Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Rag in the Tailpipe, Revisited

I have a theory about the rag that was found in the tailpipe of Maura's car. But if it's true, it most certainly means that Maura Murray is no longer alive. I don't want to believe that's true. I want to believe she ran away from her life and her family and found a better place and a new name.

Recently, I discovered some new information about the case that calls everything into question. I will share this shortly. But it's causing me to rethink everything I understood about Maura's disappearance.

The one thing I still feel certain about is that there was a tandem driver. It's the only thing that explains how she disappeared so quickly. It also explains why she may have taken so much from her car -- backpack, booze, and who knows what else. Was she going to carry all that down the road with her or was she going to transfer it into a car? Or perhaps she'd already left it somewhere, else...

I think it's possible Maura had already arrived at a rendezvous point, a rental that was under the tandem driver's name. There is an extra 45 minutes that remains unaccounted for during her journey from Amherst to Haverhill, after all. When she got into the accident, maybe she was driving away from this person after an argument. Or a fight.

So, the rag.

There is only one rational explanation. Whoever put the rag there intended the car to stall. And perhaps it did. Maybe that explains the accident. Maybe she stalled near the turn by the weathered barn and clipped the corner. Whoever she was driving away from caught up and, given the choice of going back with them or explaining what happened to a cop, she went back with them.

I hope Maura is alive.

But if she's not, she was most certainly killed by someone she knew.


83 comments:

  1. its interesting and logical that she already got into rental place but one thing makes no sense.
    if they got in some dobate or fight, after taht, they are mad and all of their actions are impulsive and fast and there is no thinking oh now i will go out, i will put the rag in her car ect because they will be like shouting,fight and than maura gets out, sit in a car and goes away. in the middle of some fight other side doesnt have time to go arouns her car (because if they are yelling that maura will not for example go take a shower or something to give the other person opportunity to go around her car.) or this person put the rag first when they get in the place, before they got into the fight. i am very sorry on my english i have trouble explaining i hope you understand what i wanted to tell

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  2. If Maura had already gone to a rendezvous point, she could have unloaded her car there, then proceeded to have an argument with whomever she met there and then left. How far could she have driven with a rag in the tailpipe? Could she have made it out of the driveway?

    I have also wondered if Maura put the rag there herself after the accident to cover up the fact that it was actually a drunk driving incident. (And, if Fred is to be believed, he suggested the rag to Maura. Maybe what Fred actually told her was to shove the rag up there if she crashed another car while drunk, to protect herself legally. So she did what he told her to do.) The tandem driver then picked her up, and could have killed her.

    If Maura was indeed pregnant at the time of her disappearance, that would have been a motive for murder by whomever impregnated her at UMass. I have an opinion as to who that could have been, but it may be inappropriate to state his name. He has stated publicly that Maura told him she wanted to disappear - which is convenient if he killed her. I believe he is the only person in Maura's life who said that she wanted to disappear. He had a lot to lose if impregnating a student were made public.

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    1. If Fred told her to shove the rag there to conceal her drunk driving, then that would explain why he knows she didn't kill herself and didn't run away. It would mean Maura was trying to protect her legal position, which indicates an intent to not disappear permanently. It would explain why Fred is convinced someone harmed her.

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    2. The pregnancy detail is juicy. Gosh if there were medical records perhaps showing she went to the UMass health clinic, that could potentially bring up a lead.

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  3. Killed by somebody she knew? That's a first.

    It doesn't make sense that she didn't report her car to AAA, meanwhile never making it to the cabin (if that's where she intended to go). I make this clear in my blog. Butch said that she appeared "shakened."

    I just always thought she hitched a ride. That explains why she wasn't seen walking the road. I just think she met foul play but I want believe Maura is alive.

    I hope you share this new bit of information soon.

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    1. Well it does because she had no coverage on her phone and she probably wanted as much time as possible to distance herself from the car. If this is the case I would say its a 50/50 on her being picked up and murdered or got picked up and started a new life. (planned) I think we can say for sure that Maura did not want to be seen at the car if Butch Atwood is to be believed. I don't share James view on Maura being alive and this theory I would say in one form or another might be plausible but not probable. The biggest problem I have with it is that I don't think the car would have driven very far at all with the rag in the tailpipe. It being there, I really think is a result of Maura putting it there shortly before or right after the accident. Anyone know if any testing was done to determine or long the car would have driven with the rag?

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    2. I know there was no reception in the area. It just doesn't make sense she didn't call AAA if she had a membership. Either means she was murdered or ran away.

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    3. How could she have called AAA if there was no reception in the area? And it doesn't mean she was murdered or ran away. We don't know if it means anything.

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    4. I think reasonably, if she did run away she couldnt bring the car with her, its under Freds name, she wouldve been stopped, eventually. Basically the car is useless to her, she cant renew insurance etc. I still think she had a Tandom driver, perhaps legally married now and has maybe had children, because she loved kids.

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  4. Not an expert in this.

    Car exhaust contain a large-ish % of water vapor. [Unless we talk about Volkswagen ;-)]

    If you stuff a soft fluffy rag "way up there" in the tailpipe, at first, it might not react that much to pressure as air would just move thru it. Also, curved pipes are pretty good at keeping objects in place. Just try it the other way with a vacuum cleaner.

    With time the rag would get more solid due to heat & water vapor and less air would go thru it causing it either to fly out or get stuck and cause engine issues.

    Best way to test this would be to go all Mythbusters and simulate a whole range of different scenarios.

    Oh wait, NHSP removed the whole freaking exhaust system a long time ago!

