Friday, December 30, 2016

This Blog is Locked as an Archive

As of today, I am locking this blog as is and disabling further comments.

Going forward, this blog will serve as an archive of clues in the case and a record of the span of time I spent looking for Maura Murray. I began the search in 2010, when I believed Maura may have been the victim of a homicide or kidnapping. Over the years, I have become convinced that she had a plan to leave and has remained hidden in order to protect a child. As such, I am no longer actively searching for Maura Murray - in fact, I hope she remains hidden.

Of course, I cannot be 100% sure. Not in a world of Ariel Castros. So the blog remains for other people to parse through the evidence. It will remain as an archive until Maura is found safe or until there is a major break in the case.

I have disabled comments because I am focusing my time on other projects and can't responsibly keep up with deleting the insults and threats that come through.

For those new to the mystery, please spend some time clicking through the documents section for reliable information.

My book on the case is available here in print, ebook, and as an audiobook.

There is an excellent podcast about the case here.

Here is the official SubReddit for the case, where you can debate.

Thank you, constant readers - especially those silent types who came back day after day just out of curiosity. Thanks for your help. In our best moments, we showed what good social media can do for unresolved cases.

Best,
James Renner

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Did Maura Take Off With More Money Than We Thought?

Here's a comment that came in today from a reader who works with financial aide:

I'm a university academic advisor with expertise in financial aid, so I wanted to offer some insight on this.

At a school like UMass, most students receive the following types of financial aid:
-- scholarships
-- Pell Grant
-- Direct Loans
-- PLUS Loan

Direct Loans are fairly small ($3,750 per semester for juniors/seniors), but the PLUS Loan exists to supplement whatever is not covered by the other forms of financial aid. The PLUS Loan can also provide a substantial refund (often around $4,000+) to be used for books, supplies, and other expenses.

The PLUS Loan is always in the parent's name, and the PLUS Loan refund always goes to the parent unless the parent authorizes the school's financial aid office to issue the refund directly to the student. Some parents use private loans (such as Sallie Mae) instead of the PLUS Loan, but usually the PLUS Loan has a lower interest rate.

HERE'S THE IMPORTANT THING: Maura went missing around the exact time she would have gotten her spring semester refund check. If you look at UMass academic calendar for spring 2017, for example, you'll see that classes start on January 23, and the last day to drop or add classes is February 6. Financial aid disburses after the last day to drop or add classes, and students receive refunds approximately one week after the last day to drop or add classes -- putting it squarely on February 13.

If Maura was indeed planning to disappear, she may have been waiting to receive her financial aid refund check. She could have picked it up, cashed it, and left town.

Universities cannot release any information related to student financial records because of FERPA. They can't even release information to parents unless the student signs a consent form, but they would of course release information to law enforcement if warranted.

Monday, November 28, 2016

No, I Do Not Think Maura Is a Sociopath.

The latest Missing Maura Murray podcast is out, today. It's a kind of Best Of episode, catching listeners up on all that has happened so far. They revisit episode 6, which was recorded over a year ago. That was the episode where I called Maura a sociopath (based on actions like credit card fraud, identity theft, affairs, etc.) and said she was "at her best when she was with Billy Rausch."

Boy do I wish I could take that back.

I have since learned that Bill Rausch lost his job in D.C. after coworkers claimed he assaulted a woman in the office, pushing her down onto a table in a drunken state when they were alone. That's one of several alarming stories I've heard about Bill.

To be clear, I no longer believe Maura was a sociopath. I believe she was a survivor. I believe that when she left UMass, she was leaving Bill behind as well as other sources of stress in her life.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's Going On With the Blog?

As some have noticed, there were some major and minor changes to the blog in the last few weeks. I have reverted some posts to drafts (meaning they can no longer be viewed). There are two reasons for this: I'm trying to make it easier for Maura to come out of hiding (assuming she really did take off). Early on, I felt it important to share some of the more salacious details of her antics at West Point and UMass, because a couple of the people involved were treated as potential suspects and the case might be a homicide, still. Also, I'm just tired of the anger and negativity that surrounds this case. Obviously I believe the Murrays and Maura's friends from UMass have info that has never been shared, but calling them out on it in weekly posts (and in the comments from readers) isn't making any difference and only adds to the bad blood, there. They've made their decisions - for whatever reason - and they don't owe us anything.

On that note, if there are any particularly egregious posts you think should be reverted to draft, email me a link at jameswrenner@gmail.com

What should remain, in the end, is a website that shares all the primary documents and important clues we've uncovered since beginning in 2011.

I am relentlessly trying to rein in the comments, too. Though sometimes I fall short there.

This is the result of much soul-searching in 2016, instigated by the book's release, my sobriety, my family, my career, and even this damned election. I think there's a better way to do what we're doing.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Phone Problem

I want to believe Maura is alive. I want to believe she pulled it off, found somewhere safe, a better life. I will never believe she went up there without telling someone - and if that's true, there must be a good reason that person did not share that info. And I believe Maura was not traveling alone. However...

There is one clue that, on the surface, really suggests she never made it off the mountain - her cell phone.

It wasn't in the car. It went with her (unless we are to believe it was already thrown away). But it never rang again. Bill was trying to call her that night. And everyone was trying to call her the next day. But we know it didn't ring because of the phone records. No calls are getting through. Which means either it was turned off, or it was never again in range of a cell tower - that it never left the mountain, where there is no service.

In fact, for me, this would be case closed - evidence for sure that she ran into the woods (regardless of no footprints, the scent dog leading to the middle of the road) and died there, if not for one frustrating detail: we know Maura turned her phone off earlier that day and we don't know why. Bill was trying to reach her in UMass and after a while those calls don't connect. We know the phone was off as she drove toward the White Mountains. She turned it on once, to check voicemail, and then off again. It was likely off at the time of the accident.

The question is, why did Maura turn off her cell phone? Was it to conserve battery? Or was it so Bill couldn't follow her, couldn't call her?

Since it was off, did she just keep it in her purse, instead of, say, the cup holder or the passenger seat? So when she left, it came with her?

Again, we come to the fork in the road: either she ran away and the plan was already in motion, or she's dead in the woods. If she ran away, though, all the drama that happened in the days leading up to her disappearance (the email from Bill on the packed boxes, the party, the father visit, the money, the lying friends, searching for a condo with 2 bedrooms, etc.) make a certain sense. If she's dead in the woods, it's all just noise and she never told a soul. That's still really hard for me to buy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

75% Chance of a Conviction

When Fred Murray sued the state of New Hampshire to get access to records related to the disappearance of his daughter, it led to court testimony and affidavits from investigators. In defending his office's reluctance to release any info, Assistant AG Jeffrey Strelzin explained that there was a 75% chance that they will prosecute someone based on what they'd found so far.

