Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I've Won An Important First Step Towards Getting Records Related to Petrit Vasi's Accident


The wheels of justice turn slowly.

I've been quietly trying for the better part of a year, now, to gain access to the full file on Petrit Vasi's accident, which occurred the night of Maura Murray's breakdown shortly before she disappeared. Some have suggested Maura was responsible for the accident or that she let someone (a pizza delivery driver, perhaps) borrow her car and it was that person who struck Vasi. Personally, I don't think this is the case. I think it's a totally unrelated accident and the timing is coincidental. However, I'm all for due diligence. Let's see the reports.

However, the records secretary at the Amherst Police Department -- Cpt. Jennifer Gunderson -- told me the full file was not available because it was "an open and active investigation." That raised some red flags for me as an old-school journalist. Vasi's case cannot be open and active because there is no chance for prosecution, as the statute of limitations for a hit and run (if that's even what it was) has long since expired.

So in September, I filed for redress. And finally yesterday, I received a notice in the mail that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also believes Amherst PD have been playing fast and loose with open records laws. The police department must respond within 10 days.

I'll keep you posted.


61 comments:

  1. Nicely done! I'm not surprised they would make it impossible. A lot of public bodies (school districts are infamous for this) like to deny things under Sunshine laws. Perseverance pays off!

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  2. Have always believed she was involved in that accident!!!

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  3. Well done James let's hope this is another step towards closure

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  4. Great Job.. It may be just be a coincendance but you never know until its investigated.
    I have always thought Maura hit Vasi, loaned her car out and they did, or Maura saw who did.
    Alot of times in offices, you can slip away for 5-15 minutes without being noticed.
    Maura should of had at least one 15 min break on Thursday night.

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  5. AWESOME ... good job James. If that idea I keep arguing for has any basis, perhaps some indication of it will emerge from this. Really great job staying with this.

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  6. I don't know if "wheels of justice turn slowly" is the right metaphor. It is too dignified. More like the "blocks of beauracratic apathy and corruption don't roll easily."

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    1. 'More like the blocks of bureaucratic apathy and corruption don't roll easily'

      A truer sentence was never written!

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    2. Good job James, if anything it could rule her out of that suspicion.: -)

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  7. Good job!

    You're totally right they have no basis to call this an open investigation.

    However, your point on the statute of limitations is probably not 100% correct - in many cases if the suspect is not living "openly and notoriously" in the jurisdiction, the statute tolls/pauses. In other words if Maura were the suspect and showed up tomorrow, statute of limitations likely wouldn't be a viable defense for her (since she's been "missing" since just after the incident in question).

    That being said, I 100% agree that in this case the PD likely has no valid basis for deeming this an open investion.

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    1. That is a good point. Thanks for raising it. My understanding is that they have no suspect and no idea who did this. I wonder if the appropriately justified denial - which one has to think may be forthcoming - will suddenly say that a suspect exists who is not known to be living in the jurisdiction.

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    2. It would not surprise me at all if they were to respond that they have a person of interest whose whereabouts are unknown. Of course even receiving that response would be a huge nugget of information (because it would strongly hint that Maura is at least a person of interest).

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  8. In my opinion the only reason compelling enough for her to have run off to start a new life in Canada - or wherever (as I believe is the theory you lean most toward) would have been some sort of involvement with the Vasi accident. All of the other incidents in her life do not seem like enough fuel to just up and leave.

    So you don't believe she had anything to do with the Vasi accident, but still left of her own free will to pursue a new life?

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    1. I agree. If she was really running from Billy, she wouldn't have called him so much & written "love ya stud"

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    2. The problem involving the possibility of Maura striking Vasi is that the accident would have to have taken place some time during her shift at the dorm security desk.

      This is the timeline we know of confirmed events of that evening that took place during Maura's shift...

      *10:10 p.m. - 10:38 p.m. (Maura speaks to her sister Kathleen on her cell phone.)

      *12:07 a.m. - 12:14 a.m. (Maura calls her boyfriend Billy and speaks with him for 7 minutes.)

      *12:20 a.m. (Police arrive to find Petrit Vasi unconscious at the intersection of Triangle and Mattoon Streets in Amherst, one mile from Maura's dorm according to google maps.)