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    1. Someone has done such a test, it seems. See http://jalopnik.com/this-is-not-how-you-should-test-your-exhaust-in-russi-1626228068 Note though that this mechanic is holding the rag over the end of the pipe, not stuffed inside. If the rag was stuffed inside tightly enough to cause major back-pressure, it's not plausible that it could have been there long. It would either get expelled by the back-pressure, get hot enough to ignite, or cause major overheating and/or pressure damage to the exhaust system. That kind of damage would be pretty obvious and easy to detect at an accident scene. (Perhaps that's why the exhaust system was removed by police.)

      Also, if the car stalled, it should have been possible for police to pull the fault codes off of the car's OBD. I've not heard anything one way or another as to whether police found anything relevant on the OBD. Perhaps that is one of the bits of information they have not chosen to make public.

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    2. "Inspecting the Exhaust System": http://lincolntrial.integr8cms.net/index.php/59-disc-brakes/section-9/indexh/1867-inspecting-the-exhaust-system
      "A quick test for exhaust leaks is to use a rag to block off the exhaust flow from the tailpipe; if the exhaust system is not leaking, pressure will build and force the rag out of the pipe. If there are leaks in the exhaust, then hissing will be heard from the exhaust system through the leaks."

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    3. I think the rag was put in by Maura as Fred had said, Fred has nothing to gain by lying.

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    4. He's lied and or been secretive many times. He clearly has been caught lying multiple times. To say he has no reason to lie is blatantly false.

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  5. Good thought James. I think the rag is important to the mystery. There are a lot of red herrings in this case but I don't think the rag is one of them. I'm concerned that Fred's explanation for the rag never made much sense. Does anyone remember exactly what he said about the rag and under what circumstances? In my recollection he explained the rag away (after the rag went public) saying he told Maura to put it there to keep the muffler from smoking. Why would he say that? If that is the case, why did the police remove the muffler? Sounds like they didn't buy his explanation either.

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  6. If this was the case, why would Fred say that he told Maura to put the rag there? It seems like he would have grabbed on to this information (especially if the police told the family to not announce it yet they did) and ran with it as proof that Maura met with foul play?

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    1. Here's one possible explanation:

      Fred knows it was Maura who put it there, because he told her to put it there if she ever got into another wreck while driving drunk. In this case, he would be concerned that the police would find out that the rag belonged to Maura, and instead of letting police come to their own conclusion, he gave them an explanation that had nothing to do with covering up a crime (driving drunk). So he made up the part about it hiding exhaust - because it reality, it was meant to hide something else.

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    2. Exactly. Fred's comments are beyond bizarre.

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    3. It is bizarre, but if Maura turned on the charm or shed some tears, it's very possible she could tell a story (that she used the rag to block smoke) as an "innocent young girl who didn't know any better" to a police officer to explain away an accident without the officer suspecting alcohol. It's an outlandish, but plausible, excuse for a young woman.

      Maybe when Maura wrecked Fred's car, he anticipated that it would not be her last alcohol-related accident.

      Maybe shoving the rag up the tailpipe is exactly what Maura was doing when witnesses saw her around the trunk area of her car.

      Maybe this excuse worked for her, or him, or other habitual drinkers in their family, in the past.

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    4. If Maura put the rag there as a means of explaining the crash, and distracting them from initiating a DUI investigation, then why did she leave the cup of red wine in the car? Why not toss it in the woods, or bury it in the snow across the road? If Maura was focused on hiding evidence of DUI in the moments after the crash, wouldn't tossing the cup of wine have been the first thing she did? How about wiping the red wine from the inside of the windshield? Putting a rag in the tailpipe while not doing either of the foregoing borders on the absurd. An officer is going to notice red wine in the interior of the car, regardless of the time of day. That's not the case with a rag stuffed in the tailpipe. And what about the Franzia wine which was left in the backseat? Why did she not toss that before worrying about the rag?

      The rag was not immediately visible. Rather, it was found by the tow truck operator. No officer is going to believe your vehicle stalled as a result of an exhaust obstruction when he cannot see that obstruction. I suppose you could argue that, when/if the obstruction is found later, you could say that your crash was the result of the obstruction, and not you driving drunk. But that's just downright stupid. You do not have to crash your vehicle to be prosecuted for DUI.

      Further, the presence of a rag in the tailpipe does nothing to hide the obvious signs of intoxication in most drunk drivers. I mean, think a little bit . . . would you really take it seriously if someone said "if you put a rag in the tailpipe, the police will believe your wreck was the result of a stalled engine, and they won't investigate or prosecute you for DUI, even if you were drunk when the crash happened." Who tells someone else that? And who believes something like that?

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  7. James,

    I appreciate your work and glad you are looking at this from more than a single angle based on a single theory. I don't think there is overwhelming evidence that conclusively points in a single direction, so I don't think it's viable to 'put all your eggs in one basket' so to speak.

    As far as the rag, I don't think your average small, automotive use type rag would suddenly cause problems after a long drive. If we are assuming the rag was thoroughly stuffed in the muffler prior to her starting the Saturn in MA, I just can't see that if it didn't initially effect the car's performance, than how could it all of a sudden do so in NH?

    It's a rag, not a tampon. It's not going to magically expand 300% and lose all ability to allow air to pass.

    Now, if we were talking a towel or two, a blanket or something more substantial, yes I would imagine that would impede back pressure more than an average rag. If someone took some large fabric item like that and say, carefully shoved it in with a broomstick and effectively "filled up" the muffler I would imagine it wouldn't start, or stall, or idle rough.

    But the effect would be noticed sooner than later I would think. I would be quite suspicious if several rags or fabrics were pulled out of the muffler, but a single one? I think this is either the result of 1) bad automotive advice or 2) a lame attempt to make the car run poorly. But, I'm no expert..I just think its more feasible that if the rag did indeed cause a problem it was put there en route to NH.

    Perhaps the rag was not in the muffler at the time of departure from UMass and was put there at a gas station or misc stopping point. Maybe that is why it's effect could have occurred in NH, rather than MA. Certainly when considering that, it reeks of foul play.

