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?

64 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I just got the shivers.

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    1. Wow.This is entirely possible...and if there were ever any clues or any evidence it's LOOOOOOONG gone. Frustrating. She could have hid out there for a few days and then took off when she felt she could without anyone seeing her. Up here to Canada, perhaps? I still maintain that she could be working for cash in Alberta or British Columbia at any of the ski resorts. I have friends who have 'disappeared' and stayed on the DL living at the resorts or a shared appartment in someone else's name and earning cash.

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  2. This could be huge! Its amazing this is coming out now after so long.

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  3. Have you turned this info over to law enforcement?

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  4. This is highly possible but if I had as little money as her I wouldnt have paid for a place to stay if I knew about the free cabin. Unless she had been there but had memories of hoss so she didnt want to go. Either way my brain is still stuck at the scene for any clues.

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  5. Wow! I've been following this case for many years but yesterday was the first time I have ever commented on this blog.. I did so because I agree with you that this is the strongest and best lead I have seen in years. I saw the original story the girl put out about it yesterday and read countless comments from people that are from the university saying that this cabin being her destination is just impossible. I started to wonder myself but after reading this post today and seeing the connections that you made it had to be right?! I mean what are the chances?! This is awesome work. I really hope this less pans out and we can findout if anyone she knew was in that area when she went missing!! Great work James!! -PATRICIO

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  6. keep digging JR ;) if you're getting *warm*
    #who'sreallylooking?

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  7. holy shit, man. this is ancientexplorer1989 on reddit. had no clue it'd lead to anything, let alone something.

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  8. Wow! This is really quite interesting - the Hoss connection particularly. Looking forward to seeing what else you might be able to shake out of this.

    It's possible Maura knew of this cabin as a back-up plan, or a place she thought she could run to once she'd gotten into the accident in Haverhill. I still maintain that she was initially looking to stay somewhere that night that had heat, running water, and electricity...(and I wonder if maybe people have also been a bit quick to eliminate Burlington, VT from her potential destinations that night or anytime later that week, either).

    - Marie Helena

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  9. Highly doubt it was as easy as just getting a passcode to a lock box on the cabin. There had to be a formal renting process most likely otherwise anyone who obtained that code could have gone at anytime. They would also want to know who was using the cabin in case of any damage done to the property.

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    1. If it's a cabin run by a college club- which it sounds like it is- I've no doubt that if she knew the lockbox code she'd be able to just go there. It's not like an actual cabin rental- you'd sign up for it at school.
      Often times places like that CAN exist- where certain people/groups of people have near unrestricted access. They don't ruin it out of respect for others that will want to use it. They may change the code periodically, but I have no question that if she was there recently she'd be able to get the key and go in. Honestly, hope she did with how cold it probably was!!

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    2. In Alberta where I live, there are cabins in the wilderness that you can just stay in. Yes, there is a formal rental process, but you definitely could get in without following one. . .

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  10. I can only say that Maura had been drinking so how was she going to register into a hotel room or inn while in some degree of inebriation, so it makes a great deal of sense that she would want to go there if it was likely to be unoccupied. I have always thought it absurd that anybody would dream of drinking while driving into a law and order state if ever there was one, especially after what had been going on in her life in recent days. It still seems likely to me that she had someone helping her.

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    1. Are you saying that drunk people don't rent motel rooms?

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  11. to anonymous regarding the 'as easy as getting a passcode' - formal renting is one thing. but when your life is spiraling out of control and you need a night to stay somewhere out in the sticks to sort your mind out, would you really give a care about calling and passing over money to formally rent it? a free nights stay is a free nights stay regardless of electricity. if she could operate a wood stove, she'd have a free spot to hole up anonymously/meet up with someone who could assist her had she a passcode or have known of a hide-a-key spot or have known that someone was already there whether it be formally rented or completely clandestine. whether it was the initial destination, the final destination by desperation, or not a destination at all, it's still a possible place to go. -ancientexplorer1989

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  12. Great work, James! One of my very good friends is very close with Hoss, I will ask her to reach out to him regarding this ...fingers crossed

