Sunday, January 15, 2012

West Point Prof Joined the Search

Robert McDonald is an associate professor of History at West Point. I reached out to him last week, after I found his name in an obscure article about the case. He decided to give a heads-up to Billy Rausch before responding. To my surprise, I heard back from him early this morning. Here's what he had to say:

Thanks for your patience. I've now heard back from Sharon and I've spoken to her son, Bill.

Neither one objects to me speaking with you. That said, Bill sent me the URL of your blog. Besides thinking that you're mischaracterizing Maura's relationship with her father (a decent, honorable man and a great dad), I'm worried that your investigation has the wrong focus.

It's true that no one knows what Maura planned to do the weekend that she disappeared. But it's also true that, as soon as she had her accident, her plans changed. What happened next is what we really need to know. Given the evidence that she'd been drinking and driving, it's understandable that she didn't want Butch to call the police or Triple-A. What happened next is what is unknown and unexplained. The mystery may never be solved, but since you're trying, I want to help you as best as I can.

My wife and I knew Maura through Bill. I had him in two classes. We got to know him well. Given all the restrictions on cadets, West Point encourages faculty and staff to give them a social outlet by including them in their family activities. Bill was an usher in our wedding and regularly came over for Sunday dinner. When he graduated, his family stayed at our house.

We thought that Maura and Bill were a great match. Like Bill, she impressed us. Her personality sparkled. She was smart. Best of all, she was really nice.

We were distraught when we heard from Bill that she was missing. He had already flown out from Oklahoma. We drove up to the Vermont/New Hampshire border to help in the search. Once up there, we helped Fred, Maura's brother, and Bill and his parents look for Maura. We searched the woods near the crash site, posted signs locally and, as the days passed, in an ever-increasing radius around Haverhill. My wife went to the houses near the crash site, asking residents if they'd seen anything.

She got weird vibes from the guy who lived in the trailer (or maybe it was just a small house) close to the intersection of side road and the main road where Maura crashed her car. I don't have a name and address, but he was an albino--or at least appeared to be--and my wife thought that he was creepy and seemed evasive. Years later, my wife learned from a private investigator hired by the Murrays that this man's ex-wife had accused him of spotting Maura at the gas station down the road, stuffing the rag in her tailpipe (believing that it would cause her car to break down?), picking her up at the intersection (this is where the dogs lost the scent), driving her the short distance to his house, and taking her inside to rape her and eventually kill her. His ex-wife supposedly claimed that he dumped her body in a lake.

I'm guessing that this has already been looked into--but how well, we're not sure. If our understanding is correct, the police doubted the veracity of the ex-wife, who they thought was merely trying to smear her ex-husband.

I hope this helps.

I'm very happy that Billy gave McDonald permission to share what he knew about Maura and the search. I hope to hear from Billy himself one day. I'm always willing to share his side of this story. Of course, he knew Maura better than just about anybody.


  1. Wow! What do you make of his wife getting "weird vibes" and what his wife mentioned about the ex-wife of the man who lived in the trailer!?

    Is the man who lived in the trailer the same one who came later came forward and said he saw MM jogging some 5 miles away?

    Well all this is most interesting and thanks JR for posting your blog update!

    What is the status of your book by the way?


  2. I'm taking my time with the book. Lots more research to do this year. I've got a novel out Feb 28 and a second out in 2013. Most likely, Maura's book will follow those.

    1. Hi Mr Renner.It sounds to me like Mr.McDonald let his wife go alone to knock on doors and never met the trailer dweller.Also he drives up there to help with the search and is only guessing that police looked into it at some point and did not call them.Do you know when Christine Coalwell became a friend to Sharon Rausch on face book.As I understand Rick Forcier refused permission to have his property searched and it was not searched until the house was sold.If i rembember the tax map correctly I think his parents own other lots on Bradley Hill Road.Is the video of days that end in y the same guy. I keep reading over and over about the radius search that was done and have never seen except for the Forcier property.take care Philip

    2. "...he was an albino--or at least appeared to be--"

      When I read that, I almost snorted coffee out my nose!

