Still Missing: How Maura Murray’s Disappearance Haunts The Present Day

As of 2017, it has been over 13 years since Maura Murray went missing in the frozen wilderness of New Hampshire. Almost considered a cold case, the relentless search for Maura Murray continues to this day. The mysterious circumstances surrounding her disappearance leave many to wonder what really happened that cold February night in 2004. Could she possibly still be out there? Read through the facts and decide for yourself.

Maura Murray Disappears

Maura Murray Disappears

On February 9, 2004, 21-year-old nursing student Maura Murray left her dorm at the University of Massachusetts. She emailed her professors about her absence due to a death in the family but little did they know, she was lying and would never return. Heading north into the frozen wilderness of New Hampshire, Murray found herself stranded on the side of the road. Although she was spotted next to her car by onlookers who called 911 for her, she was mysteriously missing by the time authorities showed up. The case remains unsolved, but with the evidence that has been found so far, could the answers be hidden in plain sight?

Maura Murray Was Your All-American Girl

Maura Murray Was Your All-American Girl

Murray’s friends and family might describe her as an “All-American Girl.” Although she was known to be generally shy and quiet, the 21-year-old had a lot going for her at the University of Massachusetts. The junior-level nursing student had just made the dean’s list and worked jobs with campus security and a local art gallery. She was also on the roster of the women’s track and field team—where her excellent athleticism led her to break her high school record in the two-mile run. She kept a small circle of friends and was especially close to her family, with whom she’d often go on hiking or camping trips.

Was She On A Militant Path?

Was She On A Militant Path?

Prior to her studies at the University of Massachusetts, Murray had spent three semesters at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There, she met Billy Rausch who later became her long-distance boyfriend when Murray decided that following her older sister’s footsteps into a military life wasn’t the path she wanted to pursue. Murray transferred to the University of Massachusetts and Rausch would eventually become an Army Lieutenant stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. They made their relationship work, despite the distance. Murray had even found a job at a local hospital where Rausch was stationed so they could be together that summer. Had she not disappeared, Murray was going to become Rausch’s fiancée.

She Was Committing Small Crimes

She Was Committing Small Crimes

Months before her disappearance, Maura Murray was arraigned by local police who found that Murray was using a stolen credit card. In November 2003, another female student found unauthorized charges on her credit card and filed a report with the police. The charges were made at a local pizza parlor, who was delivering the pizza to Murray’s dorm room. Local police used the pizza delivery man in a sting to catch Murray in the act, who upon being apprehended said she’d found the credit card in the trash. The charges against Murray were going to be dropped the month that she disappeared since she had managed to stay out of trouble since that incident.

Was It A Call Of Distress?

Was It A Call Of Distress?

On Thursday, February 5, 2004, Murray was on the clock at her security job, checking student identification as they entered the Melville dormitory. Around 10:20 p.m. Murray was on the phone with her older sister, Kathleen, who would later recall that their conversation that night was nothing out of the ordinary, primarily focusing on Kathleen’s troubles with her then-fiancé-turned-husband, Tim Carpenter. Reports note that after this call, Murray was seen in tears by her work supervisor, Karen Moyette, who comforted Murray and later walked her back to her dorm, although Moyette would later reveal that she never learned why Murray was upset that night.

Murray’s Father Pays Her A Visit

Murray’s Father Pays Her A Visit

Two days later on Saturday, February 7, 2004, Maura’s father Fred Murray paid a visit to his youngest daughter at the University of Massachusetts. Mr. Murray was in town to help his daughter shop for a new car to replace her black 1996 Saturn, which was in pretty bad shape—so much so that Murray opted to drive it as little as possible. After having dinner with his daughter and one of her friends, Fred Murray returned to his room at a local motel and offered to let Murray use his car for the rest of the night. They had agreed that she would return the car to him by the next morning.