      *1:00 a.m. (Maura has her breakdown at work and can only say, "My sister, my sister"...and is then escorted back to her dorm by her supervisor. Her shift would have ended at 1:45.)

      *3:40 a.m. (Maura calls Dominos Pizza and talks to somebody for two minutes.)

      The problem we have here is we don't know when exactly Petrit was struck by the car. We know police arrived at 12:20 a.m. but we have no idea how long he was lying in the street beforehand. It also doesn't help matters that Petrit was pretty drunk himself when he was struck. He doesn't even remember leaving his friend's house that night. So it's hard to fit an exact time frame where Maura could have snuck away from her shift and hit Vasi.

      It's also worth noting that Maura's supervisor, Karen Mayotte, was asked by James if she thought it was possible that Maura might have struck Petrit Vasi, she said no. This was her exact quote...

      "I do not think that she left her shift and was involved at the hit and run accident, for a number of reasons. First of all, the parking lot takes about five minutes to get to your car, and by the time you drove to Amherst Center, had the hit and run, drive back and walk back to the dorm for your shift...she would have gotten caught leaving her post. Her ID card to get into the dorm at that point would be deactivated, as she should already be in there working, thus she'd be stuck outside waiting for someone to open the door, then sneak in to sit back at the desk. And her stuff was sprawled on the desk...nursing book, cell phone, and I don't see her sneaking away, and then taking her book out again. The supervisors are always rotating around Southwest to check up on the receptionists. Thus the odds of her being able to go get the car, do the drive, get back to the dorm...nope, don't see it happening. As I tell my first graders when learning about probability....very highly unlikely."

      In addition, there were several hit and run accidents reported on the UMass campus during that academic year according to a 2004 online article that was written while Vasi was in the hospital.

      Given all these circumstances, it does NOT seem likely that Maura was involved in the hit and run unless she had the ability to teleport.

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    3. I was (incorrectly it would seem) thinking that James' asking for details on Dominoes employees circa 2004 in his recent posts was in regard to her potentially having had another boyfriend/male acquaintance that may have worked there, and that she may have lent the car to them and THEY had the accident with Vasi, as is a semi-popular theory.

      I'm not saying this is what I believe, but I don't personally think $79 in illegal credit card charges for pizza, crashing her father's car (even if it was brand new), and having switched from West Point to UMass (even if she was on the verge of being kicked out anyway) would be enough to make her want to just leave her life behind and take off to start anew. Now, if a potential hit and run with life threatening injuries figured into that mix (even if she wasn't behind the wheel of her vehicle at the time), then I'd start to lean that way a little more. As it stands that theory is one of the less-believable to me right now.

      Would a potential pregnancy and/or Billy's alleged cheating be enough to make her leave? I'm not sure, but it still doesn't seem as likely to me.

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    4. On the other hand it looks a while lot like she called Billy in a panic right after she hit Vasi, then went back to her post and had her breakdown. Sort of eerily perfect timing.

      As for the supervisor not thinking Maura had time to sneak out, wouldn't be the first case of a supervisor being less aware of employees actions than they thought/assumed.

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    5. You're coming from the angle that she left as a permanent thing. There's really no evidence either way to say how long she expected to be gone. There's opportunity to assume forever or temporary trip.

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    6. I believe its been said Vasi left his friends house around 12 midnight.
      Early on in the investigation the only call that was spoke about was the call to Kathleen at 10:10. The phone call to Billy was Never mentioned.
      Why?? Its possible Maura was on her 15 min break around this time.

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    7. The time it would take to retrieve and walk back from her car would take up 10 of the 15 minutes of her break. That would make driving anywhere rather pointless.

      I guess it's not impossible something could have happened but we still need to know more facts first. What were the break rules of working the security desk? Were workers allowed to choose when they would take their break? Did they have to check in with their supervisor before going on their break? Where did Maura usually go on her breaks? Why didn't Karen Mayotte mention to James anything about a break?

      I'm honestly not trying to go against the grain here. On the surface, it seems like a good theory. But like the possibility of her coming across a random killer in the middle of Nowhere, New Hampshire, about a dozen events would have to fall perfectly into place for this to have happened.

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  9. Maura gets pizza, Vasi is run over, Maura freaks out and has to be escorted to her room, she gets in a wreck and disappears.

    Too much of a coincidence. It had to be her who ran down the guy.