      I know Rick quite well. He's done alot of sheetrock work on my home. The reason he may have looked like an albino is because he was probably covered with white sheet rock dust from a day of work when this woman knocked on his door and disturbed him!

      Evasive? How about "annoyed", that would be my guess.

      Just goes to show you how people make up wild and crazy stuff out of thin air. No wonder there is so much bad information on the case circulating around and hindering finding the real truth.

      Yes, the days that end in Y video features Rick.

  3. James,
    Thanks for an extremely interesting and disquieting update.
    Provided that Professor McDonald is referring to the contractor RF, it seems somewhat surpring that you some time last year asked us to forget about him in the context of Maura´s vanishing.

    Please, clarify whether the professor is actually referring to RF or someone else further up Bradley Hill Road.
    Many thanks!

  4. the theory that the weird guy in the trailer spotted maura at the swiftwater gas station and then stuffed a rag in her tailpipe doesnt add up.

    For one, why didn't he abduct her right when her car broke down. instead the bus driver came along and offered her assistance, then left her alone to where other witnessess saw maura moving about by her car (alone) and only up until just minutes before police arrived did maura vanish. this supposed planned abduction would've moved much quicker if it had actually happened like that. the abductor would not sit and wait for all of that activity to go down before he swept in and snatched up maura, he would've known that police were on their way (could've probably heard them coming). Way too risky and then to take her just a few yards away from the accident sight --- doesn't add up.

  5. Anonymous 11:29 AM,

    No, the scenario doesn´t add up for me either.
    Also, provided all this refers to the contractor RF, he certainly cannot be described as being an "albino".
    There is a picture of the guy (RF) on one of Mr Renner´s previous MM blog updates and there is also a video clip of RF on YouTube, as referred to by poster Philip above.
    Could some other person than RF have been temporarily living on the RF property at the time?

  6. If an abductor really had stuffed a rag in Maura's tailpipe, then no, He is not going to wait around and allow other people to approach maura and offer assistance. That would blow his whole scheme. He would have no preconceived notion that maura would've refused help to begin with.

    this just sounds like some sloppy accusations done by a private investigator who thinks someone "looks suspicious" so they must have been up to no good.

    Now could've maura accidentally went to this house for help and then this guy take advantage of the situation, highly unlikely, but not totally out the realm of a possibility.

  7. Is it possible for you to find the albino and/or the wife? Maybe you can talk to the wife to see if her story has a merit?

  8. The only reason for stuffing a rag in a tale pipe is too make it stall

  9. Sounds like "albino" is the new "bushy-haired stranger."

  10. Good idea to search the property tax records Philip! A local real estate agent and/or an independent property assessor/evaluator might be able to help as well in this type of search.

  11. I must again reiterate my opinion that the "albino" saga seems somewhat suspect.
    If I understand the matter correctly the wife of the West Point professor knocked on the door of the temporary trailer on the eastern side of Rte 112 at the intersection with Bradley Hill Road.
    This plot of land at the time belonged to the construction worker RF, who was the subject of one of Mr Renner´s blog updates last year.'

    Firstly, there is IMO no way that RF could mistakenly be referred to as an "albino". In the picture of him on Mr Renner´s blog he looks perfectly "normal" to me.
    And, as an aside, genuine albinos always tend to have an impaired vision,which means that they per se would find it difficult to engage in various criminal activities.
    An impaired vision would likely also make a driving licence fairly unlikely, while the construction worker (RF) was reportedly working a job in Franconia, quite some distance away from his home, and commuting there every workday.
    The "albino" element just doesn´t add up here IMO.

    It is of course possible that the construction worker (RF) was having someone else temporarily staying in his trailer at the time, and that it was this theoretical person that the professor´s wife encountered.

  12. That's impressive that this man was kind and helpful enough to respond back to you, and with such detail. I was under the impression that no one would talk to you, about anything, ever. I'm glad someone was kind enough, and realizes your true intentions (which is to find out what happened to Maura, making a full time job of this ordeal), and offer what he knows.