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  13. i reread about the 'as easy as getting a passcode' thing. here's my addendum. anyone who's ever been to a hardware store that copies keys should know that even if it says 'do not copy', they can't turn down service on that unless they don't actually have the mold for the single or double-cut. that's absurd. and considering the photo's of the cabin and how legit rustic and rough the thing looks (like a 2-story evil dead cabin in terms of how it's positioned), i highly doubt they had a sophisticated lock mechanism on the front door. it's easily taken care of. copy the key- hide it- distribute the location of the key to those who are trusted to not divulge it. -ancientexplorer1989

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  14. She got off the right exit, but once she started on 302, if she were headed to that cabin she would not have changed over to 112. Did she take a wrong turn?

    Also, without casting any unnecessary aspersions toward anyone, I'd say that this puts Hoss into the category of people who need to be looked at more carefully. Maybe they didn't break it off, or she tried to and he wouldn't let her. And maybe she never talked about running away at all and that's a story he made up to deflect suspicion. Not saying he had anything to do with it, just that in light of this new info (that he has a connection to the cabin) - everything he's said needs to be looked at again through a new lens.

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    1. I agree. He was the one who said she wanted to run away. How do we know this is even true? Would they still have records of cell phone pings after so many years? He seemed to nonchalant when talking about Maura. I got an icky feeling about his responses.

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    2. I agree, he should be looked at, but EVERYONE should be looked at, including Kate Markopolous. One thing about Hoss has made me less suspicious. He, unlike some other people in the case, has been seemingly willing in talking about Maura. It comes across that he cared about her. He sounds open and seems willing to aid the investigation.

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  15. Interesting that "Hoss" said they were conveniently broken up, also interesting that he offered that Maura talked of running away, it's always mentioned that he has always been more than willing to give information, now this, huh! Seems to me that Mr Bagdadi should answer a few more questions!

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    1. We have no right to assume that there is anything suspicious about this man at all. No need for "conveniently", no need for exclamation points. We cannot try a man via comments section on a website. If law enforcement, despite their perceived missteps, chooses to question him further then that's fine.

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    2. Maura Murray's case is unsolved and this is a public forum where people voice their opinions about it. So yes, I think we do have the right to assume and form our own opinions about it and share those opinions with others.

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    3. Anyone has the right to voice an opinion but not to point fingers without evidence. That's unethical and unprofessional.

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    4. Nobody said he was guilty of anything- other than maybe knowing more than he has offered up. Only finger I see pointed is one that says "tell me more about your life please there are gaps that need filling!" No "you've clearly committed a crime you guilty man!" Though, I do agree baseless accusations are harmful to people and to finding the truth.

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    5. Jeannie ProvencherJuly 5, 2016 at 8:02 PM

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    6. Jeannie ProvencherJuly 5, 2016 at 8:04 PM

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. O.K. Now one has to wonder why Hoss made absolutely no mention to James of the cabin, it's connection to UMass, and his own personal ties to the place. That definitely raises an eyebrow when you consider that it's just a hop, skip and a jump from where Maura disappeared, so to speak. Why wouldn't he originally tell that to James?

    This is exactly the reason why this case intrigues so many people and why it makes many of us want to pull our hair out while attempting to connect the dots....because the people in Maura's life continue to withhold information. It's maddening. I'm very interested in hearing why Hoss left this information out when he was questioned by James.

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  17. James, it's great that you've done some digging and found some new info. However, I'm disturbed by the questions I don't see you asking; are you not curious why NOBODY mentioned this cabin in the 12 years since Maura has disappeared? I think you owe it to yourself, your profession, and your readers to try to figure that out.

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    1. I'm sure he is looking- he's just nice enough to not throw out conjecture on things like that, and wait until there's anything else to share. Which is a great way to avoid misinformation, but isn't something that any of us are used to anymore- because nobody waits until the paper gets delivered to read the headlines anymore.

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    2. I don't think it would be conjecture for James to be curious about why this information took 12 years to get. In no way am I advocating for misinformation. I'm advocating for more journalistic curiosity. Not sure what you mean when you say "he's nice enough not throw out conjecture on things like that". Plenty of James posts have conjecture.

