Friday, February 1, 2013

Was Maura Driving the Car?

Here's a theory that has bugged me from the beginning: is it possible the woman who wrecked the car in New Hampshire was not Maura Murray?

All we have to place Maura at that scene is the description given by the school bus driver, Butch Atwood, who said it was a young woman with dark hair.

The last confirmable sighting of Maura Murray was at the ATM in Amherst several hours before this accident.

Is it possible Maura met harm in Amherst and someone else traveled into the North Country to dispose of the car only to get into an accident on the highway?

Probability says it was most likely Maura behind the wheel, but this case is so strange I'm willing to consider the possibility it was someone else.

What do you think? How might this scenario play out?

59 comments:

  1. It's always really bothered me that almost every single photo of Maura you'll ever see she has her hair up, but the bus driver said it was a woman with shoulder-length hair. So eerie... why would she have her hair down? But then again, who would the other girl have been? Maura would've been driving her car behind her and picked her up? Why would she have been trailing her on the road by 15-20 minutes? That seems to me to be the toughest question to answer in the accomplice type theories.

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    1. It could be possible that she put her hair down while driving. A lot of girls I know who frequently have their hair up will usually have it down when driving, or sleeping or doing anything which requires they head to rest against a surface for an extended period of time.

      Hair tied up or in a ball against the headrest of a carseat for a long car drive can become uncomfortable.

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  2. In my own opinion, based on every news article I read, I do believe it was Maura Murray who was driving that night, up to North Country. If you go back and read older news articles, Butch Atwood was given a photo of Maura by the police and he confirmed, by looking at photos, that it was her. It wasn't just a, "oh, she had dark hair...so it must have been her.."

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    1. I am sure you are right, but one of the private eyes connected with the case-and whose interview may be on this site somewhere-said that Atwood kept changing his story. Yet, if memory serves, he did not say exactly how Atwood's story changed.

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    2. I believe in one statement had said when he came across the accident, she already had her caution lights on, in another statement he said he told her to turn on her caution lights. In one statement he said he stopped when passing by, in another he stated that he had walked down to the site from his home.

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  3. Did the bus driver ever confirm the women he saw was mauras? I read somewhere on this blog that he said the women he saw looked different.. has this been confirmed?

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  4. OK, so if it was someone else, what happened to that woman?

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  5. I think it was Maura in the car. Often the most simple solution is the correct one.

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    1. Exactly. To expand on that, she was drunk when she got in the accident, Tried to run or walk it off and succumbed to the elements. The whole Idea she started a new life somewhere is beyond improbable.

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  6. "Is it possible Maura met harm in Amherst and someone else traveled into the North Country to dispose of the car only to get into an accident on the highway?"

    I thought you were working under the assumption that she disappeared voluntarily? If you're going to entertain preposterous theories, the least you could do is be consistent!

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  7. I have doubts it was someone else. I like the theory of a tandem driver and a getaway.

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  8. James,

    I think that is was Maura driving the car and my reasons are all minor behavior observations. The driver poured wine out into the snow, probably to avoid a DUI charge. She stuffed a rag into the tailpipe. She hung around the car for a while and talked to Butch. The scent dogs followed Maura's scent.
    These seem like things that MM would do, and not a person trying to ditch the car. Besides, why drive out all that way with the car when you could hide it on a street or somewhere much closer and quicker.

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    1. One disconcerting element of the story is that Fred, Maura's father, and others who knew Maura well, stated that the gloves used to get her scent for the search dogs, where new ones which she may never have worn! Fred made the excellent point that he could have given the searchers clothing from which there would have been no doubt that her scent was present.

      John Avellar

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  9. This scenario seems a bit too much a strech of the imagination.It is better to focus on what the facts seem to be. The car belonged to her, the description fits her...why would it be someone else???

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  10. I had wondered about that too, but the major stumbling block would be: who would this other woman be, who looked enough like Maura to be consistently mistaken for her once Atwood had seen her photo?

