The coldest case – where is Maura Murray?

When Maura Murray went missing, Facebook was five days old.  There is a 2014 quote from Bill Jensen about the case which is interesting and may explain the ongoing fascination with this one: On the Internet, Maura’s disappearance is the perfect obsession, a puzzle of clues that offers a tantalizing illusion—if the right armchair detective connects the right dots, maybe the unsolvable can be solved. And so every day, the case attracts new recruits, analyzing and dissecting and reconstructing the details of her story with a Warren Commission–like fervor.

As some background into Maura – she was born May 4, 1982, in Hanson, Massachusetts.

Maura was the fourth child of Frederick “Fred” and Laurie Murray. She had an older brother, Fred; two older sisters, Kathleen and Julie; and a younger half-brother, Kurt.

Maura was raised in an Irish Catholic household.

When she was six, her parents divorced, after which Maura lived primarily with her mother.

Murray graduated from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, where she was a star athlete on the school’s track team.

She was accepted into the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where she studied chemical engineering for three semesters. 

After her freshman year, she transferred to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study nursing.

Maura had a boyfriend at the time, Bill Rausch.

In the time leading up to her disappearance, Maura had been in some trouble.  

This info about an incident at West Point is from a Medium article titled – The Unsolved Disappearance of Maura Murray’. 

In August 2001, while at West Point, Maura was reportedly charged with theft for stealing cosmetics from a store at Fort Knox. An honorary investigative hearing was called on the commanding officer’s orders, indicating that they had enough evidence against her to “put her on trial” before the Cadet Advisory Committee.

The Council of Honor then recommended removing Maura from the cadet corps. This recommendation was forwarded to the Superintendent, who was to make a decision by the end of January 2002. However, Maura officially took a transfer from West Point on January 2, 2002, probably to avoid being expelled from West Point.

After this incident, Maura moved to UMass and started studying nursing.  In November 2003 (three months before she went missing), Maura was found to have stolen credit card numbers. Maura got the credit card details from receipts that had been thrown away and she ordered pizza. The charge for this was continued in December, to be dismissed after three months’ good behavior.

We will now move to February 2004, right before Maura disappeared.  She had a job as an on-campus security officer at UMass.

On Thursday February 5, 2004, at 10.20pm, Maura spoke on the phone to her sister Kathleen.  They had a discussion about Kathleen’s partner.  Kathleen has since said that nothing seemed amiss during this call.

10 minutes later, at 10.30pm, Maura started crying on the job.  When her supervisor arrived and asked her what was wrong, Maura was “just completely zoned out. No reaction at all. She was unresponsive.”   The supervisor did say Maura uttered two words ‘My sister.’

This has led many people to speculate what actually happened during the call, and in 2017, Kathleen clarified.  Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic, had been discharged from a rehab that evening, and on the way home, her fiancé took her to a liquor store, which caused an emotional breakdown.

There seems to be a bit of a time lag here because the next timestamp is around 1.20am on February 6 when Maura was escorted back to her dorm by her supervisor.

Maura’s dad Fred arrived in Amherst on Sunday February 7.  He has said they went car shopping, as Maura’s car was in bad shape and was unreliable.  Her car was a 1996 Saturn Vibrotron. After they went shopping, they also had dinner together.

After that, Maura dropped Fred off at his motel.  She then borrowed his Toyota Corolla.  I have read some reports that say the car was brand new.  She went back to campus to attend a dorm party. She arrived at 10:30 pm. At 2:30 am on Sunday, February 8, she left the party. At 3:30 am, en route to her father’s motel, she struck a guardrail on Route 9 in Hadley, causing nearly $10,000 (equivalent to $14,300 in 2021) worth of damage to her father’s car.

A police officer responded to the scene but there was no evidence of a field sobriety test being undertaken.  Maura was taken by police to her father’s motel room where she stayed the night.  At 4:49 am, there was a cell phone call placed to her boyfriend Bill from Fred’s phone. The participants and content of the phone call are unknown.

