe.Then I'm confused.Because reading the Grafton County Dispatch Logs It clearly states upon Officers arrival,found car,no driver with a rag stuffed In tailpipe.Here's a great question.Car Accident,Girl Missing,Alchol Insight LE hearing from witness that She didn't want the police to be called.LE thinks she high tailed It out of there.MY QUESTION,WHAT WOULD MAKE THEM LOOK INSIDE THE TAILPIPE??

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    1. Teejay, I'm reading the blog again from the beginning, just to refresh my knowledge, and your question got me thinking.

      The obvious answer is they found the rag because they saw it sticking out. ML might have seen it when he was preparing the tow, but I can't imagine him looking down the tailpipe for that.

      If the rag wasn't put deep inside the tailpipe, I believe Maura put it there after the crash. She was seen walking around the car and at the back of it. Her father had told her she could or should put the rag in there and that's just what she did. Perhaps that's all there is to it.

      So I don't believe someone put it there to stall the car. I'm not an expert on cars, I don't know if it's possible to stall a car with a rag, but I think the exhaust fumes would have blown it out if it wasn't put in deep enough.

      JW


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    2. Was the rag ever tested for prints? Was any of the items found at the scene tested for prints?

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    3. Do we know if Mike was actually called that night? Since he had the car stored at his personal garage, could he have put the rag in there and blamed it on Fred?

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  33. Where in the HELL is the rest of that alcohol?
    To Allen.IMO-LE OR Tow truck driver took It when they did get in that car that night,when they put the car In neutral.

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  34. It is no mystery why she didn't want police called and why she said she had already contacted AAA. She was fully aware she had been drinking and also well aware that an MV accident would lead to a breathalizer test which could potentially find her legally over the limit, violate her probation, and put her in real trouble. What was her plan? She didn't have one when Atwood met up with her other than to deflect the immediacy and seriousness of the situation by telling Atwood not to call police and that she already had AAA on the way. It was just a quick lie to get rid of Atwood and hopefully convince him that the situation was not that bad. With him gone she would have a few more moments to start thinking about what her REAL plan, or story, would be, and hopefully she could get out of the situation without police involvement. Remember, this is a 21 year old emotional girl running from her problems and she just created another BIG one. She'll say anything to keep the spotlight off her current situation. If the police show up, she's doomed. That's her mindset.

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  35. Lets do a breakdown of how someone would act hypothetically in this situation. Suppose the car with the rag stuffed in a tail pipe with cylinders misfiring could have caused seepage of carbon monoxide into the cabin of the car. Add that to the distressed state of the driver who hasn't slept a full 12 hours and has likely been drinking alcohol while operating the vehicle. Has a second accident within 48 hours. Pulled over, good samaritan offers to help by calling police. Theres booze in the car and she's likely unsteady on her feet from the combined factors. Says no called AAA convinces Samaritan to leave. Gives her time to dump the alcohol in the woods and sober up. Begins carting the alcohol in to the woods...and then.

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  36. Turning that rag thing wheel could last forever. According to what I have read, police have not found any trace in the snow. Maura must have left the scene at some point on the road aboard a vehicle, on, or against her will. From there, she arrived somewhere with that someone.

    Was she stalked? She acted like she wanted to run away from a terrifying situation. Someone with evil plans may have threatened Maura to destroy her life. But even then, her disappearance may have nothing to do directly with a stalker.

    I'm more interested to learn details about what was left of all the liquor and wine she bought on her way.

    I also understood that a witness have said that Maura was not bleeding, right? It is quite unusual that a person who has cause a spider in its windshield, even if not bleeding, wouldn't at least show a big red or blue swelling on her forehead.

    I don't know Maura, and I found the case in the web less than one week ago, so please, it's my thoughts so far.

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  37. I think you're over thinking this. If he really told Maura to stuff a rag in her tail pipe because it's smoking too much, then of course he'd think nothing suspicious about it. That he understands nuclear medicine doesn't mean anything. Knowing medicine and knowing cars are completely different.

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  38. It was an odd thing to say to anyone who knows cars. A rag in a ... mufflerscars.blogspot.com

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  39. Ok I have some new thoughts on the rag in the tailpipe. Until just now, it seems to me like an insane idea to put a rag in the tailpipe. But then I wondered if something was being misinterpreted here. 2 thoughts on this:

    Maybe instead of the rag being inserted directly into the tailpipe as we all immedietley imagine when we here that statement, maybe there was a hole in the side of the muffler that was emitting smoke. A rag plugging that hole could force the smoke through its proper filtering channels.

    Or...

    If it was a thin rag, it could be intended as a filter itself, like the way you use a dryer sheet in a cardboard paper tube when blowing your smoke hits through when trying to mask the smell and thickness of smoke when smoking herbs indoors.

    Any thoughts? We should be careful not to let the obvious link to suicide distract us, because asphyxiation was obviously not the intention. Could someone done that to have her car stall out and then pounce on her? Yes, however Fred's explanation seems to defuse that theory pretty well.

    What you guys think?

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  40. Just a thought: maybe she took her father's advice about the rag in the tailpipe sometime in the past, and it stalled the car. So, maybe after she crashed and realized that it had been witnessed and police were likely coming soon, even though she tried to avoid having the police come, she shoved the rag in herself, so There could be an explanation as to why she lost control of the car. Cops would discover the rag and it would take suspicion away from her crashing due to being impaired by alcohol. In the MMM blog and the report by the woman who lived across the street from the crash, there was apparently a "flurry of activity near the trunk." That might be Maura grabbing a rag from the trunk and stuffing it into the tailpipe. This may have been a panicked reaction to preparing for the cops' arrival and motivated by a desire to avoid a DUI. Then, she either ran off (with the intention to return after cops left or she sobered up) or took a ride with a passerby. She may have refused help from the bus driver because she hadn't yet had time to put it in the tailpipe, or thought she could dissuade him from calling police. The lie she told about calling AAA also fits with this idea, that she was trying to clean up the scene (cover her tracks) but didn't realize the extent that the wine had stained the roof of the car, or was kidnapped before she could remove the alcohol from her car and hide it in the woods or something. My point, is that the rag is weird, but may have been incidental to her accident or something she planted and not relate to why she disappeared.

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