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  11. I thought Maura was also photographed by the security cameras at the liquor store. No? Surely they would have them there.

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  12. For many of the reasons stated above, I think a bunch of small indications point almost conclusively - if constructed into a coherent picture - to Maura being the driver. That said, I understand the notion James that this case almost demands analysis of every angle, even the extremely unlikely. But in addition to the good reasons pointing to Maura mentioned above, here is another: it is hard to conceive of what incentive anyone had to drive that car all the way up there after harming Maura. Doing so could potentially link the people who hurt her to the crime, it was not a well functioning car, it was not worth a lot of money. One could, for instance, make out a carjacking to chop shop up north case ... if she was driving a new car. In such a scenario, perhaps during the carjacking things got ugly and she died and they buried the body. But the condition of Maura's car makes this scenario - at least ending with a long drive up north - seem very unlikely and I cannot think of a good scenario where someone who harmed her would want to drive that car that car.

    I also agree that the scent dogs are the single best piece of evidence toward this conclusion. Of course, that indicates she was there, not that she was driving. It is entirely possible to me that she was traveling with someone. Why not another woman?

    I would like to point out something I find amusing. I am sure the creep known as the Beagle - whose Topix posts indicate that he regularly monitors your site James and does not much like you (for stealing what he thought was his thunder as number 1 internet authority on Maura) - feels much redeemed by your latest post. He has long insisted on the "Amherst angle," as he calls it, including positing theories that UMASS researchers or the biotech industry in the Amherst area (and maybe also abortion doctors in cahoots with federal officials, if I recall correctly) had Maura killed to harvest her stem cells and such.

    John Green

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    1. Quick question, could someone bury anything in the North Country in February? If the answer is no, and she did meet with foul play, what could they have done with the body?

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  13. Under your scope of investigation I believe or something like that, You show that forensics were done. fingerprints on the wheel ? However, the car was treated as if she was just a drunk runaway so I wonder if LE or the towing co touched the wheel without gloves?

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  14. I've wondered that myself sometimes, but I think with the email going out to her professors about a death in the family, searches for places to stay while away, and the Londonderry ping probably point to her driving.
    The hair uncharacteristically worn down does make me wonder. But I think that it was perhaps down because she planned on meeting someone and did it to look more dressed up?

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  15. It is odd the BOL when first issued mentioned black hair reaching below shoulders, then later was changed to brown shoulderlength hair. Maura´s sister Julie has very dark brown hair.

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  16. Most likely Maura in the car. It would be a real stretch for someone to have harmed her in Amherst and then just by happenstance driven her car to an area that was a favorite of Maura's (the White Mtns). Further, someone used Maura's computer and phone to check for lodging in the White Mtns, so unless Maura was harmed sometime on the Sunday and by someone who also had access to her computer ....

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  17. The scent dog followed the scent that was on the gloves found in the car. Do we know for a fact Maura was the last to wear or touch them?

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  18. I seen where you try to have some discourse with some of the family on the MauraMurrayMissing group on Facebook. It shocks me how closed minded they are. There's something up with that family. God bless you James. Keep up the good work.

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  19. It does still baffle me why Maura would be driving her 'junk' into the darkness of New Hampshire. She would know all too well the risk of breaking down (or even having an accident...did she learn her lesson from the first drinking/driving accident?) There she would be - STRANDED - exposed to the elements and every imaginable scary thought!! Her actions were of DESPERATION! OR...was the car really in such poor mechanial condition? Was this vehicle ever checked out? (aside from Fred's report)

    If it was another driver this person probably wouldn't have known about the car's condition (if it's true). Thus, the nighttime trek into the remoteness of New Hampshire woods. But how would this person know where to go? If it was another woman driving, then it had to be someone who knew her well...and also knew that the car could make such a trip. So...where did SHE disappear to? Crazy stuff!!!

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  20. James,

    I'm confused and somewhat confounded by this new post of yours. It was my understanding that you were pretty firm in your theory concerning a tandem driver and Maura's flight to a new life. Knowing how much research you have put into this case, I assumed you had something pretty solid to base this on. Are you now wavering on this opinion? Can you clarify?