Murray Parties With Friends And Attempts To Drive Home

Murray Parties With Friends And Attempts To Drive Home

After Murray dropped her father off at his motel, she and her friend returned to the dorms at the University of Massachusetts, where there was a small party going on. Like most typical college parties, there was drinking involved, but that didn’t prevent Murray from insisting on returning her father’s car to him that night. Her friends didn’t agree with this decision, but Murray’s mind could not be changed. Around 2:30 a.m., Maura lied about going back to her room and instead, attempted to drive back to her father’s motel to return his car.

Did This Set The Precedent For The Whole Case?

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Around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, February 8, 2004, en route to her father’s hotel, Maura Murray was driving along Route 9 in Hadley just after having left a party at her college dorms. On the way, she struck a guardrail, causing $8,000 in damages to her father’s car. The responding officers to the scene wrote up a report of the accident, but no sobriety checks were given and Murray was notably shaken up. She was given a ride back to her father’s motel, where she profusely apologized for what happened. Fred Murray would later recount to Hanson Express, “She was upset, but it was okay… If this is the only trouble a kid ever causes, then you’re pretty lucky as a parent.”

Murray’s Boyfriend Notices Something Odd

Murray’s Boyfriend Notices Something Odd

Nearly an hour after her accident, Murray made a call to her boyfriend Billy Rausch, who at this point was still stationed at Oklahoma. Fred Murray lent his phone to his daughter to use as he knew that she and Rausch were quite close, later commenting that “They would have ended up married.” The call at 4:49 a.m. was answered and Rausch consoled his distressed girlfriend on the phone. He would later tell reporters that it seemed like there was more on Murray’s mind than just the accident. It can be assumed that Murray didn’t let the accident affect her too much since the next few days were focused on moving forward.

Murray’s Father Encourages Her To Move On

Murray’s Father Encourages Her To Move On

The following morning, Fred Murray determined that his car insurance would cover the costs of the accident. He brought his daughter back to her dorm before he headed back to his job in Connecticut. Around 11:30 p.m. that night, Fred Murray checked in with his daughter to remind her to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to pick up some accident report forms. She was to call her father the next night to go over the forms and fill them out. But by this point, ideas might have begun to stir in Murray’s mind.

Maura Murray Makes Questionable Internet Searches

Maura Murray Makes Questionable Internet Searches

The following Monday, February 9, 2004, Maura Murray conducted a series of questionable internet searches and phone calls. She first made a brief call to a couple who own a rental condo at a resort in Bartlett, New Hampshire, where she and her family often vacationed while she was growing up, however, Murray made no reservations for a condo. She also made a call to a hotel bookings hotline, which was out of order at the time. Police would later find that just after midnight that morning, Murray had searched the Berkshires and Burlington, Vermont on MapQuest.

Was She Trying To Break Up Or Say Goodbye?

Was She Trying To Break Up Or Say Goodbye?

That afternoon, Maura also attempted to communicate with her boyfriend, Billy Rausch. In an email to him, she wrote: “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.” She followed through on her promise, making a call to Rausch at around 2:18 p.m. and leaving a voicemail that more or less expressed that she needed to talk to him. Was she having second thoughts about their relationship and wanting to break things off? Or was she trying to say goodbye before she disappeared forever?

Murray Faked A Death In The Family

Murray Faked A Death In The Family

After contacting her boyfriend, Murray emailed her university professors and some work supervisors to notify them about her upcoming absence. She told them that there was a death in her family and she would be out for about a week. However, authorities would later discover that there were no deaths in Murray’s family at the time. Murray’s friend Liz Drewniak told Hanson Express, “There was something she wanted to get away [from] and think about… Maybe she just wanted to get away. She was probably under a lot of pressure.” But where that pressure was stemming from would puzzle investigators for years to come.

Did She Intend On Returning To School?

Did She Intend On Returning To School?