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    1. It's been 10 years. Where is she? Why permanently leave when the statute will run out eventually?

      Though people in distress probably don't think about statutes, but mentally escaping for a time.

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    2. not sure what the law is in Mass but in most states the statute of limitations is suspended if you run away until you come back. Otherwise a criminal could escape prosecution by running away until the time period was up.

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    3. jjmcgr is correct. It is set up this was because otherwise people would just hide for 6,7,10 years (whatever the statute is for that crime) and then show back up.

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    4. Maybe someone can explain to me the statute of limitations in this case or the case in general.

      Maura has never been charged with the crime or conclusively connected to the crime of running over Vasi. Her car has been in police custody for the past decade and never, to my knowledge, used or investigated for evidence in the Vasi case. Maura running over Vasi has been pure speculation from parts of the public since day one.

      If Maura came home to Massachusetts tomorrow and announced to the world, "I'm back!" she couldn't be arrested for the Vasi incident because there has never been a case built up against her for it, right? As far as I know, there has never been any evidence left over from the hit and run itself. Even if Maura was in fact responsible, I doubt it could ever be conclusively proven in court or otherwise. So that makes any argument of statute of limitations pretty moot.

      If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.

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    5. Andy you are indeed wrong. A "statute of limitations" is basically an "affirmative defense" written into the law.

      If I am charged with a crime after the length of time specified by the statute has passed, I can plead the statute of limitations as my defense. For this reason, prosecutors typically wouldn't charge somebody after that period.

      However, there is nothing that prevents law enforcement from investigating indefinitely and if they happen to have a suspect who they cannot find (like Maura), the statute typically does not apply to that person. In many cases you must even be living in the state where the crime was committed (or otherwise subject to their jurisdiction via reciprocity, etc.) or the clock "stops ticking."

      There is no requirement that they name a suspect within any discussion period or even have one in mind because the statute of limitations is personal to the defendant, not a limitation on the course of an investigation per se.

      The policy behind the statute of limitations is twofold: a) to provide predictability so that one day you're not out of the blue charged with a crime that happened 50 years ago and b) because it's much harder to mount an effective defense after so much time has passed (witnesses may be dead, records have been destroyed, memory failed etc.).

      The policy behind the statute not applying to people who are missing or otherwise unreachable or untouchable (living in a place with no extradition, etc.) is that the law shouldn't provide an inventive to commit a crime, disappear for a few years, then come back Scott free. Such a defendant can always argue at trial that it's been too long to rely on the prosecution witnesses, etc. but they do not have a statutory defense along those lines.

      tl;dr Statute of limitations is like a stopwatch that runs only when a suspect's whereabouts are known and they are subject to jurisdiction of the investigative body in question.

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  10. "I agree. If she was really running from Billy, she wouldn't have called him so much & written "love ya stud"


    My response to this is: if he was controlling, your comment goes out the window. She could've been wanting to leave (she dated others) yet still carried on to appease hiim.

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    1. I understand he was controlling but there aren't too many signs that I know of that she was fed up enough to leave her life to escape him... Cheating, yes, but it seemed like she loved him regardless... If her problems with billy were so bad she had to get outta dodge (and move to Canada), it would have been more cut and dry. People would've known about it and someone would have said, "oh yeah, she had to get away from that monster"... We aren't seeing much of that.
      I dated an emotionally abusive control freak once, and there is proof (emails, texts, witnesses) that I was FED UP and needed to get out.
      I just think IF she was in NH to escape from something/someone (temporarily or enroute to Canada), Vasi makes A LOT of sense. It would also explain the silence of family/friends, Fred's visit and the $4k. I'm writing this because I was surprised to hear James say he thinks Vasi was coincidental. Why?
      My other theories are: secret boyfriend killed her (man smoking cigarette), or she somehow died while drinking/partying with Sara and Kate. These are because of the evidence of her drinking and driving in NH. If I was running from the law, I wouldn't be drunk driving.

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  11. If any of you were on Webslueths, you'd realize the idea of her running him down is so slight to none. Maura was on a very short break, something like 15 minutes. She had her car in a lot that was over 15 minutes away. She had assigned parking, like every UMASS student. Some people have tried stating that maybe she was parked out front of her job, but that is impossible too, as its reserved for staff and her supervisor very distinctly says she WALKED Maura back to her dorm room.