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  21. Queston: Was Maura's car really in the poor mechanical condition everyone claims it was in? Was it ever inspected when in custody of the police? I ask this because I'm baffled why she would drive this car during darkness to the backroads of New Hampshire. Someone withut this knowledge might do so.....

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  22. Well a lot of things point to someone else driving the car. The bus driver says she has black hair BELOW shoulders, then he says that he is not sure if the one he saw is the same as the photo of Maura, then he says it is. Hmmmm which is it. The BOLO changes more than once. Then there is the damage to the car that does no match the scene. So lets try this.
    Maura heads off to her destination. She stops to get gas, a soda and maybe use the bathroom. At her stop there is someone looking for their victim. They see her. She's the one. She gets back in her car and off she goes. The bad guys follow behind, pass her, get in front of her and jack on the brakes. Maura hits the rear end of their truck and the thing that is hanging out from the rear of their truck. (Yes, that traler hitch) which matches the damage to the car. There are also items that fall out of the back of the truck and land on Maura's hood. Change the midtones to one of the photos and you can see it. Anyways she gets out of her car to assess the damage or they come to her car and they got her. So, Why not leave the car where it is? Why would there be another female that gets in the car and drives it to the 112 accident scene, ditches the car and grabs the ride with her partner that has Maura? Something happened that they did not plan on when she hit the rear of their car.
    On last thing about the DOG. The dog is trained to sniff A SCENT on the glove. Someone who handled the glove also was someone that walked the road not necessarily Maura. The two that come to mind that would have had contact with the glove and also walked the road are Fred and Cecil Smith, the officer. The dog following the scent is a red herring.

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  23. I was just reading about the vermont couple that Isreal Keyes admitted to murdering. The couple that he chose had the same car as Maura just a different color and the abandoned farm house that he went to reminds me of the Briana Maitland scene. Sort of Ironic. He obviusly got off on danger and control. Both of his female victims he allowed to get free only to chase them down and add to his control. An element of danger with the end result being control. So what if the same type of person is in Maura's story.
    She hits the truck. rather than grab her then. he is the nice guy. Se doesn't need the police. she has been drinking and that is not going to be good. He helps her. Makes sure that the car can still be driven. This car is hot. does she have a towel or something fo his hands. He tells her to get in and start it. He goes to the rear and stuffs the rag in the tailpipe. Tells her she is all set. Off she goes only for her car to stall out and hit a snowbank. Coast is clear. He grabs her. The ultimate of danger and control for a sadistic killer. Is it possible?
    Hay, Hay and more Hay. that's my 2 cents on this story. Maybe someday the mystery will be solved.

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  24. So did they dust the car for fingerprints?

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  25. http://www.whitmanhansonexpress.com/component/poll/16-.html

    Proof your blog leads people to conclusions....

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  26. Except, the problem with that poll is that their reporter did not have the information about Maura's credit card fraud and her conversation with her track coach concerning "disappearing". A lot has come to light since then.

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  27. James, I got called out in that group on Facebook also. I guess those furious with you digging up the truth troll around and read this stuff. I find the insults a sign of recognition. I find it odd that there exists a segment of the followers of this case seem to get testy when the unsavory details of The Murray's are dug up. Odd indeed. I guess they want the Discovery ID story to be the one in reality.

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    1. That FB group baffles me as well. Others who have loved ones that are missing (especially for a case so old) I am sure would love to have as much attention as this case is getting. Good or bad things coming to light who cares, at least it may help find her. I remember on one Disappeared episode, the father of one of the missing (the one from the Metallica concernt) said he would talk to anyone in the media to get more attention out there to find his daughter.

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  28. I think it is ok Mr. Renner wants to explore these theories and possibilities. Writers have creative minds so it is expected. Theories are theories though and that is the real lesson. The only reason I have never tended to believe in the driving in tandem theory is because Maura is planning her destination up until she leaves. Unless the person that goes with her is right next to her to communicate the plan it is hard to believe someone else is involved. The title of the book is appropriate though.