A lot has been made of this, with people pointing to this as proof that the prosecutors have a suspect for Maura's murder but not enough evidence to convict. But I do not believe this is what he meant. Here's a snippet taken during his cross examination by Fred's lawyer.

Question: Based on your involvement with this investigation and your knowledge of the file, do you have an opinion as to whether or not it is more likely than not that this investigation may lead to criminal charges?

Answer: I do.

Q. What is your opinion?

A. I would have to say it's more likely.

Q. That it will lead to criminal charges?

A. Yes.

Later, Strelzin goes on to say:

I could give a percentage of what I think that likelihood is, but I acknowledge that there's also a likelihood that this could simply be a missing person's case that doesn't have criminal overtones.

In other testimony, it is revealed that the investigation kicked up info on criminal activity that was possibly tangential to Maura's disappearance - an arson, etc.

So what does he mean by the 75% conviction? I believe he's talking about things other than murder. That 75% chance of a conviction could refer to things like identity theft, money laundering, fraud, assault, etc. But none of it is able to be pursued until Maura either steps forward or her body is found.

But don't assume the 75% chance refers to murder.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

UMass Had Direct Ties To Sherbrooke

Back in 2013, I traveled to Canada in search of Maura Murray, along with Lance & Tim from the Missing Maura Murray podcast. There have been rumors for years that Maura was living in the Sherbrooke area of Quebec. You can read more about that, here.

Our intrepid new helper just found this link between UMass and Sherbrooke. At the time Maura disappeared, UMass had an exchange program with Université de Sherbrooke. They wonder if Maura may have met an exchange student at UMass in the fall of 2003 and formed a lasting bond that helped her escape.

Regardless, it's an interesting direct link, so I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Was Maura Waiting for Student Loans?

When I was an undergrad at Kent State, I lived off student loans for a couple semesters (and I'm still paying down those loans, actually!) I was able to get loans at a state school that covered my rent off-campus, meals, and still left me with about $5,000 in the bank.

Yesterday, we talked about how Maura was in school only for about two weeks before she disappeared.

The same source who sent me this info also noticed how financial aide overages are posted into a student's account (or the account of a parent, sometimes) at about the same time.

Credit Balances and Refunds
Any remaining credit balance must be refunded to you within a certain amount of time, depending on when the credit balance was created.
  • On or before the first day of classes: No later than 14 calendar days after the first day of classes
  • After the first day of classes: No later than 14 calendar days after the credit balance was created
Refunds from your student account may be delivered by:
  • Cash
  • Check
  • Electronic funds transfer (EFT) to your bank account
  • Prepaid debit or ATM card
You can use your refund to pay for other college costs, such as textbooks, supplies, transportation to and from school, rent (if you live off-campus), computer equipment and software, dependent care, and other miscellaneous expenses.

So...

If Maura ran away, now we're looking at a good nest egg. And maybe you can add $4,000 to that, since we've never really had a good accounting of the cash Fred hastily brought to campus with him the weekend before she disappeared.

It is at least possible that Maura had access to around $10,000 the day she vanished.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Maura Disappeared Very Early in Semester


This is one of those details that kind of fell through the cracks.

Spring Semester at UMass Amherst began late, in 2004. Classes didn't start until January 28th.

Friday, Feb 6 was a snow day. That means Maura may have attended only 7 days of class. Also worth noting is that Feb 10, the day after she disappeared, was the last day to drop without any record.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Honoring Donation, With Contribution to House of Ruth

Back in 2011, when this blog first started, I mentioned making a donation to a charity to honor Maura's life. I have to say, after so many years and adventures, I simply forgot about this. At the time, I was quite confident that Maura was the victim of a homicide. Today, I believe she is most likely alive and in hiding (and may be continuing to hide in order to protect a child) - though I can't say that for 100% certainty.

Tomorrow I will honor this commitment with a one-time donation to the House of Ruth, an organization that protects and hides women who have been the victims of domestic violence.

You can learn more about the House of Ruth and donate as well by following this link.

**UPDATE**
The Murray family spokesperson has asked that I donate to a couple specific charities. The final breakdown will be this:

House of Ruth: $200
Project Jason: $150
Molly Bish Foundation: $150

Best,
James Renner

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Snapshots of the Past

These photographs arrived in my inbox this morning. I thought I should share them.





Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Fresh Approach

Over the last few days, I've reviewed every post on this website, and have decided to remove about twenty or so. In the last year, I've come to believe that Maura is alive and is staying away to protect herself and a child - though in a world of Ariel Castro's, I can't say I'm 100% sure. Let's say 90%.

The posts I took down relate to more prurient details of her college life. At the time, I thought it worth sharing because some of the people involved were interviewed as potential suspects. I no longer believe they are suspects, so the info is probably not relevant. I've also taken down some unrelated personal details about her friends and family.

I will continue to update with new info about the investigation, of course. And will still consider possible suspects, treating this mystery as a homicide until we know for sure it is not.

Thank you for continuing to visit this blog.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Another Cold Case: The Abduction of Amy Mihaljevic

Along with this blog about the disappearance of Maura Murray, I maintain two others: One on the modern-day Crucible that is the Lisa Pruett case. And the other, on the first unsolved mystery I became fascinated with, the abduction of Amy Mihaljevic.

Next week is the 27th anniversary of Amy's abduction/murder, so I thought I'd share this recent three-part segment Crime Watch Daily did on the mystery.







Friday, October 14, 2016

Missing Maura Murray Returns

The boys are back with a new episode. This one features audio from their trip to the UMass Outing Club Cabin, which may have been Maura's destination the night she disappeared.

Listen closely. Inside the cabin they discover an interesting clue - another copy of Not Without Peril, the book Maura left behind in her car. One could argue that it is a very popular book in the area around the White Mountains. But as someone whose business is books, I can tell you a book like that did not have a very large print run. It's a very specific local-interest sort of book. And it would not be available in most bookstores, even out there. It's more likely it was available in local hiking-supply stores or White Mountains visitors' centers. To me, that book is evidence of a connection to Maura Murray. As in she ran with the crowd that frequented the cabin back then.

**UPDATE** I stand corrected. Not Without Peril has sold over 70,000 copies. Damn. That's impressive.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Chance Encounter Provides Possible Explanation for Maura Murray's Disappearance

As an old-school shoe-leather reporter, there's nothing I love more than a good bar story. This one has all the hallmarks of a legit run-in with someone from Maura's inner circle - and they provide an explanation that took me years to bring myself to.

There's also enough identifying info here, that I'm confident a websleuth with a little time can track this down.

