On Monday, February 9, 2004 Maura Murray, a 21-year old all-American girl from Hanson, Massachusetts disappeared after crashing her car on a desolate stretch of Wild Ammonoosuc Road near Woodsville, New Hampshire.
Minutes after being seen by witnesses at the accident, she vanished. There were no footprints in the snow and search dogs failed to pick up her scent. Clues, evidence, and her activities in the lead-up to her disappearance have fuelled a myriad of theories about what became of Maura Murray; some plausible others inane. Was she murdered or kidnapped? Or did she have help disappearing —and if so, will Maura Murray ever let us know?
Who Was Maura Murray?
Maura Murray was born on May 4, 1982 in Hanson, Massachusetts. She was the third child of Fred and Laurie Murray and had two older sisters, Kathleen and Julie. She also had an older brother, Fred Jr. and one younger brother, Kurt.
Raised in an Irish Catholic household, her childhood was pretty uneventful. That was, until her parents divorced when she was six. She spent most of her childhood living with her mother.
After high school, Murray was accepted into West Point Military Academy, which is where her sister Julie was also attending. She studied chemical engineering there for three semesters and met her boyfriend, William (Billy) Rausch, a fellow cadet. After her freshman year, Murray transferred to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study nursing.
Why did Maura leave a prestigious school like West Point and her boyfriend after just three semesters? It turns out she was busted for stealing makeup from the commissary at Fort Knox during a training trip. She swiped less than five dollars of makeup but it resulted in an honor code violation. She left before being expelled.
At UMass, Murray worked as an on-campus security guard to help pay for her classes. Unfortunately, trouble followed her to UMass, too. During her time there she was arrested for using a stolen credit card number for fast-food deliveries. The charge was dismissed as long as she stayed out of trouble.
Murray’s Odd Behavior Days before She Disappeared
While Murray was the typical all-American girl. She made some odd decisions in the lead-up to her disappearance, but that may, or may not have just been coincidental.
On Thursday, February 5, Murray chatted with her sister Kathleen on the phone while she was on duty at her campus-security job. According to Kathleen, they mostly talked about problems she was having with her fiancé. At around 10:30 p.m., while still on duty, Murray broke down crying.
Her supervisor, Karen was told that Murray was in tears and went to check on her; she found her behind the desk “in an almost catatonic-like state.” She was letting students in without checking their IDs and staring into space. When Karen asked what was wrong, Murray only said, “My sister.”
Karen relieved Murray of her duties on the reassurance that she was okay and would spend the rest of the evening talking to her roommate. Karen later found out that Murray didn’t have a roommate.
What made Murray so upset? Kathleen said she could not recall anything that would make Maura cry, especially since she was not prone to crying. According to phone records, Murray checked her voicemail at 8:40 that night, and called her boyfriend at 9:09 and 9:55; they were only one minute long which suggests they were voicemails. At 12:07 a.m., she spoke to Billy Rausch on the phone for seven minutes.
It’s possible that Murray was upset about something that happened on her phone call with Rausch, but simply told Karen that it had to do with her sister Kathleen. Again, Kathleen said she had no idea why her sister would be crying after their phone call, and why she would say it had to do with her.
Maura’s dad, Fred was in Amherst visiting her on February 7, two days before she vanished. While there, he helped her look for a car to replace her 1996 Saturn. The old beater was famous for belching oily, blue smoke from the tailpipe.
They didn’t find a car, but later that night, after going out for dinner, Murray borrowed her dad’s new Toyota to go to a party. She was drinking and hit a guardrail in Hadley; no tickets were issued, but she did cause $10,000 worth of damage. Instead of heading to her dorm, Murray went to the hotel where her father was staying.
A Death in the Family
On the afternoon of February 9, the day she vanished, Murray sent an email to her professors telling them she needed to take some time off. There was a death in the family and she was needed back in Hanson. The only problem was, there was no death in the family. Murray made the entire story up.
She emailed Rausch, “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. [sic]”
She then packed up her textbooks, toiletries, a week’s worth of clothes, a stuffed animal her dad gave her, and a necklace from Rausch.