Murray then “fastidiously packed all her belongings into boxes before she left school, even removing the art from her dorm room walls,” according to a report in the Boston Globe. She packed up her dorm room as if she had no plans to return. She then also packed a bag of personal belongings that she would take with her: clothes, toiletries, her birth control, college textbooks, a cell phone charger, her favorite stuffed animal from her father, and a diamond necklace from Rausch. It seemed that Murray had intended to get away for a few days, the textbooks suggesting that she might have had intentions of returning to school.

Murray’s Car Was Not Supposed To Be Used

Murray’s Car Was Not Supposed To Be Used

Maura’s textbooks were found in her car at the time she disappeared, but investigators determined that the books couldn’t have already been in there since she was continuously hitching rides with friends due to the state her car was in. Fred Murray would later recount to Boston Magazine that Maura’s car “kind of blew a cylinder” and was “smoking something fierce… I said, ‘You can’t drive this car. The cops will pull you over in a heartbeat.” This was why Murray and her father were car shopping just two days before the worst would end up happening.

Murray Makes Her Escape

Murray Makes Her Escape

At around 3:30 p.m. on Monday, February 9, 2004, Maura Murray got into her barely functional Saturn and left the University of Massachusetts campus, never to return. By 3:40, surveillance shows Murray alone at an ATM, where she withdrew $280 in cash which was reportedly all the money she had in her account. She then stopped at a liquor store where she purchased mudslide ingredients—vodka, Baileys Irish Cream, and Kahlúa coffee liqueur—and a box of wine. She was then on her way to an undisclosed location known to no one but herself. Did she really just need to get away for a while?

Murray Drives Into The New Hampshire Wilderness

Murray Drives Into The New Hampshire Wilderness

The last recorded call from Murray’s phone would be the one she made at 4:37 p.m. when she was checking her voicemail messages—probably to see if her boyfriend had responded—while en route into Northern New Hampshire. Based on the phone calls and internet searches Murray had made earlier that day, one would assume she might have been trying to head to a resort or another town. However, she only made it as far as Woodsville, a rural village within the town of Haverhill, New Hampshire, just shy of the Vermont state line. By now it was 7:00 p.m. and Murray found herself stranded on the side of Wild Ammonoosuc Road.

Maura Murray Ended Up In A Wrong Way Crash

Maura Murray Ended Up In A Wrong Way Crash

Murray’s car was stuck in a snowbank on the side of the road, facing west in the eastbound lane. The exact circumstances as to how she got herself into that situation are still a mystery. Just after 7:00 p.m. a citizen named Faith Westman, who lived at 70 Wild Ammonoosuc Road, heard a loud thump outside her house. Noticing a car lodged in the snowbank, Westman contacted the police to report an accident, although neither she nor her husband went out to help the victim of the crash. Westman told authorities she thought she saw a man smoking a cigarette outside the car, while her husband said he saw a young woman on her phone.

Neighbors Saw The Crash But Did Nothing

Neighbors Saw The Crash But Did Nothing

Other neighbors along the road were witnesses to the moment Murray’s car crashed. Why no one had acted upon seeing the accident right away is questionable in itself. Across the street from the Westman’s, the Marrotte family also noticed the car that had crashed on the street outside their home. Virginia Marrotte told Hanson Express, “From our kitchen window we saw a car down the road with trouble lights flashing and someone walking around the car.” By the time Marrotte and her husband had assessed the situation from their home, they had no time to intervene before they noticed another neighbor pull up next to the car outside.

The Man Who Could Have Saved Her

The Man Who Could Have Saved Her

Arthur “Butch” Atwood was a local school bus driver who was returning home from a ski field trip. He and his wife lived at 4 Wild Ammonoosuc Road, about 100 yards from the scene of Murray’s crash. Atwood would later identify the woman with the car as Maura Murray and noted to authorities that “she was cold and she was shivering.” Murray reportedly did not leave the driver’s side of her car for the duration of her conversation with Atwood, who also noticed that her door was stuck against the bank as there were over two feet of snow on the ground.