Here it is:

I went to college at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass, class of **. In
the fall of 2004 (it was football season), I was in a bar called
Moynihans on Main Street, close to the campus of Clark University. It
was a Saturday afternoon because college football was on TV. The bar
was half empty, and I started up a conversation with this guy who told
me he was a grad student at Clark. He told me he had recently
graduated UMASS.


An Army football game highlight or score came on the TV, and I stopped
the conversation to watch. The guy asks me why and I explain its
because my dad graduated West Point and we always went to games when I
was a kid, and I still rooted for the team. He then started talking to
me about the missing girl who had gone to West Point and then to
UMASS. I hadn't heard about it at the time and he explained to me what
I now know is the MM case. He told me that it was an open secret among
people who knew her personally at UMASS that she ran off on her own to
get away from an abusive relationship. He said that he knew people
that knew her and that had been in on the whole thing, and that people
freaked out once the police and newspapers and media had picked up on
the story. I remember thinking at the time that it was an interesting
story, but that she'd eventually be found out. When I got back to my
dorm later that day, I looked it up online and read a newspaper
article or two, but then totally forgot about the whole thing until I
started reading your blog and the wikipedia on MM.


I know my story doesn't prove anything, but it's interesting that
someone so far back who was personally familiar with MM's circles at
UMASS had been speculating about her running away on her own volition.

Old Link Provides Lots of Info on UMass Teammates


Here's a link to an old program from the time Maura Murray was running with the UMass Amherst track team. Lots of familiar names. Some new.

Friday, October 7, 2016

All The Cool Kids Are Going to CrimeCon

If you like True Crime and want to hear a bit more about the Maura Murray case, in person, you should come to CrimeCon in Indianapolis June 9 -11 next summer.You can register today. Enter the code: RENNER20 for a 20% discount.

See you there!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Someone Is Actively Trying to Shut Down This Site

There are only two reasons why this blog would disappear. 1. If Maura is discovered to be alive and well. 2. If the person/persons trying to shut it down finally succeed.

I've been debating about whether or not to share this publicly because I don't want to give attention to this kind of thing. But recently the attacks on this site and anything connected to True Crime Addict have increased dramatically.

It started with notifications from Blogger that someone was trying to reset my password through a similar email. Shortly after that, and just before the release of my book, there were two DDos attacks on my personal website, jamesrenner.com They succeeded in shutting down the site for a couple days. I have since hired a private security firm that monitors the site and handles additional attacks quickly.

Then came the "official" looking emails that contained links to Google docs related to information in Maura Murray's disappearance but when clicked would download keywood-logging software. Luckily these were flagged by Google before I clicked into it.

Then came the most disturbing attack. Someone created an email to make it appear that my publisher was contacting me and asking me to review a document. They used her name, my name, and everything looked official. I should have been suspicious as normally the publisher doesn't contact me directly - I work with her assistant, mostly. So I clicked on it. It asked for my password and without thinking, entered it. What followed was a difficult day of resetting every single password I had and scrubbing the sites.

Following this, someone successfully posted porn on the site. Security took that down, too.

Beyond the attacks, there has been a very organized disinformation campaign on Reddit that focuses mostly on two narratives: 1. That Maura simply wandered off into the woods to die and there's no mystery. 2. Bill Rausch's actions after the disappearance don't amount to anything.

When I've been able to track the emails, it tends to lead back to rerouting services in the Netherlands.

The question is, where are these attacks coming from?

Do I think they're coming from the Murrays (Julie Murray worked for Booz Allen, the same CIA contractor that Snowden worked for). No, I don't. I don't think Julie would waste her time on something like this.

Do I think it's coming from Bill Rausch, who has a history working for the elite propaganda and misinformation office of the U.S. military? No. I don't see him doing anything so brazen.

Someone who knew them? A coworker? Alden Olson? Some troll with nothing better to do?

In the end, I doubt it really matters. I doubt it would change anything to know their identity.

For what it's worth, the Cold Case Unit has some of the original emails. That's about all I can do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Episode of True Crime Garage Features The Serial Killer's Apprentice

 Fans of true crime podcasts may find the new episode of True Crime Garage particularly interesting. It's the story of Robert Buell, a serial killer from Ohio was put to death in 2002 - but who may not have acted alone.

Buell was the subject of the title story from my collection of true crime tales: The Serial Killer's Apprentice. I'm in the garage with Nic and The Captain to talk about it.

You can subscribe on itunes here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Recent post

House cleaning note: I removed the post from earlier today. It was too tangential for it's own out-of-context separate post so I rolled it into another from last week. While I think Bill's involvement with PSYOPS provides interesting history and important character context, it didn't merit it's own separate post.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Just a Reminder

No comments will be approved that reference or suggest police involvement in Maura Murray's disappearance. That's a conspiracy theory I cannot support.

For those who are out of the loop, a witness came forward a couple months ago, claiming she saw a police vehicle nose-to-nose with Maura's car in 2004. If she saw what she claims she saw, her timing is off. Of course there were police there that night, processing the scene. But her words have been used as "evidence" to suggest police killed Maura. She, and the men who interviewed her (not Lance & Tim) all have personal issues with police and a reason to push this theory.

One man tragically lost his sister after she was hit by Trooper Todd Landry (lead investigator on Maura's case for a long time). The other has been suggesting police involvement for years. The female witness blames law enforcement for their role in losing her own son. It's all around sad but they are openly accusing police and their statements need context.

A cop did not kill Maura Murray. As someone who has researched this case for several years, it is nothing more than a ridiculous distraction and takes us away from avenues that might actually lead to more clues.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What Leads Have Not Been Exhausted?

Open question:

What leads remain in the disappearance of Maura Murray? What has not been fully investigated which might lead to more clues?

One thing I'd love to have is the name of anyone else who was present for the party at Sara Alfieri's dorm room the weekend before Maura vanished. Those people are out there somewhere and have not yet come forward (and if you were there and are reading this, please email me - I do not need to publish your name and we can use the info on background).


Thursday, September 29, 2016

**Updated** Coordinates Linked to 4Chan thread

Someone just alerted me to this post that appeared on 4Chan, in 2015. The coordinates on Desolation Trail appear along with this message: "Bring a shovel. You'll have to trespass to get into the area, but no one will be around"

Here's the link. Warning: it contains not-safe-for-work images.

**Update**
There may be a bit of an "echo chamber" effect here as readers have noted the 4chan post is dated the same day as the original post on the blog, meaning the poster could have simply grabbed the coordinates here and reposted on 4chan for internet karma.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Unfound Clue

Just a reminder that nobody has yet successfully traveled to the coordinates off Desolation Trail, where Maura's body is alleged to be found, according to an anonymous email I received several years ago. The weather is about to turn, again, and soon the location will be under snow.