Records show that she virtually drained her bank account, withdrawing $280, and bought $40 worth of alcohol. Then hit the road, driving three hours from her dorm in Amherst, Massachusetts to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
On the night of February 9, 2004, Maura Murray, the 5’7” blue-eyed, brown haired all-American girl, crashed her beater of a car on a sharp turn on Wild Ammonoosuc Road in Woodsville, New Hampshire.
She lost control on the icy roads and slammed into a snowbank. A passerby stopped and asked if she needed any help, but she waved him off, telling him that she already called AAA. When he got home, he called police anyway.
That night, local police received two calls from two residents about a car off the road. The first call came in at 7:27 p.m. An officer arrived on the scene at 7:46 p.m. and found the car locked, air bags deployed, but no sign of Murray.
Inside the locked car was a box of alcohol on the back seat; a MapQuest printout for directions to Burlington, Vermont; and a book titled, Not without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire. The book looks at more than a dozen hiker tragedies in the White Mountains from the 19th century until its publication in 2009. Investigators said the car had a strong odor of alcohol (probably from the box of wine that bounced around) and her debit card, credit cards, and cell phone were missing.
Police observed that there were no footprints in the snow. Tracking dogs lost any scent of Murray within 100 feet of the abandoned car, and a heat-seeking helicopter came up empty.
She vanished without a trace and her whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.
Theories and Conjecture, What Happened to Maura Murray?
Why Murray lied about a death in the family, left the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and was driving north is anyone’s guess. Some say the clues point to her running away, looking for a new start. Others say she walked into the woods that night and perished.
With no leads though, it’s easy to see why there are so many theories about her disappearance.
Below are some of the more popular, but not necessarily well-informed theories, about what happened to Maura Murray.
The most popular theory is that Murray is dead and met with foul play.
Retired state police Lt. John Healy, who spent many hours volunteering on the case, believes that is the most likely scenario and Murray was the victim of a “crime of opportunity.”
“She got into the wrong car. She went to the wrong house,” Healy said. “One minute she’s there, 10 minutes later she’s not.”
“In Maura’s case, we’re one step away from thinking alien abduction, it happened so fast,” Healy added.
This might be the most popular theory, but one witness, Rick Forcier, who lived near the accident site, came forward months after she vanished, and said he thinks he saw Murray that night running down the road.
Murray thought that Rausch was going to propose to her in the not too distant future. And her family portrayed Murray and Rausch as a loving couple, but rumors of trouble abound, including alleged cheated on both sides.
Murray’s assistant track coach Hossein Baghdadi (known as “Hoss”) told James Renner, the author of the bestselling book, True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, said he was dating Murray in the spring and summer of 2003.
But Murray broke it off to focus on Rausch. Still, Hoss said he had concerns about the way Rausch was treating Murray.
“He seemed very chauvinistic,” Hoss said. “He wanted her to be in certain places at certain times. He was checking up on her. I think he was demanding with her, but that’s just the impression I got.”
After Murray vanished, detectives interviewed Hoss. He told them about a conversation he had with Murray.
“She talked about running away. She said, ‘I wish I could disappear.’ When I heard she was missing, I though, ‘holy crap! Maybe she did it.'”
Hoss also learned later than Murray was sleeping with other members of the track team.
“She was super energetic. Always seemed happy. But she was sad, too. Underneath.”
Several former co-workers of Rausch’s at Ray Group International in Washington, D.C., told Renner that Rausch said he and Murray were about to break up when she went missing. According to one woman, Rausch said they were breaking up when she disappeared, and in hindsight, “he was glad things worked out the way they did.”
Another popular theory is that Maura Murray simply ran away and disappeared into the night. The only proof to suggest this is possible is that she emptied her bank account the day before. Some believe she took the $280 in an effort to start a new life, living off the grid.
Before she left UMass, Murray also packed all of her dorm belongings into boxes. On top of the box was an email from Billy Rausch; Murray discovered that he was seeing other women when they took a break from each other.
A wild theory but one that even the police have not totally discounted.
First, while investigating Murray’s computer, they found information relating to the effects of alcohol during a pregnancy. Some speculated that this information simply related to a nursing assignment at UMass.