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    1. It's a rag, not a tampon. Best comment of all time.

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    2. Looking at an exhaust diagram for Maura's car, it's apparent that it has a short downspout (tailpipe) off the muffler. The rag must've been in there. If it was pushed all the way into the muffler, I doubt it would not have done anything to impact the car's operation, and it would never have been seen. The muffler has enough internal space to render the presence of a rag inconsequential.

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    3. *doubt it would have done anything to impact the car's operation,

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    4. I totally agree. I pointed that exact thing out on here many months ago. The officer who found it said it was "way up in there". That little spur of tailpipe was not big enough to keep the rag in. It would have been mostly in the cavity of the muffler itself, which would not effectively block the exhaust from escaping. Even in the case that it was, in order for the rag to have stalled the car the exhaust system would need to be almost 100% airtight, I doubt that Saturn was airtight.

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    5. Foul play, really? was it all the blood found, no. Was it all the signs of a struggle, no. I see nothing that says foul play. I see a car that was abandoned, and a handfull of witness that were unsure of what they saw, for all we know she could be married with two kids in Ottawa, thats just my opinion based on the facts, not the other way around.

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  8. I've always thought if Maura was murdered it was by someone she knew.
    How far is Butsons from Maura's crash site? If this was her, could she of drove from there to the crash site with a rag in the tailpipe?
    Because the witnesses said they saw a flurry of things going on around the trunk area makes me undecided on whether the rag was put in the tailpipe before the crash or after.

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  9. I too believe that she was traveling in tandem with someone, but I think that the accident was planned. I believe that the had planned to spin out the car, wait for her ride and take off. The rag could have been put in the tailpipe just to muddy the water. If you're going to run away, I would think that you would want to give everyone a million things to think about that have nothing to do with anything...it keeps them busy while you're leaving.

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  10. An easy way to test this would be to stuff a rag in one of our tail pipes and see what happens. But who wants to mess up their car? Lol.

    Two things:

    1) Why would the car stalling cause an accident? I have driven some crap cars in my time. I once had an 80's Ford Tempo that would regularly lose power while driving. I mean, it would go from driving fine to the gas pedal not working at all...kinda like being in neutral. But it's not like the steering would go out; I could still steer (and brake). Is stalling any different? Would a stall make your steering go out? I guess I am also wondering how a slowing car (since it was in the process of stalling), which could not have been going that fast in the first place (dark, two lane highway, with a driver who is not familiar with the roads) would manage to crash hard enough for the airbags to deploy.

    2) How does Fred manage to recognize a rag from someone else's emergency kit? I wouldn't even be able to recognize one of my own. Because how often do you open your (or your daughter's) kit? Especially since she hadn't driven in weeks and didn't live with her dad, so it's not like he would have been working on her car all the time.

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    1. It wont mess anything up. It will blow out or exhaust will push through it. Im running straight pipes on a v8 off the manifolds. The hell with the cats, thats what blocks the exhaust from free flowing.

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    2. Its not a V8 thou, its a Black 4 door 1996 Saturn S-Series, Bought at Foley Quincy Motors.
      4 cylinders, weight 2,363 lbs, fuel tank 12.8 gallons, width 5'7.6". Height 4'2.6", Length 14'6.6". Front wheel drive 1.9L. Cargo capacity 10.9 cu. ft. Vehicle last inspected Weymouth, MA on Oct. 17, 2003.

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  11. If she put it there herself to avoid legal liability -- perhaps that had worked for her before, i.e. the Corolla crash.

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  12. But James, I feel like you're back to square one with this theory. Because you once said that the reason you did not feel like she was abducted was because she was in eyesight of houses and someone would have seen that. But don't you think someone would have seen someone pull up next to her, and then talk her into the car? Essentially this IS the abduction theory that you said you felt couldn't happen. The only difference between this and the usual abduction theory is that she would've known her abductor.

    I still maintain that the most likely scenario was that she wandered off into the woods and succumbed to the elements. I know the biggest argument against this theory is that she hasn't been found. But as I've pointed out in several posts now, I can think of many "missing persons" cases that were eventually found and the person/people was near the last known location.

    I know the true motive here is that you want her to be alive. So do I. But there's what I want, and then there is what is most likely. It unlikely she is still alive. Not impossible. But unlikely. With all of this said though, my fingers are crossed that I am wrong and that she is alive somewhere living a better life.

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    1. Well said. I believe her remains sadly are somewhere within the area and just not found.
      Rag in a tailpipe wont stall an engine

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    2. the problem with the "someone would have seen..." theory is that the facts disprove it. No matter what happened to MM, no one in fact DID see it. While there were some houses around, no one was watching past the first minute and not continuously. On Sunday a woman hit a parked car where I live than drove away. I was outside and saw and heard it. I followed the person in their now messed up car and called the cops who came quickly. No one else called and the owner of the car was sleeping (it was like 9 am). In Arlington, VA a few years back a guy was walking home from the subway at 1 am. He was walking next to a strip mall with a bunch of stores. Someone drove up to him and shot him, breaking the glass in the storefront next to him. Still unsolved. On the other side of the street were a row of about ten high rise apartment buildings (I-395 and the Pentagon were on the other side of these apartments) all with balconies facing the crime scene. Hundreds of people could have literally witnessed the murder but no one did and no one called the police until someone came upon the guy's body lying on the sidewalk. So it can happen.