Click here for more on that story and the coordinates.

Do not try this if you are not an experienced hiker. Do not go alone. Be aware that there might be a goddamn bear trap or something left there for me.

And please provide evidence in photographs and gps data if you go.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Woman From New England Leaves Family, Creates New Life

The strange case of Lori Erica Ruff was just solved by some astute online sleuths. Looks like this woman wanted to leave her family behind and start fresh, under a new name.

Then one day, she told her mom she was leaving for good. Don’t come after me, she warned.
The family never heard from her again. They tried everything they could think of, but Kimberly had ensured they would never find her by changing her name not once but twice.
It's not very well known, but there are certain agencies in New England that help women leave abusive situations and start a new life somewhere. I wonder if that's what Lori did.

Read the full article at The Seattle Times. It's a great piece of journalism and an odd end to an odd story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Maura Murray Went Off the Grid Before Leaving UMass


Now that the excitement around the book has calmed down a bit, I think I'm able to see the data related to this case with clear eyes. There's a lot we missed in the phone records that I received last year. Yesterday, I talked about how the phone call data suggests Maura was with Kate Markopoulos just before she left UMass and disappeared. Today, something else hit me:

It appears that Maura turned her phone off when she was still at UMass.

In fact, Maura appears to have turned the phone off at exactly 2:18 p.m. since no incoming call was logged on her account from Bill Rausch's phone number. His records show he called her at 2:21, 2:22, and 2:24. Since we know she was in range of a cell tower at that time, due to her call at 2:18 to Bill's voicemail, the only way Bill's calls could not register on her bill is if Maura's phone was off.

There are two ways this is possible. 1. It ran out of batteries. 2. She turned it off.

I think the most likely explanation is that Maura purposefully turned off her cell phone immediately after Bill called Kate Markopoulos's dorm room at 2:18 p.m. Bill was looking for her. Maura didn't want to talk.

So, the next question is: did Maura turn off her phone just so that Bill couldn't find her? Or did she turn it off so that nobody could find her?

Maura made one last and final phone call, when she turned on her phone again around 4:37 p.m. She checked her voicemail.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Was Maura with Kate Just Before She Left UMass?

I'm taking another close look at the phone records for Bill Rausch and Maura Murray, from the day Maura disappeared, and I found a sequence of calls that is interesting.

According to Bill, he was "out in the field" helping with some kind of training exercise at Fort Sill. But apparently, there was cell phone reception out there because he's busy calling Maura all morning. She's not returning his calls. Then, at 2 p.m. EST, Maura sends this email to Bill:

Subject: hey hey
To: "Bill Rausch"

I love you more stud
I got your messages, but honestly, i didn't feel like talking to much of anyone, i promise
to call today though
love you
maura


Bill ignores this and calls her cell phone again. Maura doesn't answer. So at 2:18 EST, he calls Kate Markopoulos's room at UMass, twice in one minute. Seconds later, Maura calls Billy back but he's still connected to Kate's room so the call goes to voicemail.

Bill then immediately calls Maura's cell again. Three times. She doesn't answer.

A couple take-aways: there was some stress between Maura and Bill that day. And Maura is only prompted to call him once he calls Kate. Did Kate tell Maura? Why wouldn't she talk to Maura if Maura's boyfriend was calling from Fort Sill - obviously Billy really wanted to get a message to Maura. Was Maura in Kate's room - is that how she knew he was calling at that moment?

But what happened next? That is the question.

Again, phone records show that Bill is petty consistently making phone calls that day (he made a LOT of calls, to West Point professors and former girlfriends and family members) and that alone suggests he could not have been in the White Mountains, where cell phone service is scarce to this day.

A year ago, I asked Bill about his alibi. Here's the email he sent back.

As previously discussed with you and confirmed by authorities in NH while I was on the ground searching for Maura after she went missing, I was at Fort Sill, OK the day Maura went missing to include the weeks in advance. The last time I saw her was during the holiday season.

Understanding that you need to confirm, please reference the information below.

- From June 2003-June 2004 I was assigned as the Executive Officer (XO) to Charlie Battery, 1-19th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, OK.

Two individuals who can confirm that I was at work when Maura went missing and that I was unable to leave until the Army gave me permission are:

1. Senior Drill Sergeant Robert Ramos -- assigned to Charlie Battery, 1-19th FA and in charge of operations and all Drill Sergeants assigned to the unit.
2. LT Nate Mayfield -- roommate at the time

Nate Mayfield and Robert Ramos have not returned emails or phone calls asking to confirm.

One bit of interesting info that just came to light: records show that Bill was part of the Information Operations Task Force. In 2005, journalists discovered that American soldiers were writing propaganda in support of the unjustified war in Iraq and funneling it through private groups which then helped to place the articles in foreign newspapers.

As the Los Angeles Times put it:
As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
On his RallyPoint page, Rausch is listed as working for the IOTF in 2006.

Prior to this Rausch was stationed at Fort Trotten as part of the 301st battalion, part of the 151st Theater Information Operations Group, which was tasked with "synchronizing related capabilities comprised of five core functions: electronic warfare, military deception, psychological operations, operational security, and computer network operations."

Psychological operations is known as PSYOPS in the field. PSYOPS create spin, "to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own." In the past they have attempted to infiltrate American media as well, most notably getting caught at CNN and NPR.

You can read more about this sort of thing in this article from Christopher Hitchens at Slate.



The Top 5 Episodes of "Missing Maura Murray"

In July, 2015, Lance Reenstierna & Tim Pilleri launched a humble podcast about the mystery of Maura Murray's disappearance, with a special focus on the obsessive minds that are attracted to the case. Since then, they've produced over 30 episodes of "Missing Maura Murray" and their little podcast has attracted many obsessive fans of its own.

It's a mostly thankless job. They work hard for weeks on a single podcast and once it's up, because of the nature of the case, and the disparate opinions on what happened to Maura, they face constant criticism and anger. But those same people are the first to start asking, "When's the next one going up? I need my fix."

If you haven't already started listening and want to catch up, here's my list of the Essential Episodes, the top five podcasts you shouldn't skip.


5. Episode 11 "Defining Sociopath."
Early on, Lance and Tim ending an episode with an off-the-cuff quote by yours truly, where I called Maura Murray a sociopath. I've since reconsidered that statement. Now that new evidence about her relationship with Bill Rausch has come to light, I consider Maura not a sociopath but a survivor. In this episode, the guys interview University of New Hampshire Professor of Forensic Psychology Doctor Robert Eckstein to get some clarity on the definition of sociopath and whether Maura might be one.

