A new look at one of the North Country's Coldest Cases
PART 1I have no idea whether this is an appropriate place to post this (if it is too off-topic Mr. Renner go ahead and delete)... but I just wanted to make a few observations.(1) The FOIA Request - Mr. Murray's FOIA request appears to me to be written with the clear assistance of an attorney. I am the designated FOIA officer (not my main job function, FYI) for a government entity and that sort of thoroughness, as Mr. Renner states, is not the sort of amateur one-off request Joe Q. Public makes, not even the type of request a typical journalist would make, just in scope and language. What does that mean? To me, not much, simply that Mr. Murray was frustrated and sought counsel on how to proceed with the relevant LE.(2) College Behaviors - Look, I have no idea about Maura, did not witness her behavior, did not know her, etc., but did have a few general comments about being in college, at a flagship state university nonetheless, in the early 2000s... and that is basically this observation. Drinking problem? Could have been. Or, could have just been a typical college kid (the amount and frequency of binge drinking in college would clearly be a "problem" at other stages of life). The "promiscuous" and/or "cheating boyfriend" memes? Again, looking at that behavior in context, no, it never feels good to be cheated on, high school or married with 3 kids, but, really now, in context, college life... booze around constantly... long-distance relationship... well, frankly, it's probably not really that atypical. I think in general some of Maura's behaviors and those of the people around her must and can only be really understood in the context of where she was at in life. I would never for a second suggest that all these things could not have produced alot of pressure in her life...of course they may have... but I think it just as likely that it may have just been pretty innocuous stuff that suddenly takes on an undeserved importance in trying to piece this together. Perfect example - if all my belongings were boxed up in my home - obviously something weird. A college student just returning from a LONG winter break? Maybe it has significance, but maybe it just appears that way in light of later events. Any alleged credit card fraud, again, sounds pretty bad. It may have been. But I also read that at UMass it amounted to ordering a pizza off of someone else's credit card. Ok, I never did that, but I sure did finish off left-over pizza in the fridge, or beer or whatever, more than once. Theft! Or... maybe not so much. Not making excuses at all, not an apologist. I am just saying that behaviors and events that look extremely bizarre at age 40 look differently at 21.
PART 2As Mr. Renner points out, back to basics, only really 3 possibilities (actually, I'll add a 4th). (a) suicide (b) homicide/kidnapping (c) new life abandoning the old(d) accidental deathFor me - the SUICIDE is nearly impossible to fathom assuming a thorough search was made for the body given the short time frame she had to "get away". She's going to hide her body how? Etc etc.NEW ASSUMED LIFE - with $280, a broken-down car? And why the accident in the snow-drift? I mean is that how anyone would plan to start their new mystery life? "Gee whiz, I'll drive into a snowbank in the middle of no-where, have the police called and start my new life in the intervening 15 minutes to throw everyone off track". This makes the least sense to me. I dont really buy the motivation for starting a new life - but even if one did accept that - why like this? No one would plan this sort of way to disappear simply because it is way overly complex with a zillion things that could go wrong (like an officer throwing her in jail for drunk driving, ruining the master plan to disappear without a trace... and on and on)ACCIDENTTwo possibilities I see here… (a) she wants to stay out of sight of motorists and cops until she sobers up and succumbs to elements or (2) she’s moving along the road and is victim of hit-and-run (check that, a hit-and-snatch-up-the-body). The accident scenarios all the reasons she is up there are red herrings. She is up there for whatever reason - to think, to meet a boyfriend, to think about pregnancy, to get-away, to mediate, to write a novel... whatever. In this theory of mine it does not really matter why. She is up there. She gets in an accident and she's been drinking. Ruh-roh. This isnt going to go over well at all. Out-of-state, drunk-driving, 2nd accident in a few days. So she needs to kill time until she sobers up a bit. She turns down help of passing motorists and decides to hike out. She's a collegeiate Division 1 elite runner and at 21 werent we all bomb-proof in our minds? So she starts out down the road... "I'll just sober up and there will be better cell phone service this way just a little bit". She ends up a few miles down the road (as seen by Mr. Forcier) but it's dark and it's cold and it's late. Maybe she's worried now about people with bad intentions finding her alone on the road, so she strays from the road into the woods a bit to avoid attention. She rests... the alcohol makes her sleepy... and the elements take her life. Probably not likely (again, where are the remains), but given Maura's background, athletiscism and age - couldnt it be possible she was further out of range than your average person would have been? That she had made it 10 miles down the road or something? I am not familiar with the area, so someone could jump on and say "dude, ten miles down the road is a big commercial area" - but just looking on google maps, it looks desolate. Under this scenario a hunter eventually finds her remains years from now.HOMICIDE/KIDNAPPINGThis, to me, is the most likely. The two sub-sets of this sceario are (a) someone she knew (b) random violence by a stranger.
