Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Was Maura a Victim of the Connecticut Valley Killer?

I read once that, at any time, there are about a dozen practicing serial killers operating in the United States. According to profilers, most serial killers target women of similar race and socio-economic background. Like predators in the wild, these men stalk their prey, wait for the perfect moment to kill, then leave or transport their body to a place they are familiar with enough to be somewhat secure and comfortable in their actions.

From around 1978 to about 1988, the Connecticut River Valley was the territory of a particularly fearsome serial killer who dumped women's bodies up and down Route 91 from the Mass border up to Hartford. During my travels to the North Country, many people asked me if I thought there could be a connection. I didn't think so. The killings stopped a while ago, after all. But, the more I read about the cold cases, the more I wonder...

The first victim attributed to the Connecticut River Valley Killer is 27 year old Cathy Millican, who was photographing birds at the Chandler Brook Wetland Preserve in New London, NH. Her body was later found nearby, with 29 stab wounds. Six other women may have been murdered by this man. A couple were hitchhikers. Three worked at local hospitals: 16 year old nurses's aide Bernice Courtemanche (last seen in Claremont); 27 year-old Ellen Fried (a supervising nurse at Valley Regional Hospital); 38-year-old Barbara Agnew (her car was found in Hartford, VT). All stabbed to death.

The killings presumably stopped after a botched attack in 1988. 22-year-old Jane Boroski was attacked outside a convenience store in West Swanzey by a man in a Jeep Wagoneer. He stabbed her 27 times and left her to die. She managed to survive and was able to provide police with the sketch of her attacker (above).

Sixteen years later, Maura vanished in this serial killer's sandbox.

What do you think? Related or not?

As always, you can send tips directly to me at becarriedaway@hotmail.com


View The Valley Killer's Victims in a larger map

42 comments:

  1. THANK YOU!!! So glad you finally addressed this, since I have felt for a long time that the CT River Valley Killer was the elephant in the room of the Murray case. Every so often I hear of a disappearance or murder in the North Country matching the signature of this killer and have to wonder if it's the same guy. Given the population size and demographics of New Hampshire and the fact that none of the suspects the police investigated (that I'm aware of) felt right to me on a gut level, I'd lean strongly toward the probability that he's still out there and still operating, albeit a lot less frequently. This is certainly an avenue that deserves more research.

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  2. Two things:

    1. An apparent 16-year lull (1988-2004) between the last known attack of the River Killer and Maura´s vanishing.

    2. The area of Maura´s disappearance is somewhat to the north of the River Killer´s previously known area of operations, as clearly indicated by the blue dots on the map.

    That being said, there could well be a connection, none the less and some other cases in the Grafton County area come to mind, such as the vicious stabbing of the murder victim Louise Chaput in the Franconia area some years ago and whose case remains unsolved.

    A "reactivated" River Killer?
    The notion may seem far-fetched at first, but can not be dismissed out of hand.

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  3. Considering: 1) The likely age of the Upper Valley killer 26 years after the first murder and 16 years after what seems to have been the most recent, 2) the tendency of serial killers to "retire" after a certain age, 3) the local environments in which the valley killings occurred (including traffic patterns, etc.), 4) the apparent M.O. of the valley killer, and 5) the huge coincidence required to have that particular perp passing along that stretch of desolate road at exactly the right moment... I'm guessing that they are not connected. -- Gnomony

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  4. 1. At the point where her scent trailed off, would someone, such as the bus driver, have heard her scream if she was abducted? I am close to Maura's age and there's no way in hell I'd willingly get in the car with someone resembling the freak in the composite sketch.

    2. If she was abducted by a one-man operation, wouldn't there be signs of a struggle? I can see how a two-man operation would not leave any signs of a struggle if the passenger lured her close to the car and then pulled her in.

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  5. Wasn't Maura doing her nursing clinical rotations in a hospital? Maybe the killer has something against nurses?

    I've read that serial killers don't stop unless they are imprisoned or dead. Could the killer have been in prison or out of state during the lull? Of course, maybe there's no connection at all.