 
4.  Episode 8 "Fred's Letters."
I think episode eight is where Lance & Tim hit their stride. There's so much going on in this episode, from an examination of Fred's letters to the state of New Hampshire, to the introduction of "Truthseeker," to a discussion about a former police officer's Facebook post, in which he claims to know the location of Maura's body.


3. Episode 21 "Behind the Scenes."
After criticism that the Missing Maura Murray podcast is a bit of a sausage fest, the guys bring on some much-needed female voices, specifically investigator "KF" and Vanessa Grigoriadis, who wrote a much-referenced early article about the case.


2. Episode 29 "Rick Graves."
This interview with Rick Graves, who worked beside Fred Murray for many months, searching the woods for Maura Murray, was more enlightening that a dozen online articles about the case.


1. Episode 27 "Questions & Answers"
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office responds to a list of questions Lance & Tim posed about the case. These are definitive answers from law enforcement that end speculation on certain aspects of the case while raising new questions.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Poll Shows Plurality of People Believe in Tandem Driver Theory

The poll just closed. The results are in. Over 1,000 people responded. Here's the results:

What Happened to Maura Murray?

She was abducted by a serial killer.  5%


She was picked up by a stranger who never killed before but things got out of hand and she died.  17%


She was picked up by a tandem driver (someone she trusted) who then killed her. 11%


She was picked up by a tandem driver (someone she trusted) who helped her continue on to her new life, somewhere. 32% 


She committed suicide. 3% 


She wandered off into the woods and died. 26%


She never left Amherst. 2%

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Unidentified Phone Number

The day that Maura disappeared, before she left campus, she made a number of calls trying to find lodging in New Hampshire and Vermont. But she also made one call to a local number on campus that has yet to be identified (and it doesn't appear in the student directory that was recently shared online).

That number was 413-546-1466.

It was suggested this was the phone number for the UMass messaging service but I have not been able to confirm that.

So... who can figure it out. Where did this number go to in 2004?

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Poll: What Happened to Maura Murray?

True Crime Addict came out in May. The podcast continues. You're up to date on the facts of the case, now.

So what happened?

Click an answer on the poll above to let us know which way you're leaning, today.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rumsfeld Ordered Review Of Sexual Assault in Military the Day of Maura's Breakdown


On Thursday, February 5, 2004, Maura suffered some kind of mental breakdown during work at the security desk of Melville Hall. Her supervisor discovered her in a "catatonic state." The only thing she would say was "my sister."

The same source who provided new insight into Maura's crash in Hadley just pointed me toward an interesting coincidence. On Feb 5, 2004, Donald Rumsfeld ordered a 90-day review of sexual assault on female soldiers in the military. The review focused on female soldiers already in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this investigation would ultimately kick up stories of sexual assault at West Point and other military institutions. There were Congressional hearings. It was a big deal.

Later investigations would show that at the time Maura was at West Point, at least 6% of the female cadets were sexually assaulted and 62% were sexually harassed.

How did this news affect Maura? We do know she knew at least one man from West Point who was later accused of sexual assault: her boyfriend, Bill Rausch.

New Insight Into Maura's Accident in Hadley

About 39 hours before Maura disappeared, she was involved in another accident, in Hadley, very near the UMass campus. The story relayed to police by Maura's friends, family, and the responding officer was that Maura was driving her father's car to his motel at 3 a.m. after leaving a party at Sara Alfieri's dorm with Kate Markopoulos -- a party that was standing-room only, but one where Kate doesn't remember who else was there.

I've always questioned why Maura would be traveling to Fred's room at that late hour instead of waiting for the morning. A frequent reader who has spent time in Hadley has the best explanation I've heard of so far. I'd never considered how strange it would be for her to have kept her father's car on campus to begin with, for any length of time:

"Why would Maura take her dad's car to campus when UMass police are nazis with parking tickets? His car did not have a pass and the lots are only partially plowed in winter. They actually truck snow into those lots from other lots to let it melt in a massive pile in the back corner. There would have been limited parking for students with stickers let alone guest spots. There are no guest spots there and visitors can only park in blue lots. The blue lot there is tiny and would have been full. Full to the point that it would have been stupid to leave a spot to run out and think it would be open when she returned.

So I got to thinking about the townhouse apartments on Meadow Street. The parties there are massive. Like 300 kids and police getting bottles bashed on their heads kinda crazy. I remember my friend having a massive party at his place and him saying that there are lots of UMass athletic kids that live across the street and that is why the parties get so huge over there.

Now think about this. We doubt the party was at the dorms. It just does not happen. RAs do checks on the floor and it would have been busted.

If they partied at the townhouses, the crash would make more sense. If she dropped the girls off and left to go back to the party with the random guy no one seems to know, she would have dropped them off at the turn around behind the building and went back the way she came leading to the crash intersection. If she wanted to avoid cops since she was drunk and get to her dad in the middle of the night, going right out of the lot and a right at the corner where Rafters is makes more sense. She is literally driving out of her way if she was heading to her dad's room.

It is more likely that she left to bring the girls home and go back to meet up with this guy. She headed out over 116 and crashed. She freaked and said she was going to see her dad and the cop let her go since the route makes sense to the cop. If she had taken a right where she had crashed and gone a mile, she would be at Meadow Street townhouses.

No one goes to a party where no one knows each other. No one hosts a party and then cannot name names. No girl goes off drunk driving daddy's car to go find daddy. That would be the last thing a drunk girl would want to do. She had to have taken that route for a reason and getting to her dad is not it. The route does not make sense. This was a track party off campus and the "foggy memory" is to cover their asses and the track teams ass."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Recent Sightings Focus on New Hampshire and Canada

I was contacted by a couple people this week who wonder if they've seen Maura Murray.


The first is from a woman who found this photograph posted under escort services on the New Hampshire craigslist page. The resemblance is striking, but of course the age is way off unless this was taken years ago. Note, too, that this photo that was used on craigslist actually comes from an adult-content website and is almost certainly not the photo of the person who posted it.


The second sighting, which occurred in Canada, is more compelling, in my opinion. Here's the story I was sent. Photo is above.

"The main town on Manatoulin Island is Little Current, population of around three thousand.  There are only a couple of restuarants in the village, one grocery store, so it's quite a cozy place.  In either 2012 or 2013 a group of our family (not including my wife and I, sadly) were vacationing on the island, and one evening decided to patronize a place in town called Garry's Family Restaurant.  They were chatting with their waitress, and in course of small talk this young woman told them that she was actually American as well.  She said she'd come up to the island to attend a band camp, and decided to just stay there and live.  It struck them as odd at the time (and the reason they relayed the story to me this year) because of the whole "band camp" notion.  Its very unique, at least.  If she was associated with a school music program that suggests she would have to have dropped out of her old life, whatever her academic pursuits, to take up menial work in remote Canada. But to be fair this not all that outlandish; it is a very "granola" area, so if you like the great outdoors and nature and living fairly (but not entirely) off the grid, it's a nice place to land.