Murray Refused Help From A Stranger

Murray Refused Help From A Stranger

Atwood stepped down from his bus and offered Murray help, insisting that he contact the police. Murray pleaded that he wouldn’t, telling him that she had already contacted AAA, which Atwood thought was strange since cell reception in the area was unreliable. Atwood even offered to give Murray a ride to his house so she could wait for AAA there, but understandably, she refused and wanted to stay with her car. Knowing there was nothing else he could do, he suggested she turn on her lights so she could be spotted by oncoming cars. He drove home but still concerned he, too, contacted the police.

The Details Of That Night Don’t Add Up

The Details Of That Night Don’t Add Up

Although Murray had allegedly claimed she called AAA, Sharon Rausch, Murray’s boyfriend’s mother (who had gifted Murray her cell phone and AAA membership) later confirmed to authorities that AAA was never contacted that night. Atwood’s call to the police came in 16 minutes after Faith Westman’s call, after which an officer had already been dispatched and was en route to the scene. Sergeant Cecil Smith arrived at the crashed car around 7:46 p.m.—not even 10 minutes since Atwood left a distressed Murray at her car. However, there was no one to be found. Maura Murray had disappeared.

The Car Was A Total Wreck

The Car Was A Total Wreck

Although there was no one to be found inside or around the car by the time police arrived on the scene, there were other alarming observations that add to the mystery of Murray’s disappearance. The car was no longer operable since the radiator was pushed into the fan, which suggests that the car was in a significant accident. Other clues as to how bad the accident actually was were a broken windshield, deployed air bags, and red stains both inside and outside of the car, which was locked. The red stains turned out to be alcohol and were probably from the damaged box of wine in the backseat (Murray’s other alcoholic purchases were not present).

The Items In Murray’s Car Are Mysterious Clues

The Items In Murray’s Car Are Mysterious Clues

Police also found a soda bottle that was carrying a red alcoholic beverage in the car. They also found Murray’s AAA card, accident report forms, MapQuest directions to Vermont, Murray’s stuffed animal, and the book Not Without Peril, which is about mountain climbing in the New Hampshire wilderness. Six days passed since the accident before Sergent Smith finally filed a report, which read, “Evidence at the scene indicated the vehicle had been eastbound and had gone off the roadway, struck some trees, spun around, and come to rest facing the wrong way in the eastbound lane.” But the biggest question remained: Where was Maura Murray?

Maura Murray Mysteriously Left Without A Trace

Maura Murray Mysteriously Left Without A Trace

Although Murray was nowhere to be found at the scene of her crash, there were no clues as to what may have happened to her. Her credit and debit cards and her cellular phone were all missing from the vehicle, but they have been dormant since the night of the accident. Additionally, there were no footprints in the snow surrounding the area, suggesting she may have taken off but stuck to the road—unless she was picked up by a stranger. But it would seem odd that she would enter a stranger’s car since she didn’t even want help from Atwood, which leads many theorists to speculate that she was forcibly taken.

Why Would She Leave Before Help Arrived?

Why Would She Leave Before Help Arrived?

Another question that comes to mind is why Murray would leave before help even arrived. Many investigators on the case suspect drunk driving is a huge factor in all of this. In addition to the red stains in the car and the bottle filled with red alcohol, the other bottles of alcohol that Murray purchased that day were missing, leading many to believe she was drinking and driving. This theory would not be unfounded as it also explains how she might have crashed in the first place. Perhaps she fled on foot for fear of being arrested for suspected DUI.

A Rag Was Found Stuffed In The Tailpipe Of Murray’s Car

A Rag Was Found Stuffed In The Tailpipe Of Murray’s Car

Investigators also noticed a rag that was stuffed into the tailpipe of Murray’s car. The rag came from the trunk of her car, which her father Fred said he put into her emergency roadside kit. But automotive experts say that stuffing the rag into the tailpipe would cause life-threatening damage, especially for those who purposely would want to expose themselves to carbon monoxide poisoning. Boston Magazine later reported that Murray’s father was the one who suggested putting the rag there in the first place, to conceal smoke that came out of the car as a result of the previously mentioned blown cylinders.