Addendum ---Sorry to be obnoxious here with the posting but I just watched the following, which was highly instructive to me and probably would be for anyone who is not familiar with the area.It is a drive down the road, gives a much better sense of the environment than google-earth or google-maps showing the road in stills.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvH41yylgq8In my mind's eye I had pictured an entirely different level of "remoteness" to the whole affair.I think "accident" after hiding in the woods waiting to sober up, as I posited above, or a hit-and-scoop-up-the-body is not likely at all(would just take too much time in the hit-and-scoop-up - would have to believe someone would happen along this road at 730 - or that it was a real possibility).Anyway - watch the vid, it may be interesting to others who havent been there to get a real idea of just how close help was.
To MJHWell-thought out posts.I still lean towards suicide, but also think that she could've either succumbed to the elements or been accidently hit while heading up the road.The fact the body hasn't been found is not that big of deal to me, because that area is expansively thick with woods and dirt trails and nooks and crannys. There is no way to predict where Maura would've headed on foot and over time wild animals and the weather elements could easily help in hiding a body.I look at all the surrounding events that went on prior to Maura going missing and that is where I come up with suicide. She had her dorm room packed to the gills with boxes stacked on her bed. She had been back to school for at least 10 days to two weeks. No one, I don't care how slow you are to unpack from a winter break, no one would leave their boxes on top of their bed and sleep around them for two weeks. She also left an excerpt of an old email on top or around her packed boxes that had to do with her boyfriend's infidelity. A sign to me that she wanted to leave a lasting message for someone.She printed out her accident forms from her (first wreck) and left them (I believe) for her father to retrieve in her car after her second wreck. That is part of the reason I believe she went to the trouble of locking her car up despite it being in bad shape. And Maura was headed for the mountains, we can conclude that because of her known mapquest searches (berkshires, White Mountains, Burlington) they were all located near mountain and hiking areas. Why does any person head for the mountains in a beat up old car with very little money BY THEMSELVES?????
Unless she spent her nights sleeping somewhere other than her dorm room.
So I think you are unto something. She picked up the accident report to assist her father in recovering insurance monies for the first accident. The email about boyfriend cheating is meant to make him pay for his infidelity (as he would blame himself for her disappearance or suicide) She made plans with friends to go to concert to make it seem she was coming back all the while knowing she was going to disappear. I don't think suicide - I think someone trying to start a new life
I've been to college. Raise your hand if you boxed your crap up over the long winter break. Raise your hand again if you did so, and then brought the boxes back to your room, and not only did not unpack them but left them on your bed for multiple days. Yeah.I propose this: Fred knows Maura ran. All the beefing between Fred and the police are because the police know where Maura is and aren't telling him. That's why he wants the files.