So this summer I'm listening to podcasts discussion of Murray case, and the idea that Maura could be living beneath the radar in Canada.  Naturally this made me think of the band camp girl. This whole idea poses a huge problem, however, since if it was actually Maura why on earth  would she ever admit to being an American to other Americans?  That would be a very good way to you blow your own cover. Regardless, I decided to Google this place, see if I could find any staff photos or employee references or anything that might allude to this young woman's identity (assuming she is still an employee, now 3-4 years later).  I could find no such information, but on a restaurant review site I did find, among photos of food they serve and an empty dining room, the attached "action" shot of a couple eating at the place.  It's from a very unfortunate angle, but that waitress obviously looks a little like Maura.  My sister-in-law says the waitress in the photo looks like it might have been the same they encountered, as far as she can remember, but did not think the photo of Maura looked familiar.  So...??"

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Simple, Glaring Detail

Often, we get hung up on all the weird, possibly meaningless clues (the rag in the tailpipe, etc.) of this case, and we don't see the forest for the trees. But there's one simple thing that's always bothered me and I think it's another detail that points to the tandem driver who has still not come forward:

Does anyone really believe Maura left that day without telling a single other soul where she was going?

I know the quick, easy social-justice-warrior response to this is, "she was a grown woman, why would she have to tell anyone where she was going?"

But, seriously consider it for a second. Do you really think Maura left that day without telling any of her friends that she was planning a trip?

I put this question to women who come to my readings and signings and I have yet to find one who took a trip without telling a single soul, especially one into another state that would take a couple days. And before you step up and say, well I did - I go off on my own all the time - think about it again. Were you going away for days? Did you really not text anyone just to let them know not to call the cops when you didn't show up in a day or two?

What is more likely? That Maura didn't tell a single other person what she was planning to do? Or that she did, and it's that person or persons who were with her that night?


Friday, August 26, 2016

My Current Thoughts On the Mystery


This blog has been quiet for a while but that doesn't mean I've stopped working on this case. I've interviewed a couple people this week, off the record, and it's caused me to take another look at some of the strange circumstances surrounding Maura's disappearance.

I become more and more convinced that Maura's destination that night was the UMass Outing Club cabin, in Bethlehem. I firmly believe she was traveling in tandem with another vehicle. That leaves two possibilities in my opinion: 1. This other driver took her to the cabin and then Maura went on to a new life. 2. This other driver disposed of the body after killing her or after she died unexpectedly from complications after the accident.

I lean toward #1. But just a little.

But lately I'm hung up on the pieces of this case that still lack satisfactory answers:

- Bill Rausch mentioned to me once that he knew Maura was shopping for a used car that weekend because he had a contact at a used car dealership near UMass that got him a good deal, before. I'd like to know who that contact was.

- At the time Maura's car crashed in Haverhill, Bill was on the phone with Bob McDonald, a professor from West Point. I'd like to know what that conversation was all about.

- What in the world does Sara Alfieri know? According to the Murray family spokesperson, she told Fred Murray a story about Maura that she won't tell anyone else. And in the days after Maura disappeared, Bill was repeatedly calling Kate Markopoulos until he phoned Sara Alfieri. Then the calls to Kate stop.

- Did Hoss Baghdadi tell police about the Outing Club (which he was active in) and the cabin in Bethlehem?



Thursday, July 28, 2016

New York Times Reviews True Crime Addict!

The New York Times reviews True Crime Addict in this Sunday's print edition!

"Shamelessly entertaining," says Marilyn Stasio.

"James Renner is just plain fun to read."

Grab a copy on Sunday. You can also read it, now, here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Article on Being a True Crime Addict is Now a "Cracked Classic."

I wrote this piece for Cracked.com awhile back. It was just made a "classic" post, which is pretty sweet but doesn't come with any cool perks except maybe Internet points.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Oh Boy. Missing Maura Murray Goes Down the Rabbit Hole.


Firstly, I love what Lance & Tim have done with the 'Missing Maura Murray' podcast. It has helped bring so much attention to the case. Their new episode is an interview with "Witness A" - real name Karen McNamara. Karen is the key witness to the biggest conspiracy theory that John "Wolfman" "TruthSeeker" "Mellencamp" Smith has been pushing for many years, with the blessing of Fred Murray -- namely that Haverhill Police were responsible for Maura Murray's death and have been covering it up for 12 years. Karen claims she saw a police SUV "nose-to-nose" with Maura's case that night.

[sigh]

I have not written about Karen before because I do not find her report credible. And the theory that police were somehow responsible for Maura's disappearance is both ridiculous and potentially dangerous to the actual investigation. I do not believe she saw what she thinks she saw that night.

Her interview is not conducted by Lance or Tim but by two other people, John Smith (who believes that government vehicles are keeping tabs on his every move) and a man named Alex Clogston, known on forums as "Alex C."

I think it's a good thing that Lance & Tim have distanced themselves a bit from this interview. And remember, what they set out to do was not to solve the case but to document the obsessive minds who believe they could. This is the dark side of that project.

**UPDATED**
I have edited the original post to make it more fair to the participants. I take offense to the suggestion of police involvement but we should remain more civil.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Nexus of Stories

Well, I don't know what to make of this all - and it's probably nothing, right? - but I'm just going to put it out there.

Have you ever heard of the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers? I mention it in passing in True Crime Addict. It's where Tim Carpenter - Maura's sister Kathleen's husband - was born. A reader pointed out to me yesterday that it was also the birthplace for serial killer Ted Bundy.

The Elizabeth Lund home still operates. It's still a destination for unwed mothers. And it's in Burlington, Vermont... you know, the town that Maura Murray had printed out directions to.

A coincidence? Or more of that "fearful symmetry?"




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New 'Missing Maura Murray' podcast makes the UMass cabin look very promising.


Lance & Tim are back with episode 29 of the Missing Maura Murray podcast. This week they feature an interview with Rick Graves who was involved with the search for Maura on the ground for about three years. He says the news about the UMass Outing Club cabin is new and believes it makes sense this could be the destination she had in mind the night she went missing.

He also, in my mind, puts to rest the notion that Maura's body could be near the scene of the accident after having wandered into the woods. Of course those woods were searched extensively. Graves was there for it.

Lots of good stuff in this one.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Yorker Skewers True Crime Addict and the Culture of Internet Sleuths


True Crime Addict was just reviewed by The New Yorker and, ugh.