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  13. If someone other than Maura put the rag in the tailpipe I think it must have been Fred. Its too much of a coincidence to think that someone else put it there and then having Fred say he told Maura to put it there. Now I don't think Fred harmed Maura. Still I am not sure if she really would have put it there knowing she was going on a long ride. Maura dose not seem stupid to me. So could Fred have put it there without Maura knowing? Maybe he was so sure she was going to run away that in a desperate move he put it in there to stall there car if Maura drove too far. As I have stated in another post I don't think the car would have gone very far and maybe this was true for Fred as well. But it did and then Maura was gone. This would explain why Fred don't want to answer questions about this case when he cant "control" them. Why his way of searching for Maura sometimes seems strange. He feels partly responsible in a pretty direct way but he still had nothing to do with her being missing. It would have been a very risky move by Fred but I don't see it as impossible.

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    1. i agree, had to be fred or maura... i really like the idea that fred put the rag in the tailpipe to try to prevent her from running away... very interesting.

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  14. On the podcast a lady stated that the red truck drove past her & waited up the road as if to get a look at her.could the truck have been mauras lift? Looking to pick maura up as planned before hand?

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  15. Was the rag pretty soiled when found or not? If it was pretty clean then could it have been in the tailpipe for very long? I ask these questions because I used to own an old Saturn just like Maura's. It was a pretty decent car that got me around until I started experiencing problems with it. It too started blowing smoke out the tailpipe. Now, my father, who is a mechanic, not once told me to ever place a rag in the tailpipe to make it drivable. If the rag wasn't too soiled then it would appear it had been placed there at the time of the accident. If it was completely soiled then it could have been placed some time before. I make this statement only because I remember how bad my tailpipe smoked and there is no way a rag would've stayed clean for long. Also, questioning if she came into harm by someone she knew, could they have placed the rag, hoping she would have lost control and went off a mountain? I'm not familiar with the terrain in that area so I'm unsure if this is even a valid question. Another thing, if someone else placed the rag it wouldn't explain why Fred would tell authorities that he told Maura to do it.

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    1. Yes, Fred knew about the rag. Plus, if you wanted to harm someone, a rag in their tailpipe seems dumb, and not guaranteed to work.

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  16. I've always felt, that if she was killed, it was an accident. She was running down the road in the middle of the night in winter conditions. It's not far-fetched to believe she was hit by a driver that did not see her. If that driver had any type of history, they could have hid the body rather than risk law enforcement. But again, that's just the "if she was killed" theory. So many other possibilities to this case, it's next to impossible to be convinced of any of them.

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  17. I wrote a couple of years ago that the rag in the tailpipe was put there by someone that wanted to slow her down. The guy(s) in the red truck is really eerie, but telling in my opinion. Why in the world would they slow down to check out the woman walking that turned out not to be Maura? If they were looking for Maura you would expect them to look for her car, but they didn't. They (He) stopped, or slowed down. Why? I think this was the person that stuck the rag in the tailpipe and new exactly what would happen to that car, it was just a matter of time. Could the rag in the tailpipe have caused the car to slowly be filled with carbon monoxide which slowly inhibited Maura's ability to function resulting in the crash?

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    1. Maybe... But that still leaves so many questions... Why was she in NH in the first place? With all that alcohol?

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  18. I mentioned this yesterday - why didn't any of the neighbors who heard the accident come outside to assist? Bad weather or not, wouldn't you go outside and see if anyone was hurt (in addition to dialing 911)?
    FRB

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  19. I've been following this case for the last five or six years, and know that I've seen it stated repeatedly that the rag in the tailpipe supposedly was more or less clean when it was found.
    My belief is that Maura or someone else likely put the rag in the tailpipe for whatever reason at the spot of the accident on Route 112.
    I also believe that the red truck most likely had something to do with Maura, whether friend or foe.

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  20. I used to freak out about the rag in the tailpipe. Now I don't at all because I realize she was just using it as a white rag to call attention to her crashed car on the dark highway.

    You will see it happen all the time on the shoulder; most typical thing in the book.

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    1. The rag was located by the tow truck driver; it was not immediately visible: http://mauramurray.blogspot.com/2011/08/lavoie-says-fred-murray-explained.html.

      There's no mention of the rag in the crash report. I don't think it was put there to call attention to the car.

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    2. Also, you would use your hazard warning lights.

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  21. Boy how strange? A car that was in good enough working order to drive for hours and hundreds of miles and it just happens to stall on that road by that theory? Why not stall at the beginning when turning the car on or early on when the car idles in low rpms?
    Nobody was going to put a rag in by hand on hot exhaust pipe which would send you to the hospital with bad burns.

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    1. You make an interesting point. That rag was stuffed up the tailpipe pretty far, too. I can't imagine anyone trying to stuff a rag way up into the exhaust pipe to where it isn't clearly visible without getting badly burned. Perhaps that rag was present in the tailpipe before the trip even began.

      It was said Maura was having mechanical problems with her car. That is why her father was there that weekend to help find Maura a new car.

      I wonder what kinds of mechanical problems she was having with the car. Were these problems possibly being caused by the rag in her tailpipe?

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    2. Either the rag was placed there prior to the trip, or when she stopped at the gas station or somewhere else very near the accident site.

      The car could have cooled off enough to place the rag into the exhaust pipe.

      Whether Maura did this or someone else is the question. I find it hard to believe that it was someone else. From what I have read, that rag was in an emergency kit that was in the trunk of her car. What stranger would know that rag was in the trunk of her car? And why in a public place, risk getting caught putting a rag in someone else's exhaust pipe?

      This whole rag in the tailpipe story has me baffled. But there is nothing about this case that doesn't baffle me.

      I think she was not planning on taking her life. I believe she was very troubled by things going on in her life. I believe she had things she needed to sort out, and perhaps she just wanted to get away from things and be alone for a short time. And she was young and perhaps a little insecure. She was a perfectionist. She wanted everyone to believe that externally her life was perfect. But internally, she was dealing with multiple issues. But then when she had her accident, it was that last straw, she was suddenly confused and unable to face her problems. She didn't intentionally commit suicide. But she could not face her problems, so she decided to run. I don't know if she ever made it to the finish line. If she were alive today, I think she would have eventually came to her senses after all these years, if running away and starting anew was truly her plan. She could have very well ran, but only got so far, and ran into the woods, succumbing to the elements.