Absolutely boxed up my clothes during breaks but absolutely never boxed up the posters and art work on my walls. Absolutely waited several days to unpack but absolutely never left the boxes on top of my bed where I sleep. Nor did I ever leave a printed email about my cheating boyfriend on top of the boxes to be discovered after I leave, and never after being unable to reserve a hotel room did I ever drive an unreliable car up to remote, mountainous wilderness with very little money, not even bothering to wait for pay day. Suicide is certainly a credible theory that tends to be dismissed too easily in this case. Personally, I don't believe she was planning to kill herself because if she was then why send the email to her profs indicating that she would be missing class due to a death in the family? If she planned to be dead, she would not have feared the consequences of missing work and school and therefore wouldn't have fabricated an excuse for her absence. At the very least, it shows hesitation ("Well, just in case I can't go through with it ..."), but more likely it indicates that she planned to return. I think she was drunk driving, ran off into the woods to hide from police and sober up to avoid a DUI, got disoriented in the dark and from being drunk, died from exposure in a thickly forested area where a body can easily be lost for years, and in the future someone will find a partial human jaw bone (her skeleton will be incomplete because scavenging animals will have scattered her remains), and the DNA-rich pulp from a tooth will conclusively prove the skull is Maura's and she died the very night she disappeared. The simplest explanation is almost always the correct one. People underestimate how difficult it would be to find a body in such thick and remote wilderness in a cold New England winter. And don't kid yourself: If law enforcement knew Maura was alive and had run away of her own free will, they would close this case. This is not a Hollywood movie. Law enforcement would not mislead the public and leave a missing persons case open in order to pick sides in a private family dispute between Maura and Fred. No way no how. That scenario is a fantasy. They certainly would not let themselves get dragged into court by her father instead of just saying, "We have proved that she is alive and exercising the right everyone else has to move away and cut contact with their family. Case closed." Law enforcement clearly believes that Maura is dead.
MJH, all very good points. I personally lean toward the latter senario that you mention, that she was on her way to meet someone. I find it hard to believe that she ran into a serial killer or even a guy who took advantage of a situation of finding a young drunk helpless girl on the road. I just don't think that the odds are in favor of that happening on such a dark sparsley traveled road on a cold winter night. I would assume that if she was meeting someone that this person was someone she cared about and trusted, would have to be for her to drive all that way. I think it possible that she met with foul play somehow while meeting with this person, but not likely. Now, I know this sounds very unlikely, but with all that Maura had going on in her life at that moment and possible ad that Fred took out asking Maura to come home I find it likely that she started a new life with someone else. It would be so much easier to do so with the help of another person. It's been done before and it's been done by young girls who have done it on their own and stayed missing for years.
If you pick a random girl and a random 10 minute window in her life then you're right about extremely low odds of encountering a serial killer or predator.We didn't.We're talking about Maura specifically BECAUSE the extremely unlikely has happened to her. We're just not sure which "extremely unlikely" happened.And, although you didn't include it lots of others do, the 10 minute window is the amount of time she had to evade the police officer responding to the scene. She may have walked RT 112 for hours before, if ever, getting into a vehicle or being abducted.In fact, one witness (RF) saw someone that may have been Maura about 5 miles down the road.
There is no way that Maura left her dorm room in the state it was just because she hadn't found the time to unpack some 10-14 days after returning from her winter break.There was nothing in her drawers, everything was boxed up, her art on her walls was pulled down. Everything was neatly packed into boxes and stacked up on her bed with a note (old email with the subject being her boyfriend's past infidelity)For anyone to make a leap that oh Maura just hadn't unpacked yet (after two weeks) - is someone that is in denial of common sense.
