Thursday, June 6, 2013

Another Teammate Speaks


Original Post
June 5, 2013

Last week, I spoke with one of Maura's UMASS teammates. I am keeping her name out of the discussion because she is one of many former teammates and it is not necessary to name her specifically. I will refer to her as MN.  Below is a summary of her recollections and insights.
  • Maura was not running well during her one year on the team.
  • Maura was friendly but private and tended to avoid detailed conversation about Billy. MN saw Maura's reticence as a normal personality trait, not an indication of a problem and still feels that way.
  • During winter break 2002-03, the team returned several weeks before spring semester began to practice.  They stayed in a local hotel.  Billy visited Maura for a few days during which they did not socialize much with the team. MN recalls briefly meeting Billy and that "everyone liked him."
  • The team was told about Maura's disappearance on a Saturday, February 14, at a track meet.  
  • MN surmises that Coach LaFreniere learned of Maura's disappearance via the phone call from Fred (see the topic post on her statement to me) on Friday the 13th. The team probably did not practice that Friday, because they would have done only a short, light jog was the day before a competition.  Thus, the coach would have been in her office more that day. Moreover, MN believes the coach would have told the team as soon as possible, in case anyone knew something.
  • MN knew Hossein, saying he was "friendly and liked to joke around."  If they were dating, MN said, "nobody knew about it" and it must have been a closely held secret as "gossip like that would have spread quickly."
  • MN believes Maura quit the team simply due to the rigors of the nursing program.
  • MN feels Kate's failure to remember the names of the people at the party on Saturday night is NOT suspicious.  "These could have been Maura's friends," MN said, noting that particularly when you are drinking it is hard to keep names straight and to avoid embarrassment, you stop asking. 
  • During the spring season, on Maura's birthday, Kate organized a moment of silence for Maura during which her teammates released balloons.
  • MN struggles with Maura and Kate driving Fred back to his hotel (a 15+ mile round trip) when Maura's dorm was not far from the Amherst Brewing Company and Kate and Maura were going to a party within walking distance of Maura's dorm. MN wonders if this suggests that Maura needed the car for a specific reason but the Hadley accident changed her plans.  "Was her room already packed up?" MN asked, again rhetorically.
  • MN thought Maura's room may have been packed up because Maura was moving out and she decided to leave town for a week until she could move into her new place.
  • MN wondered if Maura perhaps felt scared or threatened by something in her dorm.
  • MN thinks "Maura is out there in the woods somewhere and died of exposure." She referenced the possibility of a hit to the head and alcohol consumption disorienting Maura, as well as getting cold if she had started to run and sweat formed in her street clothing.

43 comments:

  1. Has anyone ever checked with apartment complexes around the UMass area to see if Maura maybe signed a lease agreement, now that her friend said Maura may have packed because she was moving out.

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    1. Not that I know of. One poster here though identified the possibilities of whom she called in Amherst based on her phone bill. Among the five possible numbers for one call, oddly, was to the fax number form the UMASS housing office. Of course, that one also could have been a call to a local auto body shop.

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  2. And you confirmed that this person was indeed on the track team with Maura? Because I never met Maura for a second, but I could have easily given you all this speculative information.

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    1. Of course, but thanks for watching my back.

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    2. Watching your back was the last reason for my question. You always want people to prove and site their sources so why can't you do the same?

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  3. Alot of decent info from this person. It's interesting but sometimes, people happen to notice things from afar more than those who are close to a situation. An observant person might notice more than even close friends. I like the theory that she was already planning on going somewhere and that's why they needed the car.

