Sunday, September 18, 2011

Credit Fraud and Lying Witnesses: What the Private Eye Found

Private investigator, John Healy, was one of the first sources I spoke to when I started looking into Maura's disappearance earlier this year. Healy, 62, served 20 years with the New Hampshire state police, working his way up to Lieutenant. Since then, he's been a P.I., working on famous homicides and writing the occasional mystery novel. He was contacted by Helena Murray and was instantly gripped by the case.

He has a daughter about Maura's age. She's blind in one eye, which sometimes makes her less aware of her surroundings. One day, while hanging out in her college room, she looked up to find a large man standing in her bedroom. He seemed to lose his nerve when she caught him and he backed out of the room and ran away. She was so shook up it took her 20 minutes to find her cell phone to call her dad. "There but for the grace of God goes my daughter," he says.

The first thing Healy did when he agreed to look into Maura's disappearance, was to speak with Jeff Strelzin, the chief prosecutor at the AG's office, who happened to be a childhood friend. He wanted to give them a heads-up before he started interviewing witnesses. Shortly thereafter, Healy spoke with Fred and Maura's family. In 2006, with the help of a dozen other PI's and a slew of local volunteers, Healy organized a massive Search and Rescue operation, using cadaver dogs capable of sniffing out a body under cement or water. "We've searched pretty much everything within a 5 mile radius of where Maura wrecked her car."

But, for the most part, the searches have yielded no clues. "We found a piece of rug with some blood in an old abandoned house but I'm 90% sure it had nothing to do with the case. We gave the location to police."

Most of Healy's investigation has been conducted in New Hampshire, but he did learn a little about Maura's life at UMass and some things that might have stressed her out enough to want to get away for a little while. "She was caught using someone's credit card inappropriately. What we were told was that she had ordered pizza with a credit card that was not her own."

Healy and his friends interviewed a number of strange characters near where she went missing. One of the people he looked at closely was the man he refers to as "that shithead, Butch Atwood. He gave us 3 different versions of what happened the night he talked to Maura on the side of the road." In one version, Maura spoke to him from the car. In another, she was standing outside when she spoke to him. Healy even went to Florida, after Butch moved there, to question him again. But Butch wouldn't say anything other than to tell the PI that he had once been a police officer in Taunton , Mass--another lie, as Butch was never a police officer, though he did work for local government in Taunton for a time. In the end, it appeared Butch was nothing more than a tale-tale teller, a guy prone to exaggerating stories, "a pathological liar."

Rick Forcier was another strange puppy, as far as Healy is concerned. "When we went to talk to him, he wouldn't let us in his trailer."

As for his relationship with Murrays, that has disintegrated over the years. "Fred is a volatile man," he explains. "But I can't fault him."

Healy believes Maura was murdered. "We're sure she was killed. Her death was caused by the intervention of another human being. And we're pretty sure we know who did it. Everything points to one direction."

His personal theory is that Butch may have seen someone stop and pick up Maura. He thinks it might have been someone who Butch was afraid of. Afraid enough to keep it secret even on his death bed.

31 comments:

  1. Well, consider your source, Mr. Renner. It seems Healy has an axe to grind with Butch Atwood. Others, local to the immediate area where MM supposedly went missing, state Butch Atwood was a very decent human being who was entrusted with the care of children, and that parents never did or have since had concerns about his character. Go figure.

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    1. he didnt accuse BA of doing it . read carefully!

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  2. Can I just ask whether or not the lady Butch was living with is still alive? Now that Butch is no longer with us, if something happened would she be more willing to talk?
    I've never believed much in the Butch did it theory, but who knows?

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  3. Maura could certainly have easily run away from Butch Atwood...he was an older heavy set man with limited agility. I met him several times while walking my dog in the area--always seemed like a really nice guy.

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    1. It's always the really nice, you-would-never-suspect guy.. after watching a documentary last night on Maura's disappearance, Butch was my suspect. Sorry to hear he's dead, but hope law enforcement spent appropriate time and resources checking him out.