Later that day, still February 8, Fred found out that the damage to his car would be covered by his insurance. He rented a car, dropped Maura at her dorm, and departed for Connecticut. At 11:30 that night, Fred called Maura to remind her to obtain accident forms from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. They agreed to talk again Monday night to discuss the forms and fill out the insurance claim via phone.

Not too long after, we are now at midnight, early on February 9.

Maura got on her computer to search MapQuest for directions to the Berkshires and Burlington, Vermont.

After this, nobody has reported hearing from Maura until 1pm, when she emailed her boyfriend Bill.  She wrote:

“I love you more stud. I got your messages, but honestly, i didn’t feel like talking too much of anyone, i promise to call today though. love you, Maura”

Around the same time, she made a call inquiring about renting a condominium at Bartlett, New Hampshire.  Maura had stayed at this condo with her family in the past.  Telephone records indicate the call lasted three minutes. Maura did not ever end up renting the condo.

At 1:13 pm, Maura called a fellow nursing student  – the reasons for the call haven’t been made public.

At 1:24 pm, Maura emailed a work supervisor of the nursing school faculty that she would be out of town for a week due to a death in her family.   She said that she would contact them when she returned. Maura’s family later confirmed that there had been no death.

At 2:05 pm, Maura called a number which provided recorded information about booking hotels in Stowe, Vermont (800-GOSTOWE). The call lasted approximately five minutes. At 2:18 pm, she phoned Bill and left a voice message promising him they would talk later.  This call lasted for one minute.

After all this, Maura started packing up her vehicle.  She took clothing, toiletries, college textbooks, and birth control pills.  At some point between Sunday and Monday, she also removed the art from the walls of her dorm room and put most of her belongings into boxes.  

Maura printed an email between her and Bill that indicated there had been some trouble in their relationship, and she left the paper on top of the boxes.

Just to note, there were no classes on campus that day due to a snowstorm.

Maura drove away from UMass at 3.30pm on February 9.

At 3.40pm, Maura stopped and withdrew $280 from an ATM.  This was almost all of the money in her account – I believe there were a few dollars left. She then went to a liquor store where she purchased about $40 worth of alcoholic beverages, including Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlúa, vodka, and a box of Franzia wine.  She was seen on CCTV and was alone.

At some point on the 9th, Maura did pick up the accident forms that her father had requested she get.

Maura left Amherst between 4 and 5pm on February 9.  The last use of her cellphone was at 4.37pm when she checked her voicemail.  

Shortly after 7pm, Faith Westman, a resident in Woodsville, New Hampshire heard a loud thump outside her house. She looked out her window and could see that a car had hit a snowbank.  Faith called the Grafton County Sheriff’s Department at 7:27 pm to report the accident.

The 911 log says that Faith reported there was a man smoking a cigarette inside the vehicle.

However, she later stated that she had not seen a man nor a person smoking a cigarette, but rather had seen what appeared to be a red light glowing from inside the car, potentially from a cell phone.

A local bus driver named Butch Atwood was driving past the scene and he stopped at 7.33pm.  

Butch spoke with Maura for a few minutes.  He asked her if she wanted him to contact the cops. Maura declined, claiming she had already phoned AAA (according to one police log, Maura “begged” Butch not to call the cops).  Butch knew the AAA story was likely untrue as there was no cell phone service at the crash site. He noticed that Maura was shivering and cold and she appeared inebriated. To him, she didn’t look to be injured.

Butch walked a hundred yards up the road to the house, which he shared with his wife, and called 911. After initially failing to get through, he was able to report the accident at 7:43.  Butch could not see Maura’s car from his house, but he was able to see several other cars driving past.

Just as a side note, the location of the accident is around 150 miles or a 2.5 hour drive from Amherst.