      Sad ending for a girl who could have had it all, despite her problems. I am certain if she chose to face her problems, she would have prevailed eventually.

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  22. James, you posted a question the other day regarding what was most frustrating to us about this case, if I recall correctly. The rag in the tail pipe bugs me most! It's either the key to the whole thing, or a tiny blip on the radar. Nothing in between. My personal opinion is that she stuffed the rag in there in a panic, and in a quick flash of what her father told her. I would be more inclined to believe the argument with the tandem driver theory if she was headed back towards Massachusetts. In a quick moment of frustration after a fight, you would think if she were abandoning the "hook up", she would be headed in the direction of Amherst. I guess you could look at the surrounding lodges and compare the distance to the crash sight with distances cars can travel with a blocked tailpipe. Very frustrating part of the case. I just wholeheartedly believe she stuck the rag in there deliberately to cover up her runaway. The argument theory doesn't sit with me. But, great point James! Outstanding work as always.

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  23. Am I missing something here? I can understand the "tandem driver" scenario. It's plausible enough, although I've not seen any supporting evidence adduced. But why assume that a rental car was involved?

    More broadly, I think it's important to be wary of the dangers of "marrying your hypothesis", of assuming that one of many plausible scenarios is the true one, and then interpreting all the data in that light and adding ad hoc assumptions to fill in the gaps.

    I'm not saying that this is what Mr Renner is doing with this scenario, but whenever you start making assumptions to fit a pre-existing conclusion you are taking a step in that direction.

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    1. Given the context, I think the word "rental" in the post refers to a hotel, motel, condo, etc. where Maura met the other person, not a rental car. This explains the other part of the post concerning how Maura could've spent the additional appx. 45 minutes with the other person.

      Nonetheless, I agree with the more general premise of your post. There's always a temptation to take various pieces of evidence (especially physical evidence, like the rag) and shoe-horn them into preexisting theories, when in fact the opposite thought process should be at work. In other words, theories should fit the evidence, not the other way around. I think the impulse is especially strong in this case because we have so little evidence to evaluate.

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  24. I never believed Maura shoved the rag in the exhaust after the accident. If she was driving than it would be far too hot to touch let alone shove a rag up the exhaust. I've always felt that even if Fred Murray did have an explanation for the presence of the rag (as weird as the explanation is) that doesn't necessarily mean it's the reason the rag shoved up there.

    I've always considered it odd that if Maura really was either traveling with someone or intending to meet with another person that person has never come forward. If it's true she was with or meeting someone than either that person disappeared with her or has a very good reason for remaining silent for 12 years.

    It's entirely possible the reason there's never been a trace of Maura is that while the crash site and area around it held no evidence of foul play is that whatever happened to her happened elsewhere much further away.

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    1. Well said. There's a prevalent erroneous assumption that, if something happened to Maura involving foul play, evidence of it will be found somewhere near the crash site.

      If she was picked up by someone, is it more likely that person was a local? Sure. But that's not guaranteed. And how local? There's a lot of rural country in Northern NH, VT, and ME within easy driving distance of the crash site.

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  25. It's implicit in this post that Fred was lying about the rag. Why? Was he the person who picked up Maura? Or was he protecting someone else who picked her up? If it's the second, then who was he protecting, and what was Fred's reasoning for doing so?

    Prior to this post, my best guess was that Fred was telling the truth about the rag being in the tailpipe as a result of his prior advice to Maura. Now, I'm not so sure. The timing of things--e.g., the extra 45 minutes a result of Maura meeting someone at a hotel, motel, etc.--makes a lot of sense.

    Also, if Maura met someone at a hotel or motel, it is surprising to me that nobody saw her . . . at least, nobody who has come forward. But, on the other hand, maybe a witness did see her and another person together, and the police have asked the witness to keep quiet about his or her observations in order to avoid tipping off the person who was with Maura.

    As always, lots of interesting things to think about. The "new information" must be juicy. It's been evident for awhile that James' take on the disappearance was that she ran away to start a new life. Such a significant change in his thoughts could only be the result of something impactful.

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    1. Hate to reply to my own post, but note that I posted this before today's entry which states that the new info is unrelated to Maura's family.

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  26. I've suspected for awhile that maybe the family was trying to help her get away from someone. The money was all they could get together and they assumed/hoped she had made it wherever the plan to go was. That's why they didn't seem to be looking that hard.

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  27. If it was someone else who shoved the rag in the tailpipe.... why would Fred Murray say he told Maura to do it?

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    1. But he never said it before it was found, like he did with his money, I don't think he knew. But he does seem to have an answer for everything.

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  28. Fred said on that Saturday they went car shopping where her boyfriend had good luck before. What boyfriend is Fred talking about? Billy was in Oklahoma. Did billy buy a vehicle in Massachusetts's?
    There's a 45 minute gap, if Mauras car had been sitting for a while, then the tailpipe wouldn't be that hot anymore, which she would of been able to put the rag in after the crash.
    Butch hesitated on identifying the driver as Maura at first. Perhaps this wasn't Maura, and it was whoever she had met up with. Something happened to Maura and whoever was trying to cover it up.
    In my opinion if something bad happened to maura, it didn't happen at the crash site.
    Why would Fred say he told Maura to put the rag there? This would of went great with his dirtbag theory instead Fred explained it away.

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  29. There are so many possible explanations for the rag in the tailpipe. Trying to commit suicide using exhaust fumes, trying to stop smoke, trying to hide the rag, a bad guy trying to stall the car, or someone trying to cause a distraction and waste police time. I have always favoured the first option (attempted suicide), but I don't think the rag alone will solve the case. It's just an odd detail.