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    1. What if pizza guy pulled up to the dorm to return the car and Maura took her break to drop him back off at Dominoes to clean up for the night, hitting Vasi on the way. Would that geographically make sense? That makes pizza guy her tandem in NH, then he intentionally harms her (rag in tailpipe, anyone?) or she can't handle the whole mess and drinks/Tylenol pms herself to death. Rather than come forward with her body AND the Vasi info, pizza guy hides her body in a dumpster and comes quietly back to UMASS.

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    2. That still makes no sense. Fred has stated the car was running badly. It stalled when used for regular city driving. Why would a pizza delivery person use a not trustworthy car to deliver pizza? And there has been no proven link between her and any pizza worker. And furthermore, if I even pretend to believe your theory, that doesn't explain for the fact that she only had 15 minutes for a break. She'd have to drive him back, drop him off, come back,hit Vasi, park in her student assigned spot, walk back. Not enough time.

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    3. There's a link to her calling Dominoes at ungodly hours & the car made it to NH... I agree that this scenario isn't likely, but it's not impossible. She might've had a 30 minute dinner break, who knows... U can't say for certain that it makes no sense... Yes, I'm totally speculating... But you're stating "facts" that aren't actual facts...

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    4. It's .9 miles, Maura could have run there and back in 15 mins. I think she could have driven it.

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    5. "Some people have tried stating that maybe she was parked out front of her job, but that is impossible too, as its reserved for staff..."

      Wasn't Maura Staff?

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    6. 'Wasn't Maura Staff?'

      Since she was technically a student, I doubt she would have been given the parking privileges of official staff.

      Her supervisor Karen Mayotte would have told James if she were allowed to park there.

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    7. Just because she wasn't supposed to park there doesn't mean she didn't. She also wasn't supposed to steal card information, but she did...

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  12. I highly doubt Vasi was lying or hours before EMS and cops got to the scene. She was working, as the person above noted.

    She had been talking to the same sister who was later busted for weed.
    And she could've just named sister to not discuss a cheating bf or her minor legal snafus.

    Please, everyone stop discussing hypotheticals before evidence is found. It turns to fact over time and muddles things.

    Yes, we know very little concrete things.

    Ruminating and thinking of all these scenarios is hurting us in our pursuits of truth.

    Until a new lead comes up, we need to step back.

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    1. Or... Until a new lead comes up, we can discuss hypotheticals and go through all the scenarios in pursuit of the truth. That's why we're here, no?!

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    2. There's too many quincendances
      To not look at this as a possibility for Maura needing to leave.
      All of the theories have hypotheticals in them because Why Maura left, Where she was heading, and her whereabouts are unknown.

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    3. ...yip. everyone's chewing on the same stuff over & over & over again. And keep in m i n d we're all chewin' only on info thats been disclosed, repeated & regurgitated so now we're accepting "facts" that might-not-be. #ragintailpipedetail, #itemsinthecar, #whathappenedtothe$4k

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    4. QUOTING ANONYMOUS @ 3:34:

      "... And she COULD'VE (emphasis added by me) just named sister to not discuss a cheating bf or her minor legal snafus.

      "Please, everyone stop discussing hypotheticals before evidence is found. It turns to fact over time and muddles things."

      So is this what you mean? --> PREVIEW OF MAY 2016: "We know that Maura just named her sister to avoid not discuss a cheating bf or her minor legal snafus."

      You make a good point.

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  13. I believe Maura is/was extremely crafty. There is a possibility she had found a way to park a little closer to the dorm she lived in, which I believe is right next to the dorm she was working at that night. I think it is very possible she snuck out quickly for pizza or coffee. I also think somebody else could have been driving the Saturn that night. If the Saturn hit Vasi, I believe it was the first of three and maybe four incidents with the car in that 5 day span.

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  14. It just seems to be too much of a coincidence that Petrit Vasi is hit, less than a mile from her workplace and less than an hour later Maura is so distraught she literally cannot function. Is it possible when she said "my sister" she was indicating that she needed to talk to her sister? She was close to her sister and they seemed to have confided in one another about their problems. Maybe she wanted to call her sister to tell her about hitting Vasi. It also seems quite coincidental that the very next day her father shows up with $4000 to buy her a new car. One other thing I found strange was that Fred mentioned that they found a car but didn't have enough money to buy it...if Maura needed a new car SO desperately that Fred had to come there immediately without any time to stop at the bank to withdraw the money all at once, why wouldn't he just simply write a check or put the remaining balance on a debit or credit card? That never sat right with me. It just doesn't sound realistic and truthfully it would probably have take more time to stop at 8 ATM machines than it would to make one trip to a local branch. IMO.