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  6. @Anonymous 10:04,

    Having been following Maura´s case for many years I could say this:
    1. Yes, it´s pretty likely that someone would have heard her scream, considering how quiet that area is bound to be at 7 pm - 8 pm at night with rather few vehicles travelling on Rte 112. In the immediate vicinity of the Rte 112/Bradley Hill Road intersection (where the scent trailed off) there are at least three residences, including the former home of the School Bus Driver.
    2. Yes, it´s likely that there would be some signs of a struggle. The absence of any such clues would seem to indicate that Maura likely got into a passing vehicle more or less willingly, unless she was threatened by a passing motorist wielding some kind of lethal weapon, which I think less likely.
    My guess is that she probably entered a vehicle driven by someone she knew or someone she for some reason felt to be reasonably trustworthy, perhaps someone in some kind of official position of authority or someone posing as such.

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  7. "2) the tendency of serial killers to "retire" after a certain age..."
    I can only think of one known serial killer who quit altogether and that was Kemper, who gave himself up. While there have been killers who've changed their MO or slowed down to the point of inactivity, I can't think of any who've given it up entirely. I wouldn't expect whoever this guy was to be any different, especially since if you actually pay attention to similar unsolved murders and disappearances of young women in the region, it would appear that he never stopped.

    "2. If she was abducted by a one-man operation, wouldn't there be signs of a struggle? I can see how a two-man operation would not leave any signs of a struggle if the passenger lured her close to the car and then pulled her in."

    Funny you should say that...there a few pieces of evidence suggesting that the CT River Valley Killings were exactly what you described.

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  8. Also a few articles commented that he was believed to be around 20-25 years old and that's what the composite was based on, backpack, 20-25 yrs old, doesn't make him that old in 2004, would be in his 40's early 50's. Very interesting posting and I think you are on to something here.

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  9. One of my friends made an interesting comment earlier. I keep hoping that she disappeared voluntarily and keep going back to the fact that her dorm was packed up. My friend wondered just how much was packed, or was it that she didn't completely UNPACK from coming back after Christmas break? I gotta say, today is January 10 and MY suitcase along with two boxes are still waiting to be unpacked from my Christmas trip to my parent's house. Far cry from February, I know, but with work and life and friends, I'm probably just as busy as Maura was with school, clinicals, and work. Just a thought.

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    1. Maura's dorm was packed, she had left, seemingly to not return. One neighbor was able to get an injunction to stop anyone from entering their property!

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  10. A "reactivated" River Killer?

    This "serial killer" did not go out of his way to hide/bury the bodies.

    Where is Maura?

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  11. Well being a retired LE from NH I have always been very interested in the CT. River Killer since the early 80's. It has always peaked My interest.

    When I got involved in the Maura Murray case I was drawn back to The Killer. After much research I found there to be a significant amount of unsolved murders and missing in a basically a small area.

    I DO BELIEVE that serial killer is still out there. Still unsure of the 16 yr. disappearance, but there have been several unsolved murders and missing in Mass. Maine, Ct. VT. and PA. Again I am not saying as fact it is the same person, but IT IS POSSIBLE.

    On another note. My gut feeling tells Me that Maura was not abducted by a serial killer, but more likely by a passerby either known or unknown to MM. If she did go off into the woods to die I think that she got a ride to a further destination than that of which has been searched in this area. It has been 8 yrs. and the likelihood of someone finding the body would be pretty high if she was in this area.
    IMHO.

    I will say this though. I am still looking into The Serial Killer theory just because it is a possibility. I will never stop looking at it for other reasons as well.

    Who knows....Brianna Maitland. Strange man at the Black Lantern that night who left shortly before Brianna.

    Thanx James

    John

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  12. "This "serial killer" did not go out of his way to hide/bury the bodies."

    this is entirely inaccurate. barring the Boroski and Moore* attacks, he killed in secluded locations and did not engage in staging. he attempted to hide the bodies with brush and the vast majority of his victims' remains being discovered in skeletal form months or years later. he didn't want the bodies to be found and I suspect he likely returned to the scene to engage in post-mortem sexual activity.