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    1. I'm inclined to agree with the "cause a distraction and waste police time" explanation for the rag-in-the-tailpipe mystery. Here's my take (I don't think this has ever been specifically theorized):

      Maura's final wreck was an accident, plain and simple. It makes no sense that someone who had been drinking would intentionally wreck their car as part of some greater escape plan -- at least not where she ultimately crashed, which apparently had a decent sized-audience. In other words, if you're going to be drunk when you carry out your disappearing act and wrecking your car is an essential part of the overall plan, wreck your car in a more remote location. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting picked up for a DUI before you can effectively disappear. Duh.

      So, Maura has accidentally wrecked her car and is presumed to have been drinking. She declines aid from the first person who happens upon her but knows that it's only a matter of time before the police show up, where she stands a reasonable chance of being busted for DUI no matter how good her crying game might be. Also, wine has spilled all over the interior of the car, which would be difficult to explain to a cop. But Maura has no intention of sticking around...

      Now, it makes no difference whether you subscribe to the tandem driver theory or the Maura-on-a-solo-suicide-mission theory because Maura's only objective at this point in the story is to ditch the car and get as far away as possible as quickly as possible before the cops show up. (For those of you on Team Tandem Driver, this assumes that the tandem driver is not, in fact, on the scene yet, but en route.) Since this is going to have to be achieved on foot, it sure would help to be able to somehow slow the police down when they do show up, and...what do you know? Here's a rag!

      I believe it's entirely possible that Maura intentionally crammed the rag in the tailpipe as a means of possibly setting the car on fire, thus eliminating (for the moment, anyway) the immediate evidence of the spilled wine in the car's interior and providing her with just the right amount of distraction to keep the cops off her trail until she could disappear into the woods (Solo Mission Theory) or get picked up by an accomplice to her escape (Tandem Driver Theory). Regardless of one's feelings on the efficacy of Fred's alleged advice to stuff a rag in the tailpipe to keep the car from stalling (or whatever), it's plausible that Maura's idea to jam a rag in a presumably hot tailpipe in the hope that it might somehow ignite could have stemmed from such a conversation. (I realize it seems pretty odd that a father whose advice to keep a car from stalling is to cram a rag in the tailpipe would warn against a too-hot tailpipe, but it wouldn't be the strangest part of the Maura Murray story.)

      For the record, I've wanted to believe for a long time now that Maura successfully orchestrated her own non-fatal disappearance, but I'm leaning more toward the unhappy ending. It just makes the most logical sense: inner turmoil leads to the decision to end one's life, but she's going to need help in the form of lots of alcohol, and she's going to want to do it in a place that meant something to her. True, the accidental car crash screwed up the ultimate location of Maura's end, but the final objective could still be achieved. She simply ditched the car (rag in tailpipe), walked into the woods, and drank herself into oblivion. This, in my opinion, is the most straightforward explanation at this point.

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    2. I'm inclined to agree with the "cause a distraction and waste police time" explanation for the rag-in-the-tailpipe mystery. Here's my take (I don't think this has ever been specifically theorized):

      Maura's final wreck was an accident, plain and simple. It makes no sense that someone who had been drinking would intentionally wreck their car as part of some greater escape plan -- at least not where she ultimately crashed, which apparently had a decent sized-audience. In other words, if you're going to be drunk when you carry out your disappearing act and wrecking your car is an essential part of the overall plan, wreck your car in a more remote location. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting picked up for a DUI before you can effectively disappear. Duh.

      So, Maura has accidentally wrecked her car and is presumed to have been drinking. She declines aid from the first person who happens upon her but knows that it's only a matter of time before the police show up, where she stands a reasonable chance of being busted for DUI no matter how good her crying game might be. Also, wine has spilled all over the interior of the car, which would be difficult to explain to a cop. But Maura has no intention of sticking around...

      Now, it makes no difference whether you subscribe to the tandem driver theory or the Maura-on-a-solo-suicide-mission theory because Maura's only objective at this point in the story is to ditch the car and get as far away as possible as quickly as possible before the cops show up. (For those of you on Team Tandem Driver, this assumes that the tandem driver is not, in fact, on the scene yet, but en route.) Since this is going to have to be achieved on foot, it sure would help to be able to somehow slow the police down when they do show up, and...what do you know? Here's a rag!

      I believe it's entirely possible that Maura intentionally crammed the rag in the tailpipe as a means of possibly setting the car on fire, thus eliminating (for the moment, anyway) the immediate evidence of the spilled wine in the car's interior and providing her with just the right amount of distraction to keep the cops off her trail until she could disappear into the woods (Solo Mission Theory) or get picked up by an accomplice to her escape (Tandem Driver Theory). Regardless of one's feelings on the efficacy of Fred's alleged advice to stuff a rag in the tailpipe to keep the car from stalling (or whatever), it's plausible that Maura's idea to jam a rag in a presumably hot tailpipe in the hope that it might somehow ignite could have stemmed from such a conversation. (I realize it seems pretty odd that a father whose advice to keep a car from stalling is to cram a rag in the tailpipe would warn against a too-hot tailpipe, but it wouldn't be the strangest part of the Maura Murray story.)

      For the record, I've wanted to believe for a long time now that Maura successfully orchestrated her own non-fatal disappearance, but I'm leaning more toward the unhappy ending. It just makes the most logical sense: inner turmoil leads to the decision to end one's life, but she's going to need help in the form of lots of alcohol, and she's going to want to do it in a place that meant something to her. True, the accidental car crash screwed up the ultimate location of Maura's end, but the final objective could still be achieved. She simply ditched the car (rag in tailpipe), walked into the woods, and drank herself into oblivion. This, in my opinion, is the most straightforward explanation at this point.