Police officially arrived on the scene at 7.46pm.  The attending officer was Sergeant Cecil Smith.

I say officially, because another witness has said that at 7:37 pm, she drove to the scene and saw a police SUV parked face-to-face with Maura’s. She pulled over briefly and did not see anyone inside or outside the cars, and decided to continue home.  This has never been proven to be true but has been the cause of much discussion over the years.

Anyway, by 7.46, Maura was nowhere to be seen.  

In terms of damage to the car, it was inoperable.  It had hit a tree on the driver’s side of the vehicle, severely damaging the left headlight and pushing the car’s radiator into the fan.  The car’s windshield was cracked on the driver’s side, and both airbags had deployed. The car was locked.

Inside and outside the car, Sgt Smith saw red stains that looked to be red wine.

Inside the car, the officer found an empty beer bottle and a damaged box of Franzia wine on the rear seat. In addition, he found a AAA card issued to Maura; blank accident-report forms; gloves, compact discs, makeup, diamond jewelry; driving directions to Burlington, Vermont; Maura’s favorite stuffed animal, and Not Without Peril, a book about mountain climbing in the White Mountains.

Maura’s debit card, credit cards and cell phone were all missing from the vehicle.  None of these items have ever been found.  Police also later cross checked what Maura had purchased at the liquor store, and some of the bottles were found to be missing.  

Butch and Sgt Smith drove around the area looking for Maura.  At around 8pm, EMS and a fire truck arrived to clear the scene.  The car was towed by 8.49pm.  Sgt Smith left the scene at 9.30pm.

Upon further investigation of the car, a rag that was believed to have been part of Maura’s emergency roadside kit was discovered stuffed into the Saturn’s muffler pipe.

An auto mechanic was later asked about why this would have occurred.  He explained that stuffing a rag into a car’s tailpipe can be a way to plug it to check for leaks in the exhaust system, but that it would also stall the vehicle and at some point destroy the engine.  Fred has since said that he believes Maura’s car may have been smoking and she used the rag to stop that.

There was an alleged sighting of Maura between 8 and 9.30pm on February 9.  

Between 8:00 and 8:30 pm, a contractor returning home from Franconia saw a young person moving quickly on foot eastbound on Route 112 about 4 to 5 miles (6 to 8 km) east of where Murray’s vehicle was discovered. He noted that the young person was wearing jeans, a dark coat, and a light-colored hood. He did not report it to police immediately due to his own confusion of dates, only discovering three months later (when reviewing his work records) that he had spotted the young person the same night Maura disappeared.

At 12.36pm the following day, February 10, a BOLO was issued for Maura.  A voicemail was left on Fred ‘s home answering machine at 3:20 pm stating that her car had been found abandoned. He was working out of state and did not receive this call. At 5pm, one of Maura’s sister’s called Fred to let him know that Maura was missing.  He then contacted the Haverhill Police Department and was told that, if Maura was not reported safe by the following morning, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department would start a search. 

Maura was first referred to as ‘missing’ at 5.17pm on February 10.

On February 11, Fred and some other members of Maura’s family travelled to the area where Maura vanished from.  They worked with New Hampshire Fish and Game to conduct a search.  A police dog used one of Maura’s gloves to track her scent.  The dog tracked it to 100 yards east of where her car was found but then it lost the scene.  Some believe this may mean Maura left the area in a vehicle.

Bill Rausch and his parents arrived in the area at 5pm that day.  Police questioned him both alone and with his parents present.  We learned that while he was flying to Haverhill, Bill turned off his phone.  When he turned it back on, there was a voicemail that he believed was the sound of Maura crying.  This call was eventually traced back to a calling card, issued by the American Red Cross.

Sharon Rausch, Billy’s mother, described the message: “It was very short — consisted of a shivering, soft whimpering sound with labored breathing as if someone was very cold.”

Bill had been having problems with his phone where callers were sometimes sent to voicemail without realizing it, which could explain why a message was left and no one spoke, Sharon said.