    *there was a lot of debate at the time as to whether Moore was a victim of the same killer operating in New Hampshire at the time. police had a local guy under surveillance and based on eyewitness accounts at the time, the killer was a younger male who walked to and from the crime scene

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  13. I Don't think Maura was his victim. But I believe Maura is dead.I believe she was picked up in the road by a stranger. I believe she was probably picked up by a tow truck driver with a scanner or by another local citizen with a scanner and was murdered. Whoever picked her up is I believe a local, who more then likely has been in trouble before. Other local citizens probably know about this persons record and history but they don't know he is connected to the Murray case.So all in all my theory summed up is, Maura starting walking away from the accident scene, was picked up by someone who was listening to a scanner and was murdered by whoever this person is.

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    1. This is the only theory that makes sense to me... personally, it's the closest to what I've seen to be most likely to have occurred, given the circumstances..

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  14. The Hartford Hub as I call it. Routes 91/89/10/4/5/... what a perfect area to get rid of a body and exit on one of many different roads.

    Most of the bodies were found in marshy areas and were not found until much later....this is true.

    John

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  15. I would have to say most definitely not. I have never heard of a serial killer with that much of a years gap between his killings. Also, if this were true.. then he also hasn't killed anyone in over 8 years since Maura... i would say no.

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  16. LOOK INTO THIS!! Something to consider...are any of you on here familiar with Christopher Flynn, the 40 year old man, from Massachusetts who went missing in 2010? His abandoned vehicle was found in Haverhill, NH. He has not been found, police have tried investigating, and also did a search..absolutely nothing has shown up.

    Could this possibly be connected somehow with the Maura Murray case?? I say that, b/c both have turned out missing in a similar fashion, in the same town-Haverhill, NH. Whats the odds of two people being missing in the same rural, not well known town all the way up in New Hampshire? After learning about this missing man, I'm thinking that whoever took Maura, must live in Haverhill, and is a local..and may have taken this man as well? It's something to cinsider.... His van became stuck in a woody area of this town...I wonder if he left his car, and tried walking down the highway or streets to get help..and we all know Maura left her car as well...and there have been cases were a man saw a young person, fitting her clothing description running down a street after the accident.

    Would this not be interesting if law enforcement could somehow set up a staged car accident, and have a young female walk along the same route by herself..and see if anyone tries to pick her up?

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    1. From what I have read Christopher Flynn was found alive and safe, living in CA.

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    2. Actually, he was found dead in the Lehigh River. http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2012/05/man_found_in_lehigh_river_iden.html

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  17. i have to agree with Det. Columbo on this one, who knows if there was indeed a 16 year lull in the crimes? there are other areas he could have gone to, lots of unsolved cases out there to say the least. The other thing is that in Boroski's case she stated that a car pulled up behind her and the guy walked over to her driver's side window. So it could not have been the guy under surveillance walking to and from the scene. He had a car. I think I read it was a Jeep Wagoneer?

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  18. If I remember correctly, didn,t someome on Maura's forum state that TWO tow trucking co. showed up at scene?

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  19. I don't believe that the CT Valley killer was identified or arrested. LMC is convinced that it was MN, who is now dead, but I find her conclusions very circumstantial at best. IF Maura was abducted, it might not have been the CT Valley killer, but the fact remains that this has happened at least once in the upper CT Valley (or entire CT Valley? I91 all the way up from CT?)

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  20. Barbara Agnew's body, at least, was found quite far from I91, off a dirt road in a remote area.

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    1. Agnew's body was not found that far from I-91. Her car was found at an I-91 rest stop during a blizzard. Her body was found during the spring thaw several miles from I-91 in a field in Vermont. On the night of her murder that area was practically snowbound indicating the killer probably drove some kind of truck.

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  21. LMC has essentially made MN synonymous with the Valley Killer and has since tried connecting him to every single unsolved murder along the eastern seaboard during the 70s/80s based on absolutely no solid evidence. does a real disservice to any hopes of actually solving the case when you willfully corrupt the facts in the minds of the public like that.