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    3. The rag was found by the tow truck driver actually, so it didn't slow anyone down. Not one sighting on any CCTV cameras in any city, it boils down to either forced or not forced disappearance, nothing more, nothing less. All the statements about her on her and her uncontrollable spontenuity makes me think she no longer has a physical body.

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  30. I am an admirer of your work James and your steadfast determination on this case. However, the rag in the tailpipe, I find it a bit of a stretch of imagination that Fred mentioned the rag due in the Disappeared episode, and your theory that coincidently, someone she was with put it there after some kind of altercation. There's no guarantee the car would stall let alone stall and crash, that's wishful thinking.

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    1. I've always wondered about the rag, and if Fred was being honest about it. He REALLY pushes the "her life was great!" spin. The All American girl, with the perfect boyfriend and bright future. He's very vocal about how suicide should not be considered, as she would never do that, yet told family members he thought that was what happened. I think he was so adiment that it WASN'T an option because he didn't want police to automatically brush it off as such, and therefore not put effort into the case.

      When I heard "rag in the tailpipe" the first thing I thought of was suicide attempt, as do the vast majority of people before finding out more details about it. I've questioned if he just *said* he told her in the past to do that, so they wouldn't suspect she was attempting to kill herself via that method.

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  31. Why is it Citigirl,(her cousin) says she's in Quebec....does she not care if she was murdered? What this proposes is her cousin is lying, why?

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  32. I'm not sure of the exact ramifications the rag would have on the car's performance, but I had a thought. Is it possible that the rag would have caused just a small amount of trouble to driving it? Or would it be completely un-driveable? My thought was that in order to convince people that she had a car in poor working order to either get rides places or get a new vehicle if it is possible Maura put the rag in the tail pipe herself? If she was trying to show friends or her dad that the car wasn't running, she may have helped it along a little bit. Just thinking, if it was possible for that outcome, I think we should consider that she may have been using it to manipulate others into thinking she had car troubles.

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    1. Over and over again, we speculate about the 'rag in the tailpipe'. It is a mystery.

      I have written that my husband has a great deal knowledge about cars. He is not a mechanical engineer, but has over 25 years of aftermarket automotive experience. Additionally, he has worked as an expert with a local attorney in court.

      1. The rag will not allow the car to run for @ more than .5mile. It will plug up
      the exhaust system by emitting more fumes into the system. The
      system is designed to allow the removal of spent gasses (the byproduct of
      the combustion process).

      2. The rag location (i.e. closer to the muffler does not make any difference).

      3. The faster the car is going the more quickly the car will stall out. The rag
      could not have been placed at the previous stop (i.e. the gas station).

      4. The rag would not cause the car to fill with carbon monoxide. Thus, the
      idea Maura placed the rag in order to commit suicide is unlikely. As a
      nursing student she would know other ways to end her life.

      5. The rag can be placed right after the car has been running. Yes, the
      pipe is hot, but not to the extent the rag cannot quickly be placed in the
      system.

      My husband feels the rag may be a red herring.

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    2. I've thought the rag was put in the tailpipe at wherever Maura got gas (was it right down the street or in Woodville) and that whoever put it stopped and picked her up. The person would have been familiar to her because she just saw them at the gas station. He probably followed her but if it were the late-alibi contractor guy, he lived right there and could have offered her a place to go to. Her guard would be down because she was drunk and just saw the guy. What are the odds of running into a bad guy you just saw who lives right there?

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  33. Could the rag in the tailpipe be some kind of signal to her dad- like "I made it"?

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  34. Well, if she was killed by someone she knew, I think the reason fo her trip is a key to solving this. Hopefully with the new information, police will be able to bring long overdue closure to the family of Maura Murray.

    If the information uncovered so far is correct and she was promiscuous, it may be possible that one of these relationships had crosses a lint. If Fred is correct about the birth control and pregnancy can be ruled out, I have to wonder if she had a sexual relationship with a married individual, either from her time at West Point, or more likely, her current school. The phone call causing her distress could have been from this person calling off the relationship. Perhaps this person suggested a romantic meeting in Vermont. As part of the same story almost as old as affairs themselves, this person could have lured her with the possibility of keeping the relationship going by spending a week together when he actually was planning her demise to protect his marriage.

    If this scenario is a possibility, I would be curious to know the whereabouts of any professors, student faculty interns, track team members, etc. who were married at the time and were away from the school for a day or two at that same time. It seems Maura was unable to make reservations in Vermont, maybe this person simply told her to meet him and he would have the reservations set. This could explain the amount of alcohol (usually part of the plan when planning a romantic getaway), where it went, the week away from school, etc. It could also expain the weird "silence" of people at the weekend party before she disappeared claiming they did not remember much - for whatever reason they do not want to give up the name of the person she was with. No one was overly concerned about her leaving "alone" after the party because she was with someone all night,who unbeknownst to investigators, also left with her. Etc.Stress from problems with Billy could also have been released on the getaway. Could also fit with the new revelations recently discovered...Incidental car crash, Maura puts rag in pipe like instructed by her Father, calls individual to pick her up or was trailed by him...Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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  35. Well, if she was killed by someone she knew, I think the reason fo her trip is a key to solving this. Hopefully with the new information, police will be able to bring long overdue closure to the family of Maura Murray.

    If the information uncovered so far is correct and she was promiscuous, it may be possible that one of these relationships had crosses a lint. If Fred is correct about the birth control and pregnancy can be ruled out, I have to wonder if she had a sexual relationship with a married individual, either from her time at West Point, or more likely, her current school. The phone call causing her distress could have been from this person calling off the relationship. Perhaps this person suggested a romantic meeting in Vermont. As part of the same story almost as old as affairs themselves, this person could have lured her with the possibility of keeping the relationship going by spending a week together when he actually was planning her demise to protect his marriage.