    I am glad a book will provide information on the case. I hope the book on Maura will explore some theories but that it will mostly give people a feeling of who Maura Murray was and let them decide. You can make your own conclusions about many things.

    Take for example the very last picture of the Disappeared episode with Maura and her father.

    According to the episode Maura left her gloves in the car and those gloves were later used by the police scent dog. I want to say I agree with Mr. Murray that using those gloves was a very poor choice. The fact that the scent dog went anywhere is amazing to me!

    I do not know how many pairs of gloves I have that have been bought for me, but I never use them even when it is cold. It is a bad habit I have. I either pull down the arm sleeves on my jacket or put my hands in my pocket.

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  29. I feel like the Maura Murray Missing Group on Facebook is a hornet's nest. I actually get very bad vibes from that site. Admittedly, I am a missing person's junkie, and if I were to pick a different career in life, it would be to find missing people and return them to their loved ones one way or another. Therefore, I read alot of cases and blogs and Facebook pages and True Crimes novels, etc. Never once have I seen such animosity as I have with this case and I just don't understand it. Certainly, I can see that James has pointed out some information that may lead in a certain direction and they may be upsetting to the family, but what is posted on this blog is fact, NOT fiction. He has posted real documents and that cannot be disputed by the family. If that is upsetting, so be it. It does not warrant the negative reaction from them when so many people care enough to "Like" their page in the first place and offer any information they can to help find Maura Murray. I find it very disheartening and suspicious and very frustrating. In fact, dare I say it is RUDE. I have since "unliked" the page. I just cannot take anymore of their behavior. Yes, blogs generate opinions, but so does their Facebook page.

    With that said, we know Maura had a plan to get out of town, right? Evidence certainly points that way. But to answer the question of whether she was driving the car, let's consider the following:

    1. What was Butch's description of the driver? I recall that he said it was a female with her hair was down, but the million pictures I've seen, her hair is always in a bun. Big deal or no?

    2. Female driver. Big deal or no? If so, what are the implications to the driving in tandem theory?

    3. Something that's always bothered me is where was Fred for the 24 hours after the accident? By all reports, Fred had a cell phone and was out of town on contract business, but wasn't reached until Tuesday evening. Has this all been checked out?

    4. The documents that James has posted state that the PD thinks that Maura was a victim of homicide. Why? Why? Why? What evidence do they have of this? Obviously, information is being withheld from the public because (a) there isn't enough evidence to make an arrest and/or (b) they are not releasing all of the details that only the killer would know once caught.

    5. The scent dog tracked Maura's scent to 50 feet (or some similar measurement) into the roadway, which leads us to believe and bolsters the theory that she got into a passing car (if it was her). See #2 above.

    6. Was Butch REALLY eliminated as a suspect? Let's be real here. So what if he was morbidly obese. Maura may have willingly gone with him for help and he could have taken the opportunity to harm her. Stranger things have happened. BTK anyone? Seemingly innocuous people going out of their mind? He could have strangled her and kept her in the storage area of his school bus (where they store athletic equipment)and then called the cops to report the accident and disposed of the body later. Did the police check the bus or his property? Probably not. Butch was a nice guy. So was BTK when he was caught. He was a Boy Scout leader remember. Did Faye see the whole 10 minutes before the police arrived? She saw the accident and driver and called, but did she see Butch....

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    1. Agree with many of your opinions! Especially about the FB page. I find Topix an easier read, with all their crazy rumors and insults to each other, than that Facebook page with all of the denial and not wanting to dig to the real heart of the matter.

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  30. Does anyone find it creepy that the pen James took a picture of the items in the car, Has the phone number of a postal union in Oregon, maybe I'm just wrong with the phone # because I can't make out the url of the pen , Anyways just thought it would be something to consider since Keyes had ties to Oregon.

