On February 9, 2004, University of Massachusetts student Maura Murray crashed her car on Route 112, an icy road in Woodsville, New Hampshire. She was never seen again.
Fourteen years later, and Murray’s case has turned cold, and her disappearance continues to be a mystery. Facebook was only five days old when Murray went missing — and yet the case has been called “the first crime mystery of the social-media age.”
Below, the top five questions that continue to baffle investigators — and true crime aficionados, websleuths, and ID Addicts.
1. What was going on in Murray’s life at the time?
Murray’s friends and family have described the UMass junior as an “All-American Girl” and a model student, athlete, and daughter.
Murray had attended West Point before transferring to UMass Amherst to study nursing, and was planning to marry her high school sweetheart, Billy Rausch, who was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. But other parts of Maura’s life remain a mystery. It does seem clear, however, that Murray’s life wasn’t as picture-perfect as it seemed on the outside.
It remains unclear why she left West Point – some investigation has suggested that she may have been asked to leave for an Honor Code violation, possibly related to a shoplifting incident. Her troubles continued during her time at UMass, as just a few months before her disappearance, Murray was charged with improper use of a credit card for possessing and using stolen credit card numbers.
In the days before she disappeared, Murray reportedly emailed professors and her job to tell them that she would not be attending class or work due to a death in the family — which was not true. Why did she lie, and why was she leaving town?
2. How could Murray have vanished without a trace?
The night of her disappearance, Murray drove her Saturn up Route 112. The car had been having problems, and the road was icy and bordered by snowbanks.
Local school bus driver Butch Atwood was on his way home when he came across the wrecked Saturn and a woman matching Murray’s description, shortly after 7 P.M. He offered to help, but she insisted that she had already called AAA, and would wait for them in her car. Atwood, skeptical of her claim, as he was aware of the spotty cell phone reception in the area, called the police after he got home.
Police arrived at 7:46 P.M. They found the Saturn, but Murray was gone.
There were no sightings of any other vehicles, and no footprints in the fresh snow. The area has been searched many times over the years, but no trace of Maura has ever been found.
3. What do we know about her last hours?
The night before her disappearance, she had dinner with her father Fred Murray, and, by all accounts, was behaving normally. After dinner, Murray dropped her father at his motel room and borrowed his Toyota Corolla to attend a dorm party.
She left the party at around 2:30 A.M. on Sunday, February 8, and, on her way home, got into a car accident, running into a guardrail.
Her father said that she was distressed by the accident, but said he told her not to worry about it and assured her that insurance would cover the damage. He told her to get accident forms to fill out — and according to reports, she stopped at some point during the day to pick up accident report forms from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
The first reported contact Murray had with anyone on February 9 was at 1 P.M., when she emailed her boyfriend, Billy. She wrote: “I got your messages, but honestly, I didn’t feel like talking to much of anyone, I promise to call today though.”
That afternoon, she withdrew $280 out of an ATM, then went to a liquor store and bought Bailey’s, Kahlua, a box of red wine, and vodka. The receipt was later found in her wrecked car.
During the investigation of the abandoned car, police also found a coke bottle that smelled as if it had contained an alcoholic beverage, and noticed red stains in the car that appeared to be red wine. Investigators found many personal items belonging to Murray inside the car, but her debit card, credit cards, and cell phone were missing — and none of them have been used since.
At 4:37 P.M. that afternoon, the last known phone call was made from Murphy’s cell phone, and was used to access her voicemail.4. Could Murray still be alive?
Murray’s father maintains that he believes Murray was abducted, and he has not given up his search for his daughter.
James Renner, who wrote True Crime Addict about his obsession with Murray’s disappearance, and has maintained a comprehensive blog tracking his investigation, posits at the end of his book that Murray may have willfully disappeared and is still out there somewhere, alive.
Police later searched Murray’s belongings, and stated that they found searches on her computer related to finding directions between Amherst, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont.
According to her father, one of her last phone calls was to the owner of a condominium for rent in Bartlett, which he says is an area she was very familiar with. Friends and family stated that she was an accomplished athlete and hiker.
Over the years, there have been several reported sightings of her, including one in Montreal and a possible picture of Murray pulled from Facebook (above). But none of the sightings have ever been verified.
5. If Maura was murdered, could there be other victims out there?
Although investigators have never been able to detect any pattern between Murray’s disappearance and that of other women who have gone missing in similar circumstances, there have been cases that might indicate the possibility of a connection.
Four years before Murray’s disappearance, 16-year-old Molly Bish seemingly vanished from her lifeguard post in Warren, Massachusetts. Her remains were found three years later in a wooded area only miles from her home. Her murder is still unsolved.
One month after Murray disappeared, an abandoned car was discovered belonging to a woman named Brianna Maitland. The vehicle was found approximately 100 miles from where Murray’s was located. No trace of Maitland has ever been found.
New Hampshire and Vermont police have repeatedly dismissed any connection between Murray’s case and the disappearance of Maitland.
On Friday night, the Missing Maura Murray remembrance group will be holding a Facebook Live chat and encourage people to join to share personal stories and memories about Murray.
Anyone with information about Murray is urged to call the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit on (603) 223-3856.
Did deeper into the Maura Murray case with the “Miles to Nowhere” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Disappeared on ID GO now!
Recommended For You:
Main photo: Maura Murray [Wikimedia Commons]