    This is interesting, and as many articles I have read about Maura Murray, I never heard this one before. At first, I doubted NH law enforcement, then as I read more of your blogs, I started doubting Fred, not that he would do anything to his daughter, but found it odd that he wouldn't help. But now, I think this clearly points out the shotty job NH law enforcement has done very little about. How sad. It makes me wonder if a thorough search of the lake has been conducted. Even if the wife is just trying to make her ex husband look bad, in my opinion.. it's something that is definitely worth looking into.

  13. anonymous 12:31 PM,

    Regarding the lake, it just takes one look at a map of the area to fully realize that there is an abundance of ponds and lakes all over that region.
    There is no practical way for all of these lakes and ponds to be searched.

    1. It may not be practical, but it must be done. This is important information and should not be ruled out!!

  14. Also regarding the lake, there is almost no chance - in my mind - that if someone killed Maura they dumped her in a lake or river. It is very hard to keep a body submerged in water and not found. They sometimes surface out of oceans ors bays even when weighted and stuffed in containers (see Laci Peterson). In other words, it is very difficult and costly in terms of time and risk of failure to submerge a body in water. By comparison it is easy - particularly in a heavily forested area of New Hampshire - to go off the trail in the woods not all that far and simply bury a body. And a body buried wont so readily resurface. ~ John Green

    1. …and not to mention any lake in NH is frozen rock solid in Feb.!!! …d’oh :P

  15. Just FYI, for those of you non-Yankees: you don't put anything in a lake or pond in NH in February, nor do you bury anything. Everything is frozen solid.

  16. I personally think that the rag in the tailpipe scenario is much more likely than many others proposed including the tandem one. Obviously Murray was very troubled in many ways on her trip but none of that adds up to the mysterious disappearance other than placing the victim in a very vulnerable situation. The rag remains unexplained. The trailer man may be a "wonderful, nice guy" but how many actual wonderful, nice guys will have their ex-wife, no matter how much she is mad at the guy, accuse him of a major crime, particularly a crime whose circumstances seem to fit the facts pretty well? The guy may not be as nice as he seems to those who don't really know him. Then, much later he comes up with the story of the jogger and, it turns out, he lives feet away from the accident scene. Seems a little coincidental to me.
    Also I keep hearing about the seven minutes of opportunity but where does this come from? It seems from the various timelines that there may have been up to a half hour between the accident and the arrival of the police. Anyway, I would be focusing on the trailer guy, a stop at the gas station and a tighter timeline on the accident if I were investigating this crime.

  17. I don't think the tailpipe rag abduction scenario is unlikely as some here are overthinking it. the guy tampers with the pretty drunk girl's car. she takes off. he follows at a distance. he knows the road is not that well travelled at that time of night and maybe he talked to her and found out where she was going. (It seems in the up to a half hour that the car was there before the cops came that only one or two people came up to the car All he has to do is follow the road and he'll find her. Now if someone else comes across her and is with her he can just keep going. It was just an odd situation he had taken advantage of. If it was the "nice" trailer guy, he must have been surprised to see the car so close to his residence and even more surprised to see the girl walking down the road towards that residence (possibly fleeing a dui scenario like teddy k. did on chappaquidick). Since he had already talked to her at the gas station it was easy to get her to go with him. Who knows what happened next. Later, when he realized suspicion had not fallen immediately on him, (no one apparently saw him talking to her at the gas stop) he came up with the jogger story, both to place himself far from the scene at the time and to place the victim far from the scene. Somehow his ex figured it out. Maybe he had acted odd in front of her before or after or done something similar in the past unsuccessfully. It bears more investigation. I'd also check how much gas was in the car. Since MM was leaving a settled area for a more rural one and had just travelled a great distance, it makes sense that she would stop at the last gas station near the interstate. And if nice trailer guy worked in Franconia and was coming home from work, he would be going the same way, not coming west five miles away. The tandem theory leaves too much unknown (yes the fred gang are hiding things but they are mostly of the ilk why MM fled, not what happened when she got to the end of the road).

  18. Oh dear, this lady sounds like someone who suspects the first person that looks a little different than the norm so therefore they must be suspicious. Same person who would blame the first black guy they see in town.