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    1. to me the basic problem with the MN theory is geography. He lived near Springfield, MA. Yes if you are using a globe that looks close but it really isn't and at least one of the crimes took place during a blizzard. Since the perp seemed to pick up hitchhikers, women at pay phones or in rest stops, why would he drive several hours away from where he lived to do so when he could find plenty of victims closer to home? When you add that the dump sites showed a bit of familiarity with the area, something MN did not have, he seems a bad suspect except in the Boroski case which did happen not that far from Mass on a main route, far from the other cases. As for Mrs. Moore, her case was a little to the south of the other cases but not too far. She apparent laid on a chase lounge in a bathing suit in her front yard. The road had a dramatic curve in front of the house forcing drivers to slow down, giving a potential killer a good look at the victim. IMO it could have been the CVK or some one else. Local suspects were all eliminated.

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  22. Yeah, I don't buy LMC's theory. As with any cold case, there are a number of likely suspects. But what MN did later doesn't match up with the profile.

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  23. "But what MN did later doesn't match up with the profile."

    Yup. I've been saying that for years. Classic spree-killer, closer in pathology to John List or Jeffrey MacDonald.

    I go back and forth with the Maura Murray/Valley Killer theory. I do think whoever he is, he's probably still up there and still active. But Maura's disappearance happened in such a narrow window of time that, if it was indeed a stranger murder like Valley Killings were, it would have to have been totally opportunistic.

    There are surface similarities to the Agnew murder but the weather conditions during that crime were a lot more adverse than during Murray's disappearance. I could easily see a killer, probably one with a plowtruck or some sort of heavy-duty vehicle out during the blizzard on the lookout for broken down cars with the express purpose of finding a single female motorist to abduct. That makes sense. But even though there was plenty of snow and ice on the ground when Maura disappeared, the weather was pretty clear, wasn't it?

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  24. Anonymous 8:00 AM,
    Yes, I have also been reading unsubstantiated rumours of two towing-trucks turning up at the crash site of Maura´s Saturn on Rte 112 in NH.
    The towing company actually removing Maura´s car from the accident site belonged to Lavoie´s of Haverhill, but I have seen no description of the supposed second towing-truck (whigh might be a myth for all I know).
    Over the years I have also been seeing some vague references to a supposedly rogue towing-truck operator somewhere in Grafton County,NH.
    Again - may be just unfounded rumours, but still...

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  25. AnonymousJan 11, 2012 03:02 AM
    Christopher Flynn is alive and well. He was found to be living in sunny California about 8 months after his disappearance.

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  26. I believe it is very unlikely that this serial killer is behind Maura's disappearance. In fact, it is prohibitively unlikely, in my view, to the point that unless some other evidence should point in that direction, it can be dismissed. This for the following six reasons, which taken together I think virtually eliminate the CRV killer.:

    (1) No sign of a struggle.

    (2) The possible indications that Maura was meeting someone in NH (e.g., the Londonderry ping).

    (3) No scream heard by at least two neighbors.

    (4) The fact that - if Maura did get in another vehicle where the dogs lost her scent - she almost certainly got into the vehicle of someone she knew. Recall her caginess toward the driver of a school bus (talk about your non-threatening stereotype.) Given that, why would she jump in some creep's car 5 minutes later and 100 feet away?

    (5) The pattern is critically different in this case than in the other killings by the CRV killer. If it had been him, he most likely would have left Maura somewhere to die where she was easily found. In fact, given all the places in northern New England where once could dispose of a body and have some chance that it will never be found, the CRV killer's MO actually suggests that he liked his victims being found and maybe got off having his nefarious works reported in the news media.

    (6) As noted by others, serial killers do not typically stop voluntarily for long periods of time, even when things get dangerous for them. In fact, like Ted Bundy, the frequency of their crimes and their aggressive carelessness can increase due to the shame enhanced by the possibility of being caught and having their double life revealed. Much literature suggests that - with regard to the brain chemicals at hand - serial killing is a kind of addiction and serial killers, like coke addicts, have a hard time stopping voluntarily, for essentially the same reasons (dopamine flooding the brain's receptors, then a shortage of the chemical in the brain creating intense and often intolerable cravings for more.) They are much more likely to stop due to death, incarceration or loss of physical capabilities, as - for example - through age.

    James, in referring to the general patterns and proclivities of serial killers, I think you make an excellent point. It is entirely possible that one is behind Maura's fate. However, I believe the signs point strongly away from this particular serial killer.