A Stumped Sergeant Knocks On Neighbor’s Doors

A Stumped Sergeant Knocks On Neighbor’s Doors

With the driver of the car missing, Sergeant Smith had no choice but to look for witnesses and clues. Smith went down the road to interrogate Atwood, who told Smith that he had not seen anyone since leaving Murray’s car. The two drove around the area in search of the missing girl but found nothing. In less than an hour from the moment Murray had disappeared, authorities had come and gone and Murray’s car was towed to an auto shop ten miles away. As for Murray, she wasn’t officially pronounced missing until the next day. Police issued a BOLO alert on Tuesday, February 10, 2004.

Maura Murray’s Family Couldn’t See This Coming

Maura Murray’s Family Couldn’t See This Coming

That Tuesday afternoon, Fred Murray was finally notified by authorities that a car under his name was abandoned in Woodsville, New Hampshire. Since he was away at work, he didn’t even get the message until around 5:00 p.m., when his daughter Kathleen called him to let him know Maura’s car was abandoned and that she was missing. Fred Murray immediately called the Haverhill Police and insisted they begin searching for his daughter, but an official search didn’t even begin until the following day. By this time, something very grave could have happened to the missing girl.

The Search For Maura Murray Begins

The Search For Maura Murray Begins

Fred Murray was in New Hampshire before dawn the next Wednesday morning and by that day, New Hampshire authorities and the Murray family were in the area to search for a missing Maura. Search dogs were given a pair of gloves found in Murray’s car but quickly lost the scent as they searched in the woods. Because search and cadaver dogs could hardly detect anything in the surrounding woods, investigators believe that Murray was picked up along the road by another car. The theory that Murray got lost in the woods and succumbed to the elements was eventually ruled out.

Billy Rausch Receives A Call That Could Have Had The Answers

Billy Rausch Receives A Call That Could Have Had The Answers

Billy Rausch and his parents also arrived in New Hampshire by Wednesday evening to help search for Maura. Earlier that day, Rausch was walking through security at a Dallas airport en route to New Hampshire when he turned off his phone. While his phone was off, he received a voicemail from a mysterious caller. Billy’s mother Sharon recalled to Hanson Express, “It was very short and consisted of a shivering, soft whimpering sound with labored breathing as if someone was very cold.” No words were said and the number traced back to a calling card from the American Red Cross.

Authorities Label Maura Murray As “Suicidal”

Authorities Label Maura Murray As “Suicidal”

Around five days after Murray went missing, the search continued on. In a press conference at the accident site, chief of police Jeff Williams announced that Murray was still at large and that investigators were hoping she’d reach out to a friend or family member so that they’d have a lead on her whereabouts. Chief Williams announced to Associated Press, “We are concerned for her personal welfare. There is no evidence of foul play… Our concern is that she’s upset or suicidal, something the family was concerned about.” Authorities probably came to that conclusion based on interviews from those who interacted with Murray leading up to her disappearance, however, Fred Murray was not pleased with how his daughter was labeled.

The Nationwide Search For Maura Murray

The Nationwide Search For Maura Murray

The search for Maura Murray continued throughout the rest of February 2004. Helicopters searched above the New Hampshire wilderness using thermal cameras, while both tracking and cadaver dogs were used in ground searches. Both efforts came up fruitless. It wasn’t long before the authorities extended the investigation into a nationwide search. By March 2, 2004, the items found in Murray’s car were returned to her family, who decided to return home from their exhausting search. The only one who stayed behind was Maura’s father, Fred, who would return every weekend to continue searching for his daughter.