Hey gang, MJH back again. You guys are probably right about the dorm room being packed up is a bit odd. I guess in my head I was thinking back to roommates (and at times, me) in college coming back from home with boxes of food and DVDs, etc. Hell, we had a room full of boxes that didnt get unpacked for the entire year one year, but I digress. I also was thinking back to college when someone (at times, me) would end up "shacking up" at some girls place more nights than not out of a week - stopping home to pick up fresh clothes, play some video games, and leave again.That's where I was going with that thought - so I am not completely devoid of common-sense. ;-) That said, art taken off the walls? Ok, ya got me there (and probably on the rest of it too).As to the comment above that LE knows about Maura's whereabouts and wont tell Mr. Murray - I dont think that is possible b/c the AG represented to the appellate court that the case was open and on-going. No way the AG is going to file pleadings saying the case is open to deny a FOIA if in fact the case is solved but Maura doesnt want the family to know.I guess all of this is what makes the situation so puzzling... we all can come up with plausible theories that explain many of the facts, but not quite all.To me it doesnt make sense that if you were running away you would have an accident and wander off - you park the car in daylight and wander off (or whatever). To me it doesnt make sense you take your own life by freezing to death in the woods - a very odd way to go indeed.BUT, it is just as valid for you guys to have good reasons for those scenarios and to point out to me - if random violence occurred, why pack up the dorm room?And what on earth can anyone make of the rag in the exhaust? No one incorporates that into their theories very well at all.- MJH
Rag in the exhaust, my best guess based on everything I've read, some research of my own, and believing FM's statements:Maura wrecks.BA pulls up, they talk, he tells her he's going to call the police. She begs him not too but figures if not him somebody will, and soon.She's got to move! Can't get a DUI. Of course, start the car and drive away, duh. Crap, won't start.Oh yeah, Dad said put the rag in the tailpipe if the car won't start, please, please, please... *Woman observes "flurry of activity" at the trunk areaDamn still no go.And then choose your own ending: flee the scene on foot, hop in the next car, etc.Evidence incorporated:BA plays his part and it fits (Maura knows he's calling the cops and doesn't want to be there when they get there).Neighbor sees flurry in the trunk and it fits. FM has said he told her to put the rag in the tailpipe for "car trouble" but I haven't heard if he said what specific type of car trouble. But, it fits.Since FM (as far as I've seen) wasn't specific about what type of car trouble he told Maura this would fix I did some checking as I have access to some pretty smart car people.I asked a BMW Factory Trained and Certified Master Technician about it. He said the only thing he could think of (BMW doesn't fix cars this way, shocking I know) was that if the car had really low compression the rag would increase back pressure and MAY get it started and/or drive-able for a short distance. Fits because FM MAY have said, if it won't start try this (for the non-mechanical: low compression motors may run weakly, may stall, or may not even start / run at all).It has been said that Maura's car was "running on 3 cylinders". This can be taken literally or figuratively. Literally, a vehicle with a bad cylinder would have low compression. "Tired" motors that just have generally low compression may be jokingly referred to as "running on 3 cylinders" (for a 4 cylinder engine) because it has so little power. Fits either literally or figuratively.Nothing definitive, obviously this is MM after all, but I don't know of any evidence in this case that doesn't fit well into that explanation. If you do please advise.
I think that note being left out like that may have been a reminder to Maura that the "good times" of being back at UMass might just be better than going with Billy to a state she dreaded the mear thought of. Oklahoma! No mountains....but.... "she loved him", well big deal. She's fighting with him again, maybe about a newly found out "problem" concerning "her sister". She cried that out as you may recall the night she was "just trying to get out of work early", according to one sister.Something is fishy here. Maura spent New Years in NH? Maybe without Bully? She quit the track team to concentrate on her schoolwork? Or was it awkward to be around all those people when you're trying to stay focused on one man, Billy. The Sat nite party had more than just girls thyere, sounded like there were some guys too.Did police have a "reason" of some sort to tell Sharon They thought it was fred driving the car? And why would they grill Billy as though they didn't know he was accounted for, in the service and on base?This reminds me. One of the PI's had a bad opinion of Billy. I don't get it. He really stayed out of any limelight and his mom sure did most of the talking. For all she knew, Maura cried whenever he had to leave, in part because she knew he couldn't be trusted.Mr Remmer, I know you don't like to speculate but I think these points might be worth looking at in just as much as I have written here.
If law enforcement thought her father was involved in her disappearance, they would have responded to his law suit by saying, "You're a suspect, so, no, of course you can't have the police file. Sit tight until we charge you, and then you, through your lawyer, can learn about our evidence during discovery like every other defendant does."