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  15. If what Andy surmises is correct, then MM's fate points to abduction or murder.

    Again, Occam's Razor.

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  16. Just thinking here...
    1.)What if pizza guy is who supplied MM with credit card #'s? (perhaps her purchases were tests to see if the card worked before using it for whatever "big thing" they were planning)
    2.) Let's say MM loans car to pizza guy and he/she hits Vasi? MM is calling Dominoes later that night to find out why he hasn't returned her car yet or possibly why there is damage to the car.
    3.)Dad brings $4k to fix the Saturn and cover all this up so that MM doesn't get pinned for the accident. (he may or may not know about pizza guy... doesn't matter)
    4.) MM crashes Dads car making the situation worse...dad fears that this will lead police to somehow find out about the Vasi connection.
    5.) MM decides to go to Vermont to hide out for a while, checks out a few places to stay there and prints directions.
    6.) Dad changes plan, tells MM to go to Bartlett instead, HE is tandem driver/smoking man by car.
    7.) Maura has accident while driving, grabs random stuff in a panic, tells bus driver she is ok and called AAA knowing that Dad is close behind.
    8.) Dad picks up MM walking away from scene and either A.)Helps her relocate to Canada or Virginia area or B.) She somehow dies from head injury (undetected by bus driver)and Dad had been covering all these years.

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    1. OR
      Keep steps 1-5 the same...
      6.)Now let's make pizza guy either a tandem driver or he is IN the car with Maura (either driving or in passenger seat_.
      7.) Same as #7 from above but pizza guy is now in place of Dad.
      8.) After the crash, things could go 2 ways: A.) If pizza guy was in the car then they walked off together and he has done something to her. B.) If pizza guy was tandem driver then he picked her up shortly after bus driver spoke to her and then either took her away and theyre hiding or he did something sinister to her.

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    2. The main problem with all of these "someone else driving" scenarios is that the owner of the car is typically NOT legally responsible for torts or crimes committed by a borrower unless lending them the vehicle was negligent in and of itself (e.g. they were visibly very drunk, you handed them your keys and said, 'hey why don't you take it for a joyride!').

      No way anybody is dropping off the face of the earth because someone who borrowed their car hit someone. Also very very unlikely that she'd cover up for someone who did that (much less Fred covering up as well) because actively participating in a cover up like that is a very serious crime.

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    3. I'm with you until #6. I don't think Fred knows what happened in New Hampshire. He wouldn't beg the FBI to get involved, write letters to the governor, search on private property every weekend for years, etc. He may know more than he says but you can see his pain. As a parent, I just really feel for him and I'm pretty certain the crash in NH, and whatever happened after, were not part of the plan.

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  17. Not sure if it has been mentioned yet or if it is even relevant but Maura was headed AWAY from Burlington/Stowe VT (the places she had printed directions to).
    Do we know where she was coming from? If she was seen in Littleton (Butsons market was there) she would not have been far from Rt.302 which would have taken her to Bartlett much faster than heading over 112, through Lincoln and then to North Conway and then Bartlett. Why was she in Littleton?

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    1. If I understood James correctly, the Bustons market she was allegedly seen in was in Woodsville, where there now is a Shaw's.

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    2. Bear Notch Road to Bartlett or Kangamangus Highway is generally closed in February by New Hampshire State Police because it is weather related dangerous.

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    3. It's never been suggested she was in Littleton. The Butsons/Shaws she stopped at was closer to the route she was on (closer to Haverhill)/

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    4. ? ... You: "If she was seen in Littleton (Butsons market was there) ..."

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  18. Maura was entrusted to work security at the school after the police did a sting operation at her dorm and caught her using a credit card number she stole from another student?

    That might tell you a lot about how on top of things the heads of security at the school really were.

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    1. Being at the lobby desk is security in only the loose sense of the word. It is a work-study job.