Police Lieutenant John Scarinza thinks there’s more to the story though. He said that just before Murray searched for accommodations online before leaving on February 9, she was looking up the effects of alcohol on an unborn fetus.
“There were several searches about pregnancy conducted from Maura’s computer that strongly suggested to investigators that Maura was either pregnant or thought she could be. The searches did not relate to any possible homework.”
Scarzina went on to say that while Murray was a nursing student, she completed her final homework assignment just after 3:00 that morning. The searches relating to the effects of alcohol on a fetus were done later in the day.
One of Rausch’s co-workers in Washington D.C. said she believes she saw him destroy ultrasound photographs of a baby in the wound.
There are some who believe that Murray was abducted. There are reported cases in the area of abductions that took place both before and after she disappeared. Whether there is a connection or not is open for debate.
Four years before Murray vanished, 16-year old Molly Bish disappeared from her lifeguard post in Warren, Massachusetts. Her remains were found three years later in a wooded area close to her home. Her murder remains unsolved.
Brianna Maitland went missing just one month after Murray vanished. The 17-year old disappeared after leaving her job bussing tables at the Black Lantern Inn in neighboring Montgomery, Vermont.
She left work at around 11:20 p.m. and drove home. Except she never made it.
The next day, Maitland’s car was found by police backed up against the wall of a barn on an abandoned farm. Police found two of her paychecks and her migraine medication in the car. The keys were missing.
Because the local police did not know that it was a crime scene, they towed the car off the property without taking any photos. No one has seen or heard from Maitland since.
Alive and Well in Canada
Is it possible that Maura Murray is alive and well, living quietly in the Great White North? There have been a large number of alleged sightings of Murray in the province of Quebec. Her car was found on Ammonoosuc Road, which is just seven miles from Interstate I91. Once on that road, it’s a 75-minute drive north to the Canadian border town of Stanstead, Quebec.
How could she pull that off? There could have been a second driver that was meeting up with Murray. The tandem driver could have been driving ahead of her, and, once they saw she was no longer in the rearview mirror, turned around and picked her up.
There is some evidence to support this theory. A cashier at Burston’s Supermarket in Woodsville says Murray and two female friends were in the store buying alcohol. She ID’d all three of them.
She reported the sighting to her supervisor when she learned about Murray’s disappearance, who then told the police. Because it was never followed up, chances are good the cop didn’t file a report.
On top of that, other residents in Woodsville allegedly saw Murray and her two friends visit the McDonalds across the street.
Years later, an anonymous report on a message board suggested that Murray was living in Quebec. Someone responded to the post saying the story had a ring of truth to it and that it was common knowledge in certain circles of those who are friends with the family.
The IP address to the response was traced to a small town in Massachusetts where Fred Murray’s cousins live.
That was followed by another post on a different message board. “Tourist in Canada” said, “I saw Maura Murray alive and well in Sherbrooke Quebec, I approached her and said “Hi Maura”. She turned toward me and said “Hi” then gasped and looked like she was going to pass out from shock. I have no doubt this was Maura Murray. She is apparently alive and well and living in Canada. When I saw her she was with very handsome young man. [sic]”
In June 2015, a man contacted James Renner to say that, when he was a kid in 2004 and staying with his aunt, a woman showed up at the house, frightened, and pleaded to come inside. The woman said she was running from some men. His aunt let her in and she stayed for a while.
Ten years later, he was watching a video on unsolved mysteries on YouTube and recognized Maura Murray as the woman who came to their home that night.
The house was in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, near Black Lake, which is just a few miles across the border from Quebec.
And in 2013, Renner travelled to Sherbrooke, Montreal, and Quebec City and showed pictures of Murray to people throughout those cities. A manager at a fitness center said he was 100% sure she’d seen her there. A record store employee said Murray was in the store just a few days before.
It’s important not to jump to conclusions about what possibly happened to Maura Murray. It’s also important not to rule out information either. The case of Maura Murray has never been closed and is considered to be an ongoing investigation. Police continue to receive tips but none of them has resulted in closure. Maura Murray’s disappearance is being treated as suspicious.