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    1. It's from a bank in Massachusetts

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    2. The phone number is for the credit unions home office in Fairhaven Mass.There is also a branch for this credit union very close to Hanson. I am not sure where you got Oregon from?

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    3. Weird I see the # as 800-642-7315 is that the same as what you see? I could be off by a number because the angle of the pic but this brings up this url www.local315npmhuoregon.org Probably I'm searching the wrong number

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  31. Tried to post this several times recently, but had no luck on my phone. I'll try again here with my laptop
    ----

    Forgive me if this has been covered. If it has, I welcome info about where I can read about it. Please bear with me. :)

    Do we know definitively that the woman with whom Butch spoke was Maura?

    There's been speculation that she may have been traveling in tandem with someone who harmed her.

    Assuming for a moment that's true...

    1) Is it possible that person harmed her earlier in their journey, then drove Maura's car further up the road and crashed it, only to be picked up by someone else who'd been along for the ride?

    2) If that person was a woman whose physical description was similar to Maura's, is it possible that, in the dark, she could have passed for Maura with people who didn't know her?

    3) If that person had been in Maura's car, could she have had enough of Maura's scent on her that the search dog would have alerted on it? If so, and that person was picked up by someone else, could that explain the dog losing the scent and there being no other signs of Maura having been in that area?

    That may all be a load of junk, but I wanted to get it off my chest. I moved to the area shortly after the Disappeared episode originally aired and caught a rerun of it soon thereafter. I think that, along with my interest in true crime, is what has me hooked on this case.

    If it's not a load of junk, all the searching may have been in an area where Maura had never even been. That's not a nice thought.

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  32. I had one more thought concering Maura Murray's case. If she had not gone off to New Hampshire for whatever reason she would have gone to Storrs, CT. to see Dane Cook on February 12th. From Amherst, MA to Storrs, CT is about 50 miles. The best route is CT 32 otherwise the other routes are expressway but they take you way out of the way. A map search in this instance is very helpful. There are a lot of little things that are curious to explore about Maura Murray's case. They could mean something or they might not mean anything at all.

    For all anyone knows maybe she simply wanted to get away for a week since she was not deep into her class schedule and whatever happened happened up on that curve in New Hampshire. The truth usually is simpler than people think.

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  33. You seem to have ruled out Israel Keyes, but here's something I propose. The FBI found one of Keyes' 'kill kits' in Essex, VT, which is less than two hours from Maura's disappearance. He liked remote locations. True, he probably didn't just happen across her in the 10 minutes or so Maura was apparently there, but what if he happened to see her somewhere earlier and was following her 'in tandem'? It may not have been his M.O per se, but there's the possibility he noticed she was intoxicated, perhaps even tried to run her off the road in a remote area. There's more than the possibility that he was there within the 8-10 minutes. She also could have run down a different road and he later came across her. I think ruling out Keyes just yet is too early. The FBI knows he was in that area in late 2004, they just aren't sure where he was yet early in the year.

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  34. Question:: don't some cars air bags in the passenger seat only deploy if there is someone sitting there and the car can 'sense' this through the weight in the seat?

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    1. THis is a great question. Have you gotten an answer to it from someone? I know someone I could check with.

      ~ John Green

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    2. Re: Anonymous Feb 9 2013: It would depend on the year of the car. I don't remember off-hand the model year for Maura's Saturn, but it looks like weight sensors might not have been introduced until the 2004 model year (hard to find this info, but this page says "In 1991, President Bush set a model-year 1998 front-passenger airbag deadline for cars and a 1999 deadline for trucks. Starting in model-year 2004, vehicles got newer technology airbags able to better gauge the crash force impact and passenger weight and size and tailor that to the airbag's deployment force.").

      If this is the case, it seems unlikely that her car was a 2004 model year if it were so unreliable and she was looking to replace it with a used car... and therefore unlikely that her car was thus equipped with the weight sensor. However, it's entirely possible that Saturns were ahead of their time and hers was equipped with it. I look forward to seeing what John Green turns up.