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  19. Did Maura have any tattoos, identifying marks? I came across a picture In the article, A Special Report, Maura is Missing, of Fred and Maura, on a hiking trip. In the picture, Maura has her sleeves rolled up a bit, and it looks like something on her arm ( tatoo, bruise). Also in this picture Maura has a black backpack on.

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  20. I don't give much credence to the Vasi theory personally. Mostly because there are too many other things that happened prior to Maura disappearing that do not make sense, or add up, and people who are not being very forthright about things. I find it hard to believe that those things (like the "party" in the dorm) are not connected to why/how she disappeared. I don't think the veil of secrecy would still be around those things if they weren't connected to what happened.

    I think this idea that a lot of people seem to have that it would be too much of a coincidence for Vasi to get seriously injured in a hit a run, and for Maura to suddenly have an emotional breakdown in the hours following it, is fairly illogical. Some people are so desperately trying to make a connection between the two things, but if they step back and stop trying to connect them, and look instead at *how* they are trying to connect them, they might see how little it really makes sense. Trying to connect a girl getting very emotionally upset with the logic that "it can't be a coincidence that someone got hit by a car that same night!" is more than just flimsy; it's actually ridiculous. Just take a second to think about it, really. Girl is upset=must be a hit and run? That math just doesn't add up if you use common sense. There is nothing beyond her getting very emotional that in any way connects her to the Vasi case. That is the ONLY proof anyone has that she was involved in it; but despite that, apparently for some people there is no other possibility.

    The biggest argument I see against Maura running away is that there wasn't a good enough reason for her to run (unless she hit Vasi). People are so certain that they know all the reasons she might have wanted to run, even though there are clearly odd things that happened, with no real believable explanation for them, prior to her disappearing. It's assumed if she ran, than the reason was something known to us as at least a possibility. I think that's one reason that people are so stuck on the Vasi accident as being connected, because it fills in the motive. Problem is, that we are clearly missing parts of the story and pieces to the puzzle; to say she couldn't have run because she didn't have a good enough reason operates under the assumption that you know all of the possible reasons she might have had. There is no way for any of us to know what else might have been going on that she kept quiet. My bet is that her friends Kate and Sara know. I believe that what they know, and what they did with Maura in those days prior are connected to her disappearance in some way, regardless of what actually happened to her.

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    1. You can not deny the phone call conversation time line Thursday night. On top of the letter Maura Murray is not a missing person. Which was put up and deleted so quickly. There is a lot of miss information like she was pregnant to push you away from the VASI accident. All but one that letter. Then add a family that that never in their life thought social media would explode like it did. Her personal issues are no longer relevant but the VASI hit and run even though statute of limitations expired. It still is the one thing I still return to. People will always judge.

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  21. Also; I've seen it said as well that she was such a poor criminal there is no way she could have pulled off a disappearance; I find this amusing. There are lots of criminals who manage to avoid getting caught for years, then suddenly do something really stupid and get picked up. Doesn't mean they didn't get away with a hell of a lot more in the meantime. I have a relative who is less than law abiding, and not necessarily all that bright, but somehow he's very rarely been caught doing anything bad. People also seem to have the idea that it's incredibly difficult for someone to assume another identity and not get caught. It's not. People do it all the time, successfully, usually in order to steal money. It's the exact same information that criminals use to take out credit cards in other people's names that could be used instead to assume another identity. and if you have no odd financial transactions popping up, you are even less likely to have any reason to realize that your identity is being used by someone else. Even easier to assume the identity of someone who is already dead and isn't going to complain. Since Maura was using stolen credit cards, it's not a very big stretch to assume that not all of her acquaintances were law-abiding either, and therefore also not so much of a stretch to think that she could have gotten in touch with a friend of a friend who could have supplied her with the necessarily documents to start a new life.

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  22. Very interesting Antonia I like your thinking..But I believe she is deceased I can't prove it and I could be wrong she has to know her family is in so much pain without her..And not to call her family Especially her dad. There is no way she is alive and to have her family suffer and worry for years not knowing her fate no I can't fathom Maura would do that to her family...I just can't ..hopefully soon the truth will come out..j.s.

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  23. Up to this point there has been no evidence whatsoever linking MM with Vasi's injury. I share the stance of James Renner that MM was not involved, and rather the incident was coincidental and logistically not probable.

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