At 7pm that day, police said they believed Maura had either run away or taken her own life.  

The FBI joined the search for Maura ten days after she disappeared.  The searches continued by many LE agencies.  They used resources such as a helicopter with thermal imaging cameras, tracking dogs and cadaver dogs.

In March 2004, Brianna Maitland went missing in Montgomery, Vermont.  There are some seeming similarities between the cases – both cars had been involved in an accident prior to the women disappearing.  Brianna disappeared around 66 miles away from where Maura was last seen.  

Brianna is also still missing but police have repeatedly said there is no likely no connection between the two cases.

Maura’s case is one where a lot of people have inserted themselves.  In late 2004, a man gave Fred a rusty, stained knife that had allegedly belonged to the man’s brother.  His brother and his brother’s girlfriend were said to have acted strangely after the disappearance, and the man’s brother claimed he believed the knife had been used to kill Maura.  Just days after the man told Fred this story, the man’s brother allegedly scrapped his Volvo. Family members of the man who turned in the knife claimed he had made up the story in order to obtain reward money in the investigation, and that he had a history of drug use.

In 2006, the New Hampshire League of Investigators, ten retired police officers and detectives, and the Molly Bish Foundation started working on the case. 

Tom Shamshak, a former police chief and a member of the Licensed Private Detectives Association of Massachusetts, said, “It appears…that this is something beyond a mere missing persons case. Something ominous could have happened here.”

You will hear a lot about the ‘A Frame’ house mentioned in Maura’s case.  

In October 2006, volunteers conducted a search of the few miles around where Maura crashed the car.  They searched this A Frame house and cadaver dogs allegedly went “bonkers”, possibly identifying the presence of human remains. The house had formerly been the residence of the man implicated by his brother, who had given Fred Murray the rusty knife.

Carpet was taken from the home for testing but the results have never been made public.

On the tenth anniversary of Maura’s disappearance in 2014, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said “We haven’t had any credible sightings of Maura since the night she disappeared.”

Fred also spoke to the New York Daily News for the anniversary and said he believed Maura had been abducted and that she was no longer alive.  

On the 15th anniversary in 2019, Fred spoke about his belief that Maura had been murdered in the A Frame house.  “That’s my daughter, I do believe.”  In April 2019, the house had new owners and they allowed a search to take place.

The excavation conducted in early April found “absolutely nothing, other than what appears to be a piece of pottery or old piping.”

That is essentially it in regards to Maura’s disappearance and the search for her.  

In terms of recent updates,  in late 2021, human remains were found at a site around 25 miles away from the crash site.  Maura was familiar with the area that the remains were found in, so we thought this might be the conclusion in her case.  It wasn’t to be though and in November 2021, the remains were announced to not belong to Maura. 

In January 2022, FBI issued a national alert in Murray’s case and created a Violent Criminal Apprehension Profile, allowing multiple law enforcement agencies to share information regarding her case. In July 2022, law enforcement in New Hampshire initiated a search in the towns of Landaff and Easton.  

To mark the 19th anniversary of Maura’s disappearance, new billboards have been placed in Mass and NH.  Maura’s sister Julie spoke to the media:

“I cannot believe that it’s been this long. At the same time, it feels like it was just yesterday,”

“It’s gotten a lot of positive energy, which is exactly what we need. At exactly the right time.”

“There’s been no cell phone activity, no bank activity, not a single credible sighting in 19 years,” Julie said. “Nothing has ever been found. Based on that it leads me to believe she is no longer with us … and was mostly likely met with foul play.”

Since Maura vanished, there have been two other notable losses in her family.  Her mother Laurie passed away in May 2009 after a battle with cancer.

Maura’s sister Kathleen (the one she had the upsetting phone call with right before disappeared) died at age 44 in November 2021.  Her obituary says she passed from cancer and I believe she also had some addiction issues over the years.



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