The Father Who Won’t Give Up On His Daughter

The Father Who Won’t Give Up On His Daughter

Fred Murray told Hanson Express, “Any rumor, we’ll look at… They are plenty of good suspects… this is the worst place in the world to have an accident.” But soon, Fred Murray’s determination would land him in trouble, as Hanson Express would also report that Chief Williams issued a formal complaint against Murray, who had been accused by area residents of parking on private property and trespassing. Murray could not be fazed, however, as he filed suits against several government agencies for withholding documentation surrounding the case and for not treating the case as something beyond a missing person case.

Anonymous Tip Gives Fred A Possible Murder Weapon

Anonymous Tip Gives Fred A Possible Murder Weapon

Well into the later half of 2004, a man approached Fred Murray with evidence that might have possibly been related to his daughter’s disappearance. The unnamed man presented Fred Murray with a rusty, red-stained jackknife and said that he thought his brother might have had something to do with Maura’s disappearance. The anonymous man’s brother was allegedly living less than a mile away from the scene of the accident at the time that it happened and according to Hanson Express, “his brother [had] a record of violence and said that his brother’s live-in girlfriend began acting strange around the time of Maura’s disappearance.”

The Police Ignore Substantial Evidence

The Police Ignore Substantial Evidence

“I have what could be evidence in a capital crime,” Fred Murray told the state police according to Hanson Express. However, not only would they not accept the evidence right away, but the inconvenience that the state police caused prompted Fred to send in the evidence by mail. Although he later received a receipt of the police receiving the package, he hasn’t heard anything in relation to the jackknife since that time. The identities of the man who gave Fred the evidence and his brother were never disclosed since it couldn’t be proved that either were suspects in Maura’s disappearance.

Could A Similar Disappearance Be Connected To Maura?

Could A Similar Disappearance Be Connected To Maura?

On March 19, 2004, a Vermont woman named Brianna Maitland also went missing—a month after Maura Murray’s disappearance. Because of the proximity of both disappearances both in date and distance were very close, investigators believed that the two cases might possibly be connected. The following day, Maitland’s car was found backed into an abandoned home about a mile away from her workplace. Maitland’s paychecks were in the front seat, while loose change and an unsmoked cigarette were found outside of the vehicle. Brianna Maitland wasn’t announced missing for five days. Could Maitland’s case be connected to Murray’s?

Police Don’t Think Murray And Maitland Are Connected

Police Don’t Think Murray And Maitland Are Connected

Despite the similarities between the disappearances of Murray and Maitland—both girls disappeared after their cars were abandoned on rural roads—and the fact that both instances happened within 90 miles of each other, authorities determined that the two cases were unrelated. No evidence could support the possibility that the cases were linked, so the theory that there was a serial killer at large was also ruled out. Although the cases are unrelated, both Maura Murray and Brianna Maitland still remain missing as of 2017, with very little clues as to where they might possibly be.

Fred Murray Has Gone Rogue In His Search

Fred Murray Has Gone Rogue In His Search

“Anything I want done, I do it myself,” Fred Murray told the Hanson Express in 2007. He has given up on local and state police, believing that their lack of competency in the case is the reason why they won’t disclose any records with him. He told Hanson Express, “They didn’t do what they were supposed to do, and they’ve been covering up ever since.” Murray continued to search for his daughter on his own, following any possible tips and rumors that pass through his ears, despite the complaints of trespassing against him. Even after the FBI was somewhat involved, no advances in the case have been made.

Maura Murray Is Still Missing

Maura Murray Is Still Missing

Maura Murray went missing in 2004, at the helm of the Internet age. Murray’s disappearance gained traction on the Internet at the time, leading many online sleuths to conduct their own theories as to what may have happened to the 21-year-old nursing student that cold February night. The circumstances surrounding her case and especially her motives behind leaving are still a mystery. As of 2017, New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin told The Boston Globe, “It’s still an open case with periods of activity and [at] times it goes dormant. There are no new updates to share at this time.”