James, please correct my misspelling of Billy's name. I wrote "Bully" and it was an honest mistake. I don't know anything about this person and would like not to offend anyone here.I forgot to mention something though. Maybe you could find out the date this "old email" was printed out? If it was newly done, let's say within the week, maybe she was clearing her computer. Deleting things. Off the record now, you can tell by the Discovery videos that Maura called a pizza place at 3:30 am, the night of the meltdown at work. Can you confirm this number as being Dominoes back then? A friend told me that place stops delivering at that time, so why would she be calling?
And what on earth can anyone make of the rag in the exhaust? No one incorporates that into their theories very well at all.I do. She was saying "up yours" to her dad.Listen,there was a temp mass plates, redtruck roaming around, slowing down to view at least one person at the time of the accident. There was another red truck (if not the same) parked down/up Bradley hill road.Tim said the accidents just don't happen like that one did. They have to call in an accident or two each year according to that family.
I have always believed that Maura put the rag into her tailpipe as a way to alert oncoming eastward bound traffic.Her car was a very dark color and the accident scene at night is pitch black meaning any car coming around that sharp turn in the road would have little time to prepare for a wrecked car with its tail end partially sticking out in the road (where her tailpipe is).It is believed that the rag came from her own emergency kit her dad had made for her that was in her trunk of her car. Witnessess note that there was activity by her around the trunk of her car right before she went missing.As far as some mass murderer sabatoging Maura's car and pre-placing a rag in her tailpipe. It would about be impossible. A rag stuffed in a tailpipe would be either blown out rather quickly by the exhaust. From what I have heard the rag was found to be white and clean and loosely placed in her tailpipe.
According to Project Jason, it says her car was locked when it was found without Maura after the accident. If you were going to commit suicide, would you lock your car before you left? Also, didn't I read somewhere that her drivers license and wallet was left in the car? Was the $200-some dollars left in the car? Emptying your account and then leaving the money is weird to me.
I highly doubt she drove up there to commit suicide. Most people who commit suicide are not looking at their life in the future, she obviously was by bringing her birth control pills, her text books, her cell phone, her cell phone charger, etc...etc..If she ran and died in the weather, i highly believe her body should have been found by now..also keep in mind that there were no footprints found in the snow, and the dogs lost their scent.. she was also no where to be found in any hotel, motel, resort.. in the area.. which only leads me to think that she took a ride from someoneShe wasn't from NH, and from what I understand didn't know anyone up there. SHe also didn't place any new calls, so even if she did know someone.. they wouldn't have known where to pick her up from.I'm from Maine, and I use to frequent North Conway and surrounding towns all the time ,and I always found it to be safe up there.. i have a hard time believing the one person she took a ride from is the one who killed her.But also, if she did take a ride from someone, you would think they would come forward and say 'I gave a ride to that young lady at night,' If she 'was' going to start her life out new, she obviously brought her debit card to use, but never used it..along with her phone intending to use, but never used it..
Tracking dogs are not infallible. There have been many cases where they have failed to track a scent they should theoretically have been able to track (the victim did not get into a car but died in the area where the dogs failed to track, for example). If such dogs were 100% accurate and infallible, then every single time they are used in a case in which the victim was not transported from the scene in a vehicle they should produce a person or a body. That is far from the case. Many things factor in to whether or why a dog loses a scent.