    I've recently been thinking about where she was going, why she got off the highway in NH if she was going to vermont (as her internet searches would lead you to believe). I took a trip up there a week or so ago to climb some mountains and took 91 to 112 and back. I've taken this route before but this was the first time I was thinking of Maura. I want to look and see if the reports state how much gas was in her car. If she took 91 as proposed, it would be unreasonable to think she was looking for gas, there is a gas station right off 91 in vermont at the exit she would most likely take. The gas station is notable to me because, every time I go there it is so packed that you spend about 20 minutes on line. there are other stations along 112 as well, but this one is right off the highway. If she got off for gas there would be no reason to go as far as she went unless the station was closed for some reason. Now, after being up there, I re read most of this site, though I admit at some point I got tired and was skimming, but we are assuming that 45 minutes is missing in the timeline, but if she had taken backroads (route 5 and 10) maybe this would account for the time? It still wouldn't explain why she went into NH at all, but if she had either an empty tank or a full tank one might assume sometime happened at that gas station and she was headed towards an area she knew better for help. Just floating that observation. Now that I reread this whole blog, I have other observations based on my last 2 trips to the area but I want to organize the ideas and rule things out inst ead of just throwing it out here.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reasoning. As for the time line, I think there is up to 38 minutes in slack time. This could be for gas and a bite to eat, or she could have run another errand before leaving Amherst, or possibly she was departing an interim destination near the accident scene. But if the tank was full it would suggest a recent stop, which for me says the Stage Stop, but as you point out, there are other options.

      I'll be looking forward to your follow up analysis.

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  4. Maybe she did plan to move out because she was embarrassed about stealing her neighbor's credit card information and getting caught with it! Maybe they found out it was Maura that stole the credit card number. I wouldn't want to live next door to a thief and maybe they made her feel unwelcome.

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    1. Good point! And to move it one step forward, maybe someone was threatening her because she stole from them or someone they knew.

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    2. This certainly fits together. She might have even faced subtle but humiliating ridiculing behaviors. We have to remember that she was 21 and at that age kids can still be quite mean and quite sensitive. Consider, for instance, a male friend of the credit card owner muttering things under his breath as he passed Maura.

      John

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    3. If Maura was planning to move out of the dorm, presumably her father was going to cover the cost of an apartment--surely her two part-time jobs would not have done so. If that was the case, why wouldn't Fred say so after Maura's disappearance? Students move out of dorms all the time. Moving into your own place doesn't require a public explanation, doesn't imply anything "bad" about the student and isn't even a big deal. If the $4000 Fred says he had with him that weekend was for this purpose, rather than for buying a newer car--again, why not say so? If Maura had packed up her room for this move, it suggests she had found a place. It doesn't seem logical that she'd pack everything if she had no idea where she was moving and if the move wasn't imminent. And if she had a new place, surely her family would want LE to investigate this and the people and circumstances surrounding it--so what would be the point of keeping this a secret?

      It's believable that Maura's reputation around the dorm could have suffered owing to the credit card theft, but it doesn't make sense that her moving out would have been hush-hush after she disappeared. This just doesn't seem to go anywhere.

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    4. This thought has crossed my mind too. Maura probably heard whispers – real or imagined. I'm sure the victims of the credit card number theft had to walk by Maura when she was at her security post. Maura could have imagined them talking about her. The scene may have been very uncomfortable for her.

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    5. Good way to put it anon at 10:33 ... maybe real AND imagined, such that what was really happening was compounded in her perceptions and stress.

      John

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    6. Another option would be that after Fred found out she wrecked his car, he told her that he was pulling her out of Amherst. That she'd been in too much trouble there. Maura was controlled by Fred, and she would do as he said, IMO.I don't think he took the wrecking of his new car lightly, to say the least. It was then that she decided to take off to somewhere via Haverhill.

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  5. For what it's worth, I agree with MN's final bullet point wholeheartedly! It makes me feel validated that someone close to Maura shares my beliefs. :)

    Based on the windshield shatter, I think Maura was not wearing her seatbelt when the airbag went off. This can cause serious injuries. Also, we have to remember that she was in another accident merely days ago. Two accidents in a matter of days has to put an extra toll on your body. On top of this, she was drinking which could add to her confusion/disorientation.

    When this theory is mentioned one of the first rebuttals is "They would've found her body". Actually, there are a quite a few cases of people who are in very serious car accidents, leave the scene, and their bodies have not been found in the area (although it is presumed that they couldn't have made it far from the scene)...She's out there in the woods somewhere - I just know it.

    As always, thanks for the info, John!

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    1. Hannah, thanks for your comment.

      I agre with you that the dismissals of dying of exposure because her body would have been found are simply based on assumptions. Plenty of scenarios can be imagined, including ones documented in books about missing people.