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    3. Still waiting to hear back from my friend on this. It is a great point to have been raised and could much illuminate.

      ~ John Green

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    4. I think this was addressed in a forum thread a couple years ago, and Saturns apparently don´t have this kind of airbags.

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  35. To Anonymous and John Green:

    There is just one problem with the airbag theory: If Maura and this other person were traveling together in her car, where was this person when the bus driver stopped?

    This is such an important point because Maura, at least to me, seems like a non-conformer individual. The bus driver in terms of his part in the story is so crucial because IF and it is a big IF but if Muara planned any of this, she could NOT plan him.

    So how could someone else?

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    1. I have been systematically reading all comments since the blog's launch--have gotten as far as this one--and one has stood out to me, a comment that I am not entirely sure has been substantiated: that Maura did not get out of the car after the accident, not even when Bruce Atwood went to enquire as to whether she was okay. And she told Mr Atwood that she had called AAA (which he knew to be a lie due to shoddy (or rather, non-existent) service).

      If this is NOT accurate information--that she did in fact get out of the car after the accident--I apologize, and read no further. If it is, however, I have had a serious "What if?" slam me rather unexpectedly: What if someone was hiding in the back seat, holding a gun on her? It would explain why she didn't get up, why she said she'd called AAA (if she knew the area, maybe she knew it was bad service?), would have taken an unreliable car on a long-distance drive. Haven't thought through all of the logistics (the rag in the tailpipe, etc): where would this person have encountered her? Why drive that route? Was it consistent with what her father has said she was going? Was the accident an attempt to derail this? What happened after the accident?

      Anyway. Thinking out loud.

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  36. Common sense suggests that if there was another person with Maura, why did they not take that person's car if Maura's was in such bad shape? The only answer can be that the other person must not have had a car.

    And if there was another car, and Maura and her accomplice have common sense, the accomplice would drive behind Maura in case her car breaks down. She knows her car is rundown. Her friends know her car is rundown. Why would the other person not KNOW her car is rundown? That other person, not the bus driver, would be the first person upon the scene.

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  37. Logic doesnt say that Maura drove the car. It only tells us she was with the car.

    Logic tells us that Maura would not drive the car. Because it is illogical to believe her behavior would suddenly change.

    Logic tells us her behavior would remain consistent. Her previous behavior included having others drive for her.

    Do the Westmans say they saw two people? Yes.

    If you consider the importance of her driving the car to clinicals, its not out of reason to assume she lied about death in family....excuse for missing clinicals from not having car....a lot of things make sense.

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  38. Have we considered that Maura was recruited as an NOC by the CIA? She was intelligent, athletic, beautiful and had a way with men. She probably chose to leave her life behind completely so no harm would come to her family in a worst case scenario situation. She maybe was driving her car to the border of Canada with plans to make it look like a more obvious case of a run away, but crashed on the way. The plan was sped up and she didn't have time to carry out her original plan. She was either traveling with someone behind her or phoned someone to pick her up. Either way, it doesn't matter, she doesn't want to be found.

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  39. Do you ever think Maura is reading this blog and commenting on people's theories?

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  40. Most people who decide to work for the CIA would do not have to leave an entire family behind unless, of course,that is what they wanted in the first place..

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  41. Also, there are some really wild and completely unfounded theories going on here. There is absolutely no evidence that Maura was with someone else in the car. And the fact remains that after hundreds of hours of detective work nothing new has developed, unless of course, it is not being made public. Regardless of how one can go back and forth trying to figure out certain details, the fact is that isn't going to find her. Please go to Maura Missing website and sign the petition for the cold case unit to continue looking at this very disturbing case.

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  42. This is so sad,I can't imagine what Mr Murray must be going through, searching for his missing daughter all these years.I read about her dad getting a physic to assist in 2004, why was this not successful most cases the missing or murders get found? Any ideas what happened with regards to that? KM

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  43. Hey you are providing a great information about the Castle Hill driving school i like your blog. Hornsby driving school.

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