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  18. I still feel that this is unlikely, as there would have been no electricity or running water according to an article written on the cabin, at that time. I just can't see how that would be a suitable destination in the New Hampshire night in February. I also stick by what I said yesterday, which is I also don't believe Maura would have risked getting found on University property after lying to her professors, but she had done some pretty shocking things, so I guess it's not out of the realm.

    My question though, James, is that let's say this was her destination that night? Does it in any way affect your thought that she was traveling in tandem with someone? And, does it affect your thought that she is still alive? Or is this a theory that if true, means she succumbed to the elements? (Can't fathom that). As always, though, excellent work!

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  19. To me, there are several places that are just as feasible as the cabin. She'd stayed in many, many places in that area. She had sticky fingers - it makes sense that she could have kept a key from a previous stay in any cabin or condo. If she did, and was able to confirm that the cabin or condo wasn't rented, she could use her "spare" key to enter and squat without having to pay, knowing no one would be there to discover her. Works just as well as a lock box with a code and she would prefer one with heat and electricity.

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    1. That's a different angle...I like it. Instead of calling to see if it was available because she wanted to rent it legitimately, she could just be seeing if it was available so she could use it without being noticed.

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    2. Someone should call the cabins she called again and see if they noticed anything memorably out of place on their next visit to their property, provided it wasn't rented by someone else in the meantime.

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    3. What you say makes sense, but I would imagine a rental cabin is probably checked frequently by the management company. I wonder if Maura had a history of going to the U Mass cabin with "Hoss" once or twice and remembered the lock box code. What if the code was "UMAS" or something like that. It may have been something easy to remember. About 20 years ago a friend worked as a real estate agent and she said most lock boxes in our area were coded "SPY". Despite the no heat or water situation, if Maura didn't want to be found, she may have opted for privacy over comfort. At least as a temporary solution.

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  20. You would think HB would have offered this up a long time ago. Being that this is a missing persons case why wouldn't he? This could really be something.

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  21. I don't know, this almost sounds too good to be true. My theory has been is that Maura wanted to disappear, so maybe this cabin was a final meeting spot with whoever was taking her out of the States. Seems silly she would buy all this alcohol to drive to a cabin alone with no electricity, no running water, no tv, no radio, just to drink? It would make more sense to check into a hotel room just to drink.

    And somebody mentioned above that a hotel staff member would not check in a guest that was drunk. To be honest, I've checked into hotel rooms while intoxicated before. As long as you can sign your name and your credit card goes through and you're not being belligerent or falling over they probably will assume that you'll be asleep in a few hours and if you get denied a room, you're gonna go back out on the road (driving drunk) to go find another hotel. I don't think Maura was drunk. She probably had the alcohol content in her of 2-3 nips. Which to most people, is just a minor buzz.

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    1. Two to three drinks in one hour isn't buzzed. It is legally drunk.

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    2. Anon-

      Back in my drinking days, three drinks meant I was buzzed not drunk.

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    3. Two drinks in an hour is not "legally drunk."

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    4. Drunkenness depends on a number of factors - age, weight, fitness, stomach contents, tolerance, etc. Given Maura's experience with alcohol - as is the case for most college students, I'd bet - I'm not so certain two drinks over an hour's time would have pushed her BAC above 0.08. (Again, though, it's really impossible to say now.)

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    5. She still would have been legally drunk regardless of experience with alcohol. She just may have not outwardly shown signs of being buzzed or impaired.

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  22. One of the weird things found in Maura's car was a hand held can opener. If the cabin had no electricity, this makes total sense to me. People don't just carry around can openers IMO.

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    1. i'm with you there that people don't just carry them around. however, many (most?) hand held can openers have that handy little bottle opener on them. i've pretty much opened my beers exclusively with them in the kitchen for years. gotta love multi-tools.

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    2. Maura was also a hiker. I don't hike, and have no idea what they typically carry with them, but a hand held can opener could be one of those items for a meal on a hike. But I agree, it makes sense for this cabin as well.

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  23. James - like most in here have probably done, I mapped the area from where she crashed to where (roughly) this cabin is located. The route she was taking certainly could have been one of the quickest routes used to get there. Her other option would have been to remain on 302 and cut across 117 instead of 112, but all routes would have been about the same in terms of driving time. There's nothing to suggest using 112 to get there isn't a *reasonable* possibility...particularly if she was looking to meet someone on Route 93 before heading towards the cabin.