      John

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    2. I agree as well, the only trails she could have even attempted to take in that area would have been difficult in the winter, even if she was experienced. However, I suspect the compartment that contained the airbag broke the window. I've been in 2 accidents where airbags deployed and the windshield was broken by piece of the steering wheel that pops up, in a very similar spot on the windsheild. This doesn't mean the chemicals from the airbag didn't get in her eyes, distort her vision and leave her in an altered state,plus injuries would have left her very vulnerable. All this could have led paradoxical undressing and inevitably very little would be found. apologies if that sounds morbid, given the topic it is slightly unavoidable.

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    3. Melios,

      Thanks for the comment. That is a good point. Head-to-windshield injury v. no accident impairment has lurked quietly as a kind of false alternatives scenario in discussion of the case. But as you point out, even if her head did not hit the windshield, the trauma of the accident - even the sudden tossing of her head resulting in a brain injury - could have impaired her.

      Regards,

      John

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    4. May I just add that I am skeptical of those who claim that the area was so thoroughly searched that there is "no way" Maura would not have been found out there. Air searches are not nearly as good as people assume they are. Look at the search for Steve Fossett. It was only when a hiker stumbled upon his crash years later that he was found. Far more people were searching for Fossett, and they were searching for an entire airplane, not just one small human being.

      The example I read from the MM case is faulty, IMO. It was said that one of the searchers saw a fox from an airplane as "proof" that Maura would had been seen if she were in the woods. There is no way that pilot can prove what he did NOT see, only what he DID see. If Maura were under a tree or a bush he likely would not have seen her.

      I know this is all anecdotal, but every now and then I catch an episode of "I Shouldn't be Alive." One of the things that happens with great frequency is that search helicopters and planes are flying RIGHT overhead and the person in peril still cannot get their attention, even jumping up and down and waiving their arms.

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    5. I agree with you Rose. I have read accounts of alive people trying their best to signal to search craft and being missed. A dead or injured person would be at a significant disadvantage compared to those folks, or to a fox that was moving around.

      Also, it is erroneous, defensive reasoning. If they saw one fox for every square quarter mile searched, that would say something. But seeing ONLY one fox in searching an area .... lets see 2*P*R ... of more than 30 square miles, well that is a different story. Because guess what ... there's a lot of foxes up there and either 0 or 1 Mauras. You saw one fox. Big deal.

      John

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  6. This is a small thing, but it could benefit from explanation. One of the things I don't understand is why Maura worked out in the weight room at Fred's hotel—Fred says this in his statement to police. Why? Is it possible that Maura, for some reason, was no longer allowed access to workout in the university's much nicer gyms? This ultimately could be nothing, but the question is worth asking. Anyone have any thoughts?

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    1. Let's assume that Fred is telling the truth, because I can see no good reason for him to lie about this detail.

      I know the idea has been tossed around on here that Maura was bulimic. Generally I'm not exactly on board with that, but regardless, it's possible that she had non-purging or exercise bulimia, rather than the traditional barfing variety.

      It's not out of the question that the whole reason she went to the hotel was a burning desire for immediate exercise--maybe the hotel had a 24 hour weight room (I think that's kind of unusual for hotels, but far from unheard of).

      Another strange part of the weight room thing relates to workout clothing. She probably didn't work out in her party clothes, right? So she most likely consciously changed or packed extra clothes for the specific purpose of working out, whether the intention was to work out in the middle of the night or the following morning.

      Like I said, it's a bit of a reach (or maybe more than a bit), but I don't think it would be hard to check whether the hotel had a 24 hour weight room, just to identify whether it is a possibility. And like you said, it's a small detail that is probably of minimal significance, but it could provide a very simple, mundane explanation for the whole purpose of the hotel visit.

      Jhonez

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    2. Great point and thanks for brining this up. She had quit the team but still could have used the UMASS facilities which would have been WAY better. Any student can use the gyms. Typically some gyms are reserved for teams, but even those are sometimes opened up for student body use. I know first hand from friends who went to UMASS that any student can use a multitude of gyms there. It does not prove that she did not use a dinky gym at a motel, but does make for another weird hink in Fred's statement.