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  4. I don't think anyone really thinks Butch did it. The question is, who was he afraid of?

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  5. So this guy has a theory that he's pretty sure he knows who did it....and leaves it hanging at that? Ah, come on!

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  6. I remember Weeper (PI) standing near where BA parked his bus watching cars go by at the same time of night to determine if BA would have been able to make out the type of vechicle going by. He felt that BA could. I always believed BA backed his bus in to keep an eye on Maura and did see what car or truck she did enter. I also believed he knew and wondered why he said he could not. Why did he go down the road he did looking for Maura. Who would live on that road that he feared? I don't remember the name of the road. Maybe lily path?

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  7. Well? Who do they think did it? What about the posting not the long ago telling us to forget Atwood and Forcier? Is it a matter of not being able to convince authorities of who Healy thinks did it?

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  8. Lots of skepticism here about this Renner post. Not enough info about Healy which I would prefer not to have to research myself. Where in NH did he work for 20 years? Under what terms did he leave his employ as a state policeman before becoming a PI? Retirement? Certain so-called PIs involved with MM's disappearance have a negative history with the NH county from which she is presumed to have disappeared.
    I'm surprised that Healy's relationship to Strelzin had not been newer than as a "childhood friend". After all, Jeff Strelzin is very approachable under most circumstances without a connection to him needed.
    Again, beware of your sources. Seems other posters here are equally concerned about Healy's unwritten thoughts here.

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    1. if you read the article he was approached by the family

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  9. BA made the statement that he drove down French Pond Road looking for Maura.

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  10. Some of the anonymous folks posting here act like they don't want Renner to find out what happened to Maura. I just don't get that. If you have personal knowledge that contradicts something he has written, send him an email. I'm sure he would be willing to listen to locals with credible information. I, for one, I'm GLAD to finally hear the opinion of one of the PI's that investigated this case. I hope that Renner keeps digging and keeps sharing.

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    1. it sounded to me like the guy did a great job, agree!

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  11. I have friends who are natives of the area and who have lived there all their lives. They also knew BA and his wife and were friendly with them. When I visited them toward the end of July, the topic of MM came up. What they had to say was "BA was afraid of the adult son of one of the town's leading citizens." My friends seemed to believe this fellow was somehow involved in MM's disappearance. The only other identifying information they offered (and I didn't probe) is that the fellow under discussion is the son or stepson of a woman attorney.

    What I consider interesting about Mr. Healy's comments is that he seems to know the identity of the murderer. I wonder if he's shared that information with NH LE?

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  12. I'd be interested in the name. Can you email it to me so I can look into it?

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    1. Did John Healy say particularly who was of interest or anything about this person?

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  13. Mr. Renner, Any more information...Does he believe she is a victim of a random crime (wrong place wrong time)? Or does he believe she went up to meet this person in NH?

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  14. I think sometimes people don't read very closely or lack comprehension. Just because James Renner reports something someone else said or believes on this blog, does not mean he believes it himself. This post is reporting what the PI said. The question is, who believes the PI? I don't think Remmer has said either way. I'm inclined to be skeptical of any scenario where we are pinning something on the town black sheep without any other evidence other than someone is a weirdo.

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  15. I think the credit card misuse is hard to understand, given Maura's character (as far as we can "know" her character as outsiders). Was this the reason she left West Point?

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  16. Was Maura's supervisor aware of any credit card misuse by the night of Feb. 5-6, 2004 when Maura cried uncontrollably at her desk? and her supervisor escorted her out of her part-time security job and back to her dorm? Do you think Maura was told not to return to that job as a result?

    Her kind supervisor offered Maura her cellphone number, a chance to meet and talk the next morning, and suggested counseling....

    Since Maura packed up her dorm-room over the weekend (per LE via mass media), do you think she also was asked to leave UMass? Was that one of the important things Maura wanted to tell Fred on Saturday night?