What should have been a review of a book instead became an indictment of Internet sleuthing - and open sourced reporting - by the mainstream media. In a weird, condescending tone, writer Michelle Dean, says, early on, that the book "embodies every problem that arises when online obsessives are infected with delusions of detective grandeur."

In fact, there's no actual review of the writing itself. Was it well written? Did it pull you in? Did the characters pop?

But most disappointing, because of the legacy of The New Yorker itself, is that the piece is riddled with errors that would easily be fixed with a phone call or simple wikipedia search. For instance, she talks about how Maura disappeared 45 minutes after her crash in Haverhill.

In the end, the piece stands as an example of the lazy reporting that I warn about in the book. It's the reason why we need open-sourced reporting, the reason why we need Internet sleuths in the first place. She reached out to the Murray family for comment. But she didn't extend the same courtesy to me. If she had, I would have least helped her correct some basic facts.

She ends suggesting Maura walked into the woods and died. Which is weird, too, given the chapters in the book devoted to the large searches by hundreds of volunteers and New Hampshire Fish & Game.

It's clear to me she didn't really read the book. And that's a shame because I think she would have liked it. After all, the book serves to explain everything that is bad about obsessing over crime writing - which is the point of her "review" too.

But it's clear Michelle Dean came into with a white-knight agenda. It's her thing, as you can read about in this article from the Washington Post in response to the hit piece she wrote on another writer who dared say controversial things. A Gawker writer contributing to The New Yorker? What strange times we live in.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Final Destination?




I am quickly becoming a believer in the theory that Maura's destination the day she went missing was the UMass Outing Club's cabin in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. To get there from UMass, following the directions online, Maura would have exited off Rt 91 in Woodsville and taken 302 past Rt. 112, where her car was found. An alternate route, though, would have been to take Rt 112 to 93, then North to Bethlehem. Perhaps she thought that could be faster, or easier - this was in the days before cell phone map apps, after all. Or maybe that's the way she was taken there, before.

It makes a lot of sense when you consider she stopped looking for motels and cabins after coming up short. She knew there was a place she could stay up there, for free. Some place big enough for a couple people.

Maura likely knew of this cabin through Hoss Baghdadi, the track coach with whom she was having an affair. Hoss was active in the Outing Club.

I remain convinced that she was traveling in tandem with someone and it was this person (or persons) who picked her up at the accident. I'd like to think that they went on to the cabin or wherever, and then Maura continued on to her new life. I'm willing to consider, though, that Maura died at her next stop. Perhaps she hit her head too hard in the accident. Perhaps something else happened, there. If so, her body is likely near where she stayed that night.

The grounds around the UMass cabin have never been properly searched. And they should be.

I visited the place yesterday. Rugged country. In the summers, the ground all around is covered by thick ferns and it's hard to see what's there. What needs to happen is an organized search by Fish & Game, with about 100 volunteers.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Desolation Trail


There is one big clue to this case that hasn't been thoroughly investigated yet and I'm hoping we can put this one to rest this summer. I'm asking for your help.

A couple years ago someone sent me an email with the title "Stop Looking," signed Ray Rummau (which is a word-scramble pseudonym for Maura Murray). Inside the email were coordinates: 44°06'10.0"N 71°27'29.0"W

Those coordinates lead to a section of wilderness on the north slope of Mt. Carrigain. The best way to get there is to hike up Desolation Trail from the trailhead near Bartlett, it seems.

Whoever sent this email went to great lengths to hide their IP address. It's clear they are suggesting this is the location of Maura's body.

In April 2014, a team of volunteers attempted to locate it, but were thwarted by the snow. Lance & Tim from the Missing Maura Murray podcast ventured out to visit the location, too, but turned back to Boston after they realized someone was stalking them throughout their visit to New Hampshire.

So, who's up for taking a look?

This is a trail and terrain for experienced hikers, only. It's also possible this was designed as a trap for me, so please be careful. But if you're up for the journey, take photographs of the area and share them with us, here. I can't offer much in the way of a reward but I can at least send you a signed copy of the book!


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Long Lost Forum Comment Suggests Detectives Thought Maura Was Running from Family

Recently, a reader was looking back through old posts on Websleuths devoted to Maura's disappearance and found something quite interesting. Ten years ago, someone using the name "Peabody" was commenting about the old rumor that Bill Rausch got a message from Maura on his cell phone after she disappeared (law enforcement later learned that message was actually from the Red Cross). Whoever Peabody was, they claimed to be in contact with Sharon Rausch, Bill's mother. Here's the pertinent quote:

I emphasize that Sharon told me that NH SP traced the mysterious prepaid calling card call while she, her husband and now Cpt Rausch sat in a room with the NH SP in the Haverhill Police Station; that she immediately disputed that the call was from the ARC because they would not have had her son's phone number (because she was the only one that had spoken with ARC and she knew that she had not given them his cell and cell phones do not have directory assistance; also the ARC had her cell and had not called her; her thinking was IF there was any reason they needed to correspond, they would have contacted her). 
When the Rausches insisted the call was not ARC, then they were all told that the police believed that Maura was upset with her family and that she was already in Kenton OH on her way to the Rausch residence (again the Rausches disputed this because Kenton is Northwest of them and they asked if they perhaps meant Canton and the officer became hostile and said there was no Canton OH - fyi Canton is Northeast of the Rausches and would have made some sense) 

Weird, right?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Tour!


I have a couple events coming up in Massachusetts and I'd like to finally meet you in person, after all these years.

The first official public reading for True Crime Addict will be at Trident Booksellers Wednesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. There will be a short Q&A and signing after the reading.

The next day - June 16 - I will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Hadley, near the campus of UMass, beginning at 7 p.m.

Hope to see you there!
 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Women Claim Bill Rausch Assaulted Female Coworker in 2011


True Crime Addict is out, today. It is the definitive book on the Maura Murray case and includes several new clues and insights into the 12 year old cold case. It ends with an epilogue in which we learn more about the character of Bill Rausch, who was Maura's boyfriend at the time of her disappearance.

Last fall, four women who worked with Bill at Ray Group International, in Washington D.C., in 2011 came forward with stories about what it was like to work with him. One woman, whom I call "Andie", claimed he pushed her down the stairs in the Metro one day and pretended it wasn't him. Another woman who shared an office with him believes he destroyed ultra-sound photographs of her unborn child which she'd brought to work to show around. Another woman says Bill mentioned Maura one day. According to her, he said he and Maura were breaking up when she disappeared and, in hindsight, he was glad things worked out the way they did.