    If this scenario is a possibility, I would be curious to know the whereabouts of any professors, student faculty interns, track team members, etc. who were married at the time and were away from the school for a day or two at that same time. It seems Maura was unable to make reservations in Vermont, maybe this person simply told her to meet him and he would have the reservations set. This could explain the amount of alcohol (usually part of the plan when planning a romantic getaway), where it went, the week away from school, etc. It could also expain the weird "silence" of people at the weekend party before she disappeared claiming they did not remember much - for whatever reason they do not want to give up the name of the person she was with. No one was overly concerned about her leaving "alone" after the party because she was with someone all night,who unbeknownst to investigators, also left with her. Etc.Stress from problems with Billy could also have been released on the getaway. Could also fit with the new revelations recently discovered...Incidental car crash, Maura puts rag in pipe like instructed by her Father, calls individual to pick her up or was trailed by him...Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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  36. I'm not sure if this has been put forth as a possible scenario (I don't have time right now to read through all the comments), but my first thought about the rag in the tailpipe was that Maura might have put it there intentionally to cause an accident, if her intention was to stage a car accident in which she would disappear. Maybe she thought the accident would look more realistic if it was actually caused by some kind of mechanical incident? If this was the case, maybe her thought was that people would assume that after the accident, she wandered into the woods, injured, and died of exposure. When in reality she got into a tandem car and was driven away?

    Does that make any sense? Maybe a bit far-fetched, but if someone really, truly wants to disappear...a lot of planning would go into it.

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  37. Hello! Not sure if these 2 things have been said already somewhere, but I wonder if the crack in the windshield could go along with this possible version of events mentioned in the blog post above. What I mean is, maybe she was in her car having a fight in a driveway with someone outside of the car and maybe the person she was fighting with outside of the car punched the windshield with a gloved hand or threw something at it as she was driving away from that situation.

    Also, about her father changing from making a plea for her to come back and then later changing his plea to an abductor... A thought popped into my mind that perhaps there was a plan between Maura and Fred in place to help get her away so he "faked" the initial plea because he was planning on meeting her at a rendezvous point (though the crash wasn't part of the "plan" maybe he thought she would still find a way there) and when he couldn't find her at the planned meeting point, he realized something went wrong and thought it could be a possible abduction or her getting lost and needing help. Just a thought. I am new-ish to the case so haven't read anything and am just trying to offer a fresh perspective!

    -Angie

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  38. Sorry for double posts, but I meant to write one more idea.

    Perhaps the instance where she is in distress and her supervisor asks what is wrong and she says "my sister," in correlation with the "death in the family" email(s) to teachers has a connection. Could someone have called her and lied to her telling her something happened to her sister and she thought she needed to get home right away? I don't know if this thought could work since she would then try and call to verify with her sister and/or parents to see if it were true. I guess the only way this might work is if her sister and parents were in on it and it was simply a ploy to get her to come back home for some reason.... seems like a stretch but maybe this idea could be morphed into something more possible?

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  39. If the rag was "way up in there" how did the police know it was there? it had to have been visible on fairly casual inspection. Which means it wasn't jammed right up into the muffler.

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  40. These were my exact thoughts on the rag too.
    If you were in the fathers shoes, Maura is missing and the result is the same whether she took her own life,was murdered or simply had a melt down and succumbed to the harsh elements. They want her found and they know that if the police think she most likely killed herself then their efforts in finding her will be greatly diminished. If that were my daughter I may have said the same thing once I found out about the rag. The longer time goes by , sadly it seems the less likely it is that she is still alive. I've wondered whether any web sleuths have ever worked out the distances she could have travelled Into the woods from the crash site. Does anyone know this and also whether she had a flashlight? Adrenalin could also have helped her travel further afield than we might expect.

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  41. I found out the reason for the rag in the tailpipe. Maura was having car problems. Her car blew a cylinder, and it there were heavy exhaust fumes coming out her tailpipe. Fred told her she couldn't drive her car with that much smoke coming out of her tailpipe without the police stopping her. So, as a temporary solution, Fred suggested to Maura to put the rag in her car's tailpipe.

    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2014/01/28/maura-murray/
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    For Maura Murray, the weekend prior to her disappearance had been a whirlwind. She was in the middle of her nursing program, as well as going on the clinical rotations that were part of her junior-year curriculum. She also worked as a security guard at an art gallery and in the dorms. At around 10:20 p.m. on the Thursday before she disappeared, she received a phone call, and later in her shift that night, she became so upset that her supervisor escorted her back to her dorm room. ... That weekend, her father came up from his job in Connecticut to help Maura find a new car. Maura’s 1996 Saturn “kind of blew a cylinder” and was “smoking something fierce,” according to Fred Murray. “I said, ‘You can’t drive this car. The cops will pull you over in a heartbeat,’” he recalls. As a temporary fix, Fred says he suggested she put a rag inside the tailpipe to hide the smoke. He says he withdrew $4,000 over the course of eight ATM transactions and that on that Saturday he took Maura to purchase a car in Northampton. They ended up a couple of thousand dollars short, though, so Fred figured he’d go home, round up some more money, and come back another time. Father and daughter drove back to campus and went to dinner at a brewpub in Amherst with one of Maura’s friends. Later, Maura dropped off Fred at his hotel and drove his new Toyota Corolla to an on-campus party, where she drank with friends. ... Maura left the party at 2:30 a.m. and headed back to Fred’s hotel. At 3:30 a.m., while driving through Hadley, she crashed into a guardrail. The police showed up, but no charges were filed—and by all accounts Maura, though visibly shaken, was not given a Breathalyzer test. Close to $10,000 worth of damage was done to the car.
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