Saturday, January 30, 2016

Amherst Police Ordered to Explain Why Vasi Records Are Still Being Withheld

We just won round two.

The Public Records Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has just determined that the Amherst Police Department must provide more details about Petrit Vasi's hit-and-run.

From the report I received today:

"Accordingly, the Department is hereby ordered, within ten days, to provide Mr. Renner with a revised response that explains, with specificity, how information, other than information that would identify witnesses or complainants, may be withheld under Exemption due to an ongoing investigation."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cracked Profiles Maura Murray Mystery

Cracked writes about the "5 Weirdest Disappearances" today and Maura Murray is on the front page. Check it out.

One note: I do not think she committed suicide, as the article suggests. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

4 Million Views and Counting!

As of last week, this blog has been viewed over 4 million times since it was launched in 2011.

Thank you to all the constant readers as well as the new fans of this mystery who have recently wandered into this dark corner of Internet!

Hopefully, this case can be closed in 2016.

James Renner

Thursday, January 14, 2016

FBI Says They're Already Investigating the Case

I hate to be that guy, but remember when I told you the FBI have been on this case since day 2, and the petition is all a needless distraction? Yeah...

The FBI, meanwhile maintains it is already aiding in the investigation. 
“The FBI is assisting New Hampshire Sate Police and we’re going to defer to them as they are the lead agency,” spokesman Kristen Setera of the Boston FBI office said in a prepared statement this week. “Due to the fact that there is an ongoing investigation, we have to decline further comment.”

**UPDATE** Are We Really Still Debating the Crash?

It boggles the mind that we're still debating the circumstances of Maura Murray's car accident in Haverhill. Did she hit a tree? Did she hit another car? Was the car towed earlier in the day? We answered these questions many many years ago.

Maura most likely impacted the north side of the curve across from the weathered barn, as explained by an EMT who was on the scene shortly after the accident.

Dick Guy saw that the snowbank on that corner was sheered off that night. It explains the damage to the car and - more important - the placement of the car, as hitting that corner would have spun her around and deposited the vehicle where it ended up - on the south side, facing back the way she'd come.

Nobody ever said she hit a tree. Early on, it was thought she hit a tree. There's confusion about this, I think, because the family puts a memorial ribbon on a tree near the accident site. But, no, she never hit a tree. She couldn't have. The snowbanks were too high.

She never crashed into another vehicle, earlier in the day. There would have been evidence of this - paint, metal, something from the other vehicle on Maura's Saturn.

The accident, itself, is the least mysterious part of this entire case, in my opinion.

Yes, Cecil Smith's report states that he was told by the dispatcher that Maura's car had hit a tree. That was the assumption going to the accident site. Smith's report says there was evidence this is what happened. However, when found, Maura's Saturn was partly in the Eastbound lane. Anyone familiar with the crash site in Winter will understand how impossible it would be for the car to have crossed over the five-foot high wall of snow and ice to impact a tree twenty feet away and then cross back.

This is why Dick Guy first took issue with the report and spoke up about the evidence he saw at the crash site that night.

I have since spoken to several Haverhill officers and witnesses. The overwhelming majority do not believe she hit a tree. There was no tree that showed damage from impact. It is physically impossible.

In my mind, debating this point is akin to debating the magic bullet that killed Kennedy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Beginner's Guide to the Maura Murray Case

Are you new to the bizarre mystery of Maura Murray's disappearance? Did you find your way into this dark corner of the Internet after binging on Serial and Making a Murderer? Don't know where to begin? Let's get you up to speed.

Maura Murray vanished from the side of the road in Haverhill, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2004. At the time, she was a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For the basic facts of the case, nothing beats Wikipedia. Start there.

Okay. Now a quick history lesson on this blog. My name's James Renner. I'm an author and journalist from Ohio who has written about unsolved mysteries for many years. I started this blog in 2011 as a way to generate new leads and clues about Maura's disappearance while writing a book on the case, which comes out May 24, 2016.

Before I became involved in the case, Maura was made out to be the "All-American Girl." But Maura, like all of us, was more complicated than that. Here are a list of things I've uncovered in my research that provided new perspective:

- She was about to be engaged to Bill Rausch, whom she met as a cadet at West Point, but had been cheating on him with her UMass track coach. He claims Maura spoke about running away to Mexico to start a new life.

- Her father, Fred Murray, refused to be interviewed by homicide detectives for 2 1/2 years and when he finally agreed to meet, he brought lawyers. 

 - Fred Murray has lied to police and reporters about the events leading up to his daughter's disappearance. 

- A search warrant suggests someone tried to call Maura from New Hampshire just before she disappeared.

- Maura's friends, Kate Markopoulos and Sara Alfieri have not been honest about a late-night party at UMass, two nights before Maura disappeared.

- Maura left West Point to avoid an expulsion after she got caught stealing from Fort Knox.