But what caused Bill to lose his job at Ray Group was an alleged sexual assault that took place in the president's office, after hours. Andie returned to the office one evening, after meeting with coworkers nearby. She found Bill inside and he appeared to be intoxicated, she said. This is how she explained the rest: He asked her to come into the president's office and once inside, he locked the door behind her. Alone, he turned to her and smiled in a way that scared her. He told her he was the one who pushed her down in the Metro. She tried to leave. He blocked her.  He pushed her toward a wide table. Then he turned her around and pushed her face-down into the tabletop and pushed his body against her. She struggled. He pushed her down harder. Luckily, a coworker arrived. They could hear her outside the door. "Don't say a fucking word," he said. Frightened she called out. This appeared to shock him and he hid under the desk. She took this opportunity to open door to let the coworker in.

After this incident, Ray Group International did "an internal investigation" and Bill never came back to the office. He no longer lists the company in his public LinkedIn profile.

I spoke to Bill about this. He admitted he knew about the allegations and left the job after the women reported it.

It is important to note that Bill has a tight alibi for the night Maura was missing and he was actively searching for her after she disappeared, calling her friend, Kate Markopoulos repeatedly.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hoss: "Maura felt she couldn't get away from Bill Rausch"


A little recap: Last week, we learned about a cabin owned by the Outing Club at UMass, which could have been Maura Murray's destination the night she disappeared. The cabin was known to family and police for years (though they never mentioned it publicly on forums as a lead). Lance & Tim from the Missing Maura Murray podcast were told the prosecutors in the case have never found evidence to suggest Maura was at the cabin in February, 2004. But what wasn't known until last week was that Hossein Baghdadi was active in the Outing Club and knew about the cabin. "Hoss" had an affair with Maura in 2003.

When I interviewed Hoss years ago, he told me a few interesting things about Maura. She never once mentioned her father, he said. And she sometimes fantasized about disappearing and starting a new life. "I wish I could disappear" she told him. He always thought she'd choose Mexico.

In light of this new info, I've gone back to my notes on that interview. A few more things are worth mentioning.

According to Hoss, Bill Rausch was very controlling and Maura wanted to get away from him. "There were hints that he got physical with her," he told me. "She felt she couldn't get away from him. He wanted her to be in certain places at certain times. He'd check up on her. He was very demanding."

Hoss is not the only one who told me Bill could be physical with the women in his life.

I've left messages for Hoss. He has not returned my calls or emails.

I will tell you this much, after speaking to Hoss, I think he was the only one who was totally honest with me in my years of research.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Comments Policy

Now might be a good time to explain the comments policy again.

Because of the number of spam and trollish comments, and because of the sensitive nature of the case, I have to approve every single comment. I try to do this in batches a couple times a day. So when you comment, know it could take some time to post but that I am getting to it as quickly as possible.

The following comments will not be approved:

1. Any comment that suggests a specific person murdered Maura. Nobody has been charged with a crime. In fact, there's no evidence that this is a crime at all. It may be. But let's not directly accuse anyone.

2. Any mean or rude comment about the podcast or the blog or specific people. I'm not sure what that accomplishes.

3. Any comment that suggests police were somehow involved in a conspiracy related to Maura's disappearance. This isn't a place for fan fiction.

As always, I welcome fresh insight and especially suggestions for new avenues of investigation.

Best,
James Renner

Friday, May 20, 2016

Maura's Hometown Paper Covers True Crime Addict



Today's Whitman-Hanson Express has a lengthy article about True Crime Addict.

"At the time Murray vanished on Feb. 9, 2004, Renner was a reporter for alternative weeklies in northeastern Ohio. By 2009, the fallout from his coverage of an Ohio state senator at the center of a sex scandal had cost him his job and he was looking for a new story.
....
The new mystery he was ready for was Maura Murray. While conducting his investigation, there were mysteries in his own life to confront: the truth about his grandfather, the violent tendencies his son was beginning to display and Renner’s own impulses."

Check it out!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Podcast Episode Explores Criminology and the UMass Cabin


Fascinating new episode of the Missing Maura Maura podcast, this week. Lance & Tim talk to Professor David Wilson and Elizabeth Yardley of Birmingham City University, in England, criminologists who have some fresh ideas about armchair sleuths and Maura's case in particular.

They also spend a little time talking about the Outing Club cabin.

Turns out Lance and Tim found out about this cabin a few weeks ago, in time to ask the NH prosecutor's office about it. Listen to the podcast for the full explanation but the gist is that there is "no evidence" to support that Maura was going there. Of course, it's unknown at this time if the police knew about Hoss's connection to the club, which, in my mind, makes it exponentially more likely that Maura knew details about the cabin.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

True Crime Garage: Maura Murray Part 2

The True Crime Garage podcast continues this week, with Part 2 of their discussion on the Maura Murray case. Some really fantastic ideas are bandied about this week. A must listen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BREAKING: The Cabin in the Woods


Yesterday, we learned of the existence of a cabin in the White Mountains, owned by the UMass Outing Club and wondered whether this was Maura's ultimate destination the night she vanished in Haverhill, New Hampshire. Everything I've learned in the last 24 hours leads me to believe this is - at the very least - a real possibility.

Today I spoke to Erik Hjerpe, who has helped run the Outing Club for several years. The cabin, he says, was often reserved by UMass clubs during the weekends but was usually vacant during the week. He found some documents related to cabin rentals from Spring 2004 that show it was rented during the weekends before and after Maura disappeared. But the cabin was likely - officially - empty the day she vanished.

The keys to the cabin were kept in a numbered lock box at the door. Anyone who knew the four-digit combination could get the keys and enter the cabin. Erik was up there often, and when he traveled with the crew from UMass they got off at the Woodsville exit and traveled to Bethlehem, where the cabin is located, up 302. This is the same exit Maura likely took that night.

With me so far?

Erik did not recall if he'd ever met Maura and figures he probably did not. So I gave him a list of people close to Maura to see if someone she knew was familiar with the cabin. One name stuck out to him: Hossein Baghdadi, known as "Hoss" to his friends.

Hoss was an active participant on hiking and canoeing adventures with the Outing Club and very likely stayed at the cabin, himself. Erik has fond memories of Hoss, saying he was always up for a challenge, always giving 110%, always up for adventure.

Hoss was Maura's lover. She was seeing him when she was still with Bill Rausch but according to Hoss, she broke things off late fall, 2003, before going to stay with Bill's parents for the Christmas holiday. He says she sometimes talked about running away.

I have a message out to him, but he has not yet returned my call. Is it possible he told her about this cabin at some point? In these cases, you look for coincidences that begin to line up and form a coherent story. Here, we have a cabin in the woods Maura likely knew about. She got off at the right exit, was headed the right way. It also explains why she stopped looking for rental properties - maybe after the Salamones turned her down, she realized she had a place, anyways. A place she didn't need to call ahead to.

Was this her destination?