    John Andrew Green

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    1. I agree ... Ct. Valley killer murders are not related to Maura's disappearance or to the Swanzey attack. I think he stopped as soon as the Philip Ginsburg book 'Shadow of Death' came out.

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  27. Mr Renner, Would you please check if a Joseph Naso-Double initial
    killings could have been in NH 2004-2006.

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  28. Yes, this is a theory. It can not be ruled out as of yet. Maybe the 16 year lull in killings was the result of a jail sentence.

    I still think that Maura's disappearance is connected in some way to Brianna Maitlands disappearance. Especially if you tie in the theory of the CT. River Vally Killer.

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  29. The BTK killer is an example of how sometimes the serial killer does fall off the map for extended periods of time. He gave lots of reasons for this in an interview. Serial killers can also be in prison for unrelated crimes as we all know. They can also be incredibly manipulative and charming. Maura could have refused the bus driver and then rethought what she wanted to do a few minutes later. She could have walked a little way down the road in an attempt to get cell phone service. It's possible she got into the car on her own believing it would be ok. We don't know to what degree she was impaired that night....her guard could have been down. And whether she willingly got in or by force--all of that can happen in a matter of a few short minutes. Or less. And while it is true that serial killers tend to stick to very particular ways--it is also true that they change their pattern in the event of mishaps along the way. Especially if they had a close call with nearly being caught. Just some thoughts....

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  30. As someone living in the Newport-Kelleyville area, I do not think the Maura Murray case or the case in Swanzey are related to the Ct. River Valley killer. They are both too different from the other cases. I believe the book 'The Shadow of Death' by Philip Ginsburg is on the right track. Three of the victims were found in Kelleyville on remote dirt roads. Only someone living in the area would know about these places.

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  31. There is a guy that lives in KellyVille NH i always heard it was growing up?Not sure who it is but hope they catch this sick bastard.

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  32. i thought the CVK had been identified as Michael Nicholaou who killed himself in 2005?!?!

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    1. The Nicholaou thing is a theory put forward by journalist. In my opinion, Nicholaou is not a very good suspect for those crimes.

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  33. I think Nicholaou might have committed the last canonical CVK crime because it happened a lot closer to where he lived and he was obviously an evil man who had already seemingly killed his wife. But the rest of the crimes took place much farther north and show a knowledge of the local area. BTW Boronski has id'ed on tv several suspects in recent years so even her id of nich. is suspect. The theory that such killers cannot stop is based on a body of evidence of such killers who were caught because they didn't stop and not on ones who did stop and were not caught. I think they can stop if their live situation changes or they get old. In other words they stop when they think they can no longer get away with it (BTK and GRK are such examples). The Kellyville weirdo was ruled out by the police for some reason long ago (he is in the Ginsburg book) but was a local bogeyman for years. Unfortunately, even rural NH has more than one latent killer types, so if MM was murdered, it was probably someone else who took advantage of a situation presented to them and who was better at hiding bodies.

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  34. I have followed this case and the CRV cases for some time. I don't think it was Nicholaou either..Jane Boroski's sketch (in my opinion) doesn't bear any resemblance..Nicholaous face is much heavier with much thicker eyebrows..even his hair was dark and not blonde and pulled back as JB described. In Mauras case..the school bus driver said that she said she called Triple A for help but he also says he knew she couldn't get reception. Anyone else catch that? Why lie to the bus driver? Given the close proximity to one of the houses that she had her accident near,,I can't imagine that she wouldn't head in that direction to call for help. I also wonder why the folks in the closest house didn't go out and see if they might help. Her cars warning blinkers were on blinking. It just all seems so strange. Was this the work of a serial killer? I believe so. But the same one that murdered the others? Anything is possible..someone here mentioned it might be someone listening to a police scanner and then going to get their next victim..it made me shudder..but that also sounds as plausible as anything else. Does anyone remember that kid that lived in/near Piercefield, New York(upper New York state)? He had left a party and was walking home. A newspaper editor saw him but given the late hour went to the closesr police dept. to report it. By the time the police got there Collin was gone..all they found was his drivers license on the ground. No trace to this day. It makes me wonder if there is a serial killer out there that has expanded his "hunting grounds". I'd be interested to hear comments.

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