It was a cold February day in 2004 when UMass Amherst student Maura Murray took a spontaneous trip toward the White Mountains. She told no one where she was going when she emptied her bank account, packed up her things, and hit the road. Just as quickly as her road trip started, it abruptly came to an end that evening when Murray crashed her car on a rural New Hampshire street. She has never been seen again.
Murray’s car was found abandoned on February 9, 2004 in Haverhill, New Hampshire by State Police responding to a call by a concerned bus driver. The bus driver came upon the crash, and a seemingly uninjured Murray told him she had called AAA (even though she hadn’t) and didn’t need his help. The driver left the accident and alerted police when he got home.
When police arrived to the scene minutes later, they found the wrecked vehicle—but no sign of the driver. The car’s windshield was cracked, the airbags were deployed, the doors were locked, and a box of wine was spilled across the car seat. All of Murray’s belongings—except for her debit cards and cell phone—were in the vehicle, and a rag was stuffed inside of the tailpipe.
The peculiar scene conjured up many questions. What happened, and why? And where was Murray? Twelve years later, authorities still haven’t been able to answer those questions.
BEFORE THE ACCIDENT
Murray’s disappearance has captivated many across the web, spawning endless discussion on her life and what could have happened to her. Did the young woman walk off into the woods and freeze to death? Or, did her bad luck continue that night and lead her into the car of a killer?
In order to find answers, Internet detectives have analyzed the 21-year-old’s personal