    If, IF, any of this is true, I don't fault her for it; most of us have either done something similar or have ALMOST done something similar. The past few generations (mine included) may be less mature re the repercussions of an impulsive behavior; their true, good character may not be completely developed until they are a bit older.

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    1. Interesting theory: MM being asked to leave UMass and therefore feeling compelled to tell her dad.

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  17. Hello, former UMass-er here, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that it's NOT CLEAR if she packed up her dorm room because she was running away. Her disappearance happened about 10 days after winter break ended-- UMass Amherst has a very long winter holiday, until the last week in January. We might never know if she re-packed to run, or just hadn't unpacked from holiday yet.

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  18. As someone very familiar with UMass at the time Maura was attending I can say that it is POSSIBLE (not definite) Maura never unpacked from the winter break. UMass and the other 5 colleges colleges had a very long winter break ending the last week of January. It wouldn't be uncommon at all for a student to have stuff in boxes during the first days of February.

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  19. The bus driver said that she was having trouble exiting the car on the driver's side because of a snow drift. It seems very possible that he could have been speaking to her while, AND after, exiting the car. Healy describing the bus driver as a "shithead" makes me understand why the bus driver didn't want to talk to him in Fla. If someone approached and questioned me in an adversarial manner I would possibly say anything to make them go away. Ultimately it is all 2nd or 3rd hand knowledge and not credible imo.
    ~jd

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  20. I would be interested to know about the exact state of Maura's "packed up room." Did she just move into that room or had she lived there the previous semester? Don't people just pack a couple of suitcases for winter break? I mean, were her sheets, blankets, books all packed too? Some people have very elaborately decorated and furnished dorm rooms, and some people have really spartan rooms. I wonder what sort of room Maura had.

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  21. the searches have yielded no clues, but he's sure he knows what happened...hmm

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  22. It seems terribly unfair to refer to a witness on such h derogatory terms. Butch Atwood did the right thing by offering to help her. He called police after she assured him she had called AAA because be knew there was little chance she could have gotten a cell phone signal, again doing the right thing. He told his story to investigators, once again doing the right thing. He did not make Maura disappear and did not ask to be put in the middle of this case. Anyone familiar with eye witness testimony knows that witnesses are imperfect and have imperfect memories. He does not deserve to be defamed in this manner by this private investigator. To me, this PI John Healy sounds like a bloviating former cop who thinks he's a lot smarter than he really is. I would without hesitation bet a month's salary that this private investigator has no idea what happened to Maura, much less who killed her.

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  23. Maura was a distance runner and they only search within a 5 mile radius?? I bet if they go further, they will find her.

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  24. I know it's not PC to say, but, this is a real case with real people. To heck with "PC". Maura's father really gives me the creeps! For some reason, I have a strong feeling that her and her father's relationship may have been a little too close, at one point or another in her life. I am a strong advocate of the suicide theory here. To me, the evidence is overwhelming. I just think that the 5 mile radius may have been insufficient to locate her remains. That last phone call to her boyfriend...shivering, low moan...clearly freezing in the elements. Probably close to succumbing to hypothermia. A final reaching out. But...not to dad or mom. I have a feeling that her relationship with her father may have been a catalyst of her depression. I believe she bought all that alcohol to aid in her suicide. And the fact that she didn't give her father a proper "goodbye", when they were so close?? An improper relationship (at any point in her life) would also explain her promiscuity, and choice of a controlling boyfriend (if those reports are true).. Ultimately, it's just the way her father acts, and what others have reported regarding his actions that have led me to this conclusion. His darting eyes and lack of eye contact when discussing her, his stoic demeanor, his (according to what I've read elsewhere) less than enthusiastic search efforts during initial search (hanging back, going jogging, not communicating with others...). He comes across as secretive and guilty of something to me. Just my humble, unsubstantiated opinion. I have watched the ID Disappeared version of this story twice now, and I can see there was much left out. Why haven't we seen/heard from her mother?

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    1. Some studies show as high of a number as 60% of those suffering from an eating disorder have a past history of physical or sexual abuse as the trigger for the disorder.

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