- Maura and Bill's phone records from the weeks surrounding the disappearance only lead to more questions.

- On the anniversary of Maura's disappearance, a man named Alden Olson uploaded this disturbing video to YouTube. After I identified Olson, he posted pictures of my 3 year old son online and threatened me. Prosecutor Steven Gagne declined to press charges, saying they'd have a much better case if Olson showed up at my door.

A couple more things.

From the beginning, I have shared the police reports and documents I've gathered with everyone. You can read through everything here.

There is also a very addicting podcast dedicated to the case, called Missing Maura Murray.

There are several other blogs and websites but the best are:

You should feel free to comment on this blog, as well. Because of the number of trolls who gather around this case, I have to approve every comment. Comments will not be approved if they reference uncharged suspects or are threatening or mean.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Exclusive: Petrit Vasi Says Maura Murray Connection is "Far Fetched"

At long last, I spoke to Petrit Vasi, today. The conversation was brief but quite revealing.

"I never met Maura Murray," he says. "We didn't know each other. I've heard this theory, that she may have been involved. But I think it's very far-fetched."

He remembers nothing of the accident, itself. He knows he was at a bar at Triangle and Mattoon around 12:20 a.m. And he remembers waking up months later. His body was found in the street and it appeared he'd been struck by a vehicle.

"There was a snowstorm that night. Lots of snow coming down," he recalls.

And what of the "investigation" into the hit and run?

"I have never spoken to police. Not once. I don't even know if it's an open case."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

I Don't Support the Petition

A couple weeks ago, a petition was started by Wolfman to have the F.B.I. look into Maura Murray's disappearance. The family's official Facebook account is supporting this initiative, too. However, I am not linking to it. Why?

Well, for about a billion reasons.

Mostly, though, because the FBI have been involved since about day 2. They did some investigation on the case and -- I strongly believe -- continue to do a little consulting with police on it to this day. I've spoken to an FBI agent in Boston who worked on the case. But Fred Murray and others have made it a kind of battle cry -- getting the FBI to "take over" the case from New Hampshire State Police. I think it's nothing but a distraction.

So, I'm not sure what they're trying to accomplish when the F.B.I. have been involved since 2004. Do they want them to get "really, really extra" involved?

Part of it, too, is to support this notion that local law enforcement had something to do with Maura's disappearance. That idea is simply ludicrous.

The petition is not going to change anything. You know what will? Fred Murray, Kate Markopoulos, and Sara Alfieri answering some basic questions about the weekend leading up to Maura's disappearance. That would be more helpful to figuring out what happened to Maura than a hundred meaningless petitions.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Amherst Police Department Says Maura Murray's Credit Card Theft Investigation Is Not A Public Record Either

What is going on over at the Amherst Police Department?

Records secretary Jennifer Gundersen is now telling other journalists that they cannot have records related to Maura Murray's illegal use of a credit card and identity theft which she got busted for a couple months before she disappeared.

Why? Because it's not a public record.

Except it was public record when I requested it years ago. They gave me the full file, including her mug shot. Here it is.

How exactly does a record become public and then, retro-actively, not a record?

Is there new evidence in the case... or do we have a public servant unwilling to follow the law?

**UPDATE** Amherst Doubles-Down on Petrit Vasi Case

Here's the response from Amherst, today. The Petrit Vasi hit and run is "open and active" even though the statute of limitations has expired. Also, for some reason they think it happened in August and not February.

A lot of talk about how the statute of limitations freezes if a suspect leaves the jurisdiction. This is not true the way it is being stated. The clock freezes only after a suspect is charged or a warrant is issued, and there is no evidence such a thing has happened here. What I think we're dealing with is a very stubborn person in a position of a little power.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

City of Amherst Denies Petrit Vasi Records, Again

My appeals for information related to Petrit Vasi's accident are progressing, slowly.

Just before the holidays, the Amherst Police Department's records secretary, Jennifer Gundersen, replied to my official petition for redress. This is where the Amherst police department had to explain to the state's Public Records Supervisor why they were not releasing records about an 11-year-old case. The majority of Gundersen's argument was that they could not release Vasi's name because it would violate HIPAA laws -- which is only a distraction and not the meat of my argument to getting the records anyway. I have no issue with them redacting Vasi's name, which is what they want to do with the incident reports.

What I really want are the investigatory notes of the officers assigned to investigate Vasi's accident, which may have been a hit-and-run which occurred the night Maura Murray had a breakdown at work, just before she ran away to the White Mountains. Here's Gundersen's response to that:

They claim not to be able to release the records because it's part of an ongoing investigation. My hunch is that this is untrue. It's an easy excuse some departments make to skirt open records laws. In fact, as they are treating it as a hit-and-run, they cannot possibly consider it an open and active case because the statute of limitations has long since expired for such a crime. There is no chance of prosecution in this case. As such, it cannot be open.

Anyway, I have appealed this, again. More soon.