    I've never subscribed to the idea that she was meeting someone who was driving up Route 93, but man, this sure does seem like the perfect meeting spot and the cabin is located close to where 112, 93, and 142 (where the cabin is located) all meet.

    I wonder where Hoss was that night? Did he live in Eastern Massachusetts during that time?

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    1. Driving through Easton/Franconia is faster if the roads are clear.You save about ten minutes.

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    2. Easton City LimitsMay 18, 2016 at 2:42 PM

      Also probably what Mapquest would have given as an option as well.

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  24. Everyone needs to chill out and see what law enforcement does with the lead. It's most likely a dead end

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  25. I find it strange this cabin has never been mentioned before.maybe time to talk to HB again.surely the area around this cabin needs cadaver dogs investigating

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  26. This doesn't seem like your typical cabin rental. If this cabin is owned by UMASS then it wouldn't be impossible to get into. This would not be your typical check in process.

    I am absolutely 100% shocked that no one has mentioned this place before. Maura IMO was meeting someone and when she could not find a place to stay she decided on this cabin.

    I alway thought this Hoss fellow was not telling all he knew. I am NOT saying he did anything wrong I just think him and others are not telling the whole story. In my mind this changes everything about where Maura was going that night. Now all we have to do is find out who she was meeting there and why this person never came forward.

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  27. Red Truck with Mass plates? It would interesting to know if a vehicle matching this description was registered to Hoss in Feb 2004,

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  28. Fascinating. I'm always blown away by the way that someone can find a random connection so many years later. And, as you say, at the least it's a possibility. One of the things I find encouraging about new info this late in the game is that it is likely to trigger other questions/memories/connections because people will start thinking about this and be like, "Wait... wasn't there a place people used to party at X," or whatever. Glad this was shared and that there is potential for more discovery and conversation.

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  29. And how convenient that she spoke to HB so often about running away. Too easy.

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  30. James you're doing a great job with bringing out some interesting details about this case. Kudos on the job you're doing. One thing I've learned from looking into this case is that it's hard to eliminate a scenario, because let's face it, no one knows exactly what happened. But I will say, I think some of us are getting closer to answers. My personal opinion has always been (and perhaps that's my stubborn nature coming out) that Maura was heading to Bartlett NH that night and had taken other maps as alternatives if she wasn't able to find a place in Bartlett. After she went off the road, it all changed from there. I don't know if she knew of this cabin, and quite frankly for me this seems a bit too speculative, but not impossible of course. The only thing I would say is if she had knowledge of this cabin, you would think she would have carried a map with her, but then again if she did have a map, she could have easily have taken it with her after she left the vehicle. Overall, this is an interesting idea, I'm not sold on it yet, but it's definitely something to think about for sure. Keep up the good work!

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  31. I thought the cabin theory was ruled out in 2004. Is this a different cabin than the one in 2004?

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  32. The problem with all these theories is the police are holding onto (I won't say concealing)evidence they say will ruin the investigation if let out. IT'S BEEN 12 YEARS. What are they doing with the evidence. I say lay it out there and let other crime solvers draw their own conclusions. It's better than what's being done about it now! And where is that damned ATM video?

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    1. It is obvious that the police are hiding/withholding info. If I was a police officer and perhaps my boss was involved in something bad would I inform on him? What would be the backlash of telling?

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  33. GREAT find. Excellent detective work!!! Let's keep shaking the tree and see what falls.

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  34. Is this cabin, within walking distance from the crash site (say less than 5 miles)?

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  35. I could not contain my curiosity ... I had to try and find the place. So I found this:

    https://umoc.stuaf.umass.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FY16-UMASS-OUTING-CLUB-CABIN-USER-GUIDE.pdf

    I then used google maps to help find the "trail head" ... and found it on hwy 142. If I did this via google maps right, the gps location should be: 44.268060, -71.686897.

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  36. The cabin is literally a ten min walk from my house. But no its not walking distance from where she crashed on rte 112.

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