She didnt bring her gloves though...i feel like my gloves wallet and phone would be the first id grab
J. Green - PART 1 OF 3Hello MJH. I really appreciate your posts and reasoning. Having been a division 1 distance runner myself - and a pretty good one, and in New England, no less - I can tell you that when you train routinely in cold whether, you not only feel bomb proof, but you almost are. Your body is such excellent condition that it can endure all kinds of elements for very long periods of time. Also, I trained frequently at night on dark streets in rural areas with ice on the roadway, but my body was so nimble and adroit, I never felt in any danger. This was true even in navigating traffic. In fact, today, at the age of 45, I feel more unnerved crossing a street than I did back then running at night in the winter on a winding New England road with no shoulder. Thus, I follow your reasoning that she may have attempted to flee the scene on foot to sober up, particularly given the recent accident in her father's car and perhaps given something having to do with alcohol having been the reason for her dismissal from West Point. It is a very fitting and coherent scenario for an athlete like her to have undertaken on foot to dodge problems with drinking and driving that may have awaited her had she stayed at the scene. This is particularly true when you consider that - whatever its full set of sources, the young college kid Maura Murray was under a lot of stress at the time, or so quite a few bits of evidence would indicate. In my view, then (at least given your premise of there having been no connection between her reasons for being in NH and her fate), this enhances the likelihood of one of your four scenarios: death by exposure to the elements. (see part 2)
J. Green - PART 2 OF 3I would like to add a couple of points that further buttress the probability (or feasibility) of this scenario. First, it is very common, even among highly experienced wilderness hikers to become disoriented and lost after straying only a few yards off a known way. There is a story in northern Minnesota, for example, about a man who was a world class level experienced hiker, who disappeared for more than a week in dense forests after walking only a matter of feet from a shoreline in looking for a portage path, then getting confused and getting progressively more lost. (He was eventually rescued). The woods at night and element in the cold tend to confuse even very experienced, expert hikers, let alone day hikers or campers, such as I infer Maura was. Thus, while inebriated, in a flustered state of mind and at night, it would be not unlikely at all that Maura sought refuge off the road a bit to sober up (if it happened that way) and then became VERY lost very quickly. In such an event, hypothermia could kick in (particularly a danger as the body cools after exertion, as from running) and when dehydrated (as from drinking alcohol) which would have further disoriented her AND MADE HER VERY SLEEPY. I personally have experienced this SCARY effect of hypothermia. I once narrowly escaped with my life after being lost in the wilderness. As my journey back wore on, the onset of hypothermia and its sleepiness elicited insane thoughts, like that I ought to just lie down and go to sleep for 30 minutes then I would feel better. Thankfully I knew enough to resist this urge as if my life depended on it, because it did. Maura easily therefore, if she did get lost in accord with the above discussions, could have gone to sleep, not that far from 112, after darting of the road to sober up and figure out what to do.
J. Green - PART 3 OF 3One might then ask, well, would not her body have been relatively easily found if that were the case? Not necessarily. Wildlife often feed on the recently deceased and drag/scatter their remains over fairly large areas. There are other cases, in fact, where a human bone is found and the rest of skeleton is found over a fairly wide area (say, 100 square yards) because wildlife devoured the recently deceased person. A black bear could easily drag a 100 pound woman into the deepest areas of the forest where hikers and nobody almost ever go. I know some will object that bears are hibernating in February, but - please check it out for yourself - black bears do not hibernate, per se. They spend a lot of time with their cubs in dens, slumbering throughout the winter, but they do occasionally get up, move around and even hunt. The hunt more so in a down ecological seasons where they were not able to store enough fat and energy. To such a bear a recently deceased 100 pound person is a real find. If such a bear dragged such a carcass back to its den, that alone may make it almost impossible to find her body, because that means it is in a VERY remote and very dense area of the forest, where people simply don't go or rarely ever have. So, with a few additions, the feasibility of your thesis of death by exposure has really cemented for me into something that is entirely possible and altogether feasible. The main reservation I have is that I am not sure I buy into the premise under which you isolated the four possibilities. I think there may in fact be a connection between her reasons for being in NH and what happened to her. This tends to push my intuition needle toward another scenario: that she had already met up with whomever she was going to meet (just a few miles back in the Haverhill town center) and was following that person in separate cars when the accident occurred. Then she jogged up to that person's car, hopped in and departed, for some reason have much incentive to not be found at the scene by the police. Regards ~ John G.
All good points and much more eloquently stated than I would have managed. My one question: If she was driving in tandem with someone else, why is it that this person was not only seen by no one else, but why didn't she just say, "My friend is here to help me," when the bus driver offered to help her and call police? Why make up that cockamamie story about calling AAA? I believe she wanted to avoid cops because she had been drinking, went into the woods to sober up, got disoriented and died of exposure. A body could easily get lost for a few years it forever in those woods.