      John

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  7. The more I learn about Maura the more I am convinced that she died in the woods and her remains have not been found. I think this is the most logically explanation of what happened. She got into the accident, hit her head (a head injury was allegedly a factor in Morgan Harrington’s murder according to the law suit that her parents are filing against the company that provided security for the concert the night Morgan disappeared – side note – alcohol was also a factor in Morgan’s demise), was already intoxicated, she may have had some injury from her previous accident that she did not get treatment for because she was embarrassed. All of those factors added up for a sad end for Maura, in my opinion. The amount of square miles that her body could potentially be in is HUGE. That with the fact that it had been so long make the likelihood of her ever being found somewhat remote in my estimation.

    -Jenniferever

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    1. Hi Jennifer.

      Thanks for the comment. It certainly is plausible and you state the argument well. But like the other of the "big four" possibilities (foul play, accident and cover up, fleeing her life) there are both compelling arguments and daunting counter-arguments, with the further confounding factor that after the accident there is no solid evidence to build on. As for dying of exposure, the potential for confusion could explain a lot, but it is still difficult to fathom how she would have gotten deep enough into the backwoods with accumulated snowfall on the ground to have not been found. In other words, while the area is huge, the areas away from the roadway that she likely could have travelled in the winter in an impaired state is much smaller. In that light it is interesting to consider the possibilities for how she might have gotten outside the eventual search area (perhaps running), and with a not uncommon delayed onset of symptoms from a head injury perhaps then went down a not frequently travelled trail in a state of confusion and gotten lost. If she was suffering from hypothermia (which would have come upon her more quickly after running and having sweat build up in her street clothes and due to the drinking) she may well have gotten tired. At some point too, deep enough into hypothermia, you stop feeling cold. Given the combination of being tired and no longer feeling the stress of cold, there are cases where people have been found in comfortable looking positions as if they were quite relaxed, while freezing to death. In fact, there is one such story in "Not Without Peril."

      John

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    2. The only way you can get Maura on a trail in the woods in the snow is concussion-produced disorientation and even then, I'm skeptical, as would anyone be who's ever tried to go hiking in the northeast in February with snow on the ground. It's fricking hard, you leave a LOT of footprints and you don't make a lot of time. In the dark? Forget it. Great way to break your ankle or fall down an embankment.

      As I and others have posted before, she could easily have walked down the road for miles and not been seen....headlights from oncoming cars would have been visible to her in most cases long before they would pick her out of the dark. There's just no reason to go more than a few feet into the woods to hide from a passing car (Unless she was running from a potential attacker -- that explanation WOULD track, but again, the attacker would have to get the drop on her first). And in a disoriented state, it's hard to see how she gets more than a few hundred feet before injuring herself, by falling in the snow, hitting a tree, tripping over a root, etc.

      adam

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  8. Hey John and James! Just thinking outside the box here and might be a long shot, but do know if there was a search for Maura done in any of the near any of the National Parks? National parks an obvious place to go searching for Maura IMHO or anyone missing.

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    1. I don't know this officially, but I have heard the search range was five miles. The boundary to the White Mountain National Forest was 5 miles away.

      If you don't mind expanding on it, I would like to hear more about why the National Parks seem like the obvious place to look for her.

      Regards,

      John

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  9. Quick question - Wasn't sure where to post this.
    Where can I find the accident report for the Amherst-Toyota accident?

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    1. Hi, it's in the Documents, part 1 of the documents given to Fred Murray.

      JW

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    2. I don't know that it is out there. If you find it, let me know where to get it.

      John

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  10. This is the best explanation out there:

    "MN thinks "Maura is out there in the woods somewhere and died of exposure." She referenced the possibility of a hit to the head and alcohol consumption disorienting Maura, as well as getting cold if she had started to run and sweat formed in her street clothing"

    The Idea Maura started a new life somewhere is Nonsense. Maura was 21 when she disappeared. She would not have the Knowledge to start a new life somewhere .. make a living .. and still be undetected.

    Even if she did, she wouldn't maintain silence with her family this long. That's a given.

    Let's be reasonable .. Whatever happened to Maura happened the night and (possibly) the next day she disappeared. She succumbed to the elements.


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    1. I hear you on the plausibility of death by exposure. It has its own pitfalls though, such as the fact that it would have been very difficult in the winter and at night to get very far from the roadway. One can imagine a scenario, but still it would be difficult. In my own opinion though, you cannot completely dismiss the starting a new life thesis. It could be that her family has heard from her and simply don't want her to be found. Again, like every theory, there are seductive suggestions in the clues we have and contrary ones.

      John

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    2. As far as I know, we still have no hard evidence that Maura didn't have a flashlight or one of those headlamps that are popular among people who run at night. Even with a light, however, it's quite true that it would have been difficult to get very far into the woods with the amount of snow cover and, probably, underbrush, present.

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    3. >>>>she wouldn't maintain silence with her family this long. That's a given.>>>>>>

      This is in no way no shape or no form a given.


      John Avellar

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    4. Thank you, John Avellar. You're quite right. In fact, almost nothing in this case, beyond "Maura's Missing" is a given.

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    5. Thanks for pointing that out John.

      More importantly, how nice to see you post again!

      I do think it is a reasonable opinion to have, but I don't agree with the the phrasing, which sets it up as a common sense rule with the opposite being unthinkable. As such, I don't say - as you don't - to the poster "you are wrong" but instead "you are not as right as your diction suggests you think you are."

      John

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    6. Actually,I don't agree with this statement,"She was only 21..." and that "she wouldn't have stayed out of touch with her family."

      It HAS happened. I know because...I did it.

      When I was 17 I married a very abusive man (imagine the goriest details, then triple them) who came from an even more violent & abusive family. I wanted out from the beginning, but my mother ADORED him (he put up a good front.) When I was 21, I escaped. The details aren't important, but I had secretly saved money and just "disappeared" from Canada to the United States. I told no one, including my family (despite the fact that I loved my father & brothers dearly) b/e I knew they would have told my ex where I was. My ex did report me missing (my parents didn't bother) but they told him that since I was an adult there really wasn't much they could do, and my ex didn't have the $$ to hire a PI. I stayed "under the radar" for almost seven years, until I was able to verify that my ex had divorced me and remarried. Then I made contact w/ my father to tell him I was okay, but I stayed out of touch with my mother until she passed away. That sounds awful, I know, but after all she'd put me through I valued my safety more than I did her. We really don't know all that much about Maura's relationship with her family apart from what Fred has told us, and I'm not certain he's the most reliable source. Getting away from the family may have been part of the point.

      So, no, I don't know what happened to Maura. But as far as I'm concerned, in the absence of a body anything COULD have happened (not to say it did, but I think we need to keep our minds open--she could be dead in the woods somewhere, or she could be a soccer mom in Vancouver, or almost anything in between. We just can't know. I do know that at one point my family thought I was dead. I'm not.

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  11. Does anyone know how much she stole off the credit cards? maybe the $4000.00 was to pay back these people?

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    1. I don't recall exactly but it was in the neighborhood of $80, at least that we know about. She was ordering from pizza places. As of the last we know, the charges were going to be dropped at some point if she stayed out of trouble. Perhaps she did not in a way that we do not know about yet.

      John

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    2. Maura seemed to have a way with getting out of trouble with the police. First, she is not charged for the credit card fraud, then she is not charged with DUI in Fred's car. I know I wouldn't have been able to pull that off.

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  12. Anonymous June 11th 6:41pm - It would have been difficult yes ... but impossible? not even close. Maura could have ran for miles east before veering off on any side road or into the woods. There could have been places where the snow and bush was much less thick than other places. Also, I looked on google Maps and I see a river running along Wild Ammonoosuc and lost river road. It's also possible Maura was running and may have somehow fallen in the river and been swept away in it if she veered off course. In my opinion, these explanations are much more plausible than the "starting a second life" theory.

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  13. Again, I have to ask: why does Maura ever need to leave the road? I suppose it is possible for her to fall into the water if it's that close to the highway (say, if she left to relieve herself), but the idea that she got lost in the woods begs the obvious question why she would leave the road in the first place, and how far she would conceivably get in midwinter with snow on the ground. There's simply no logical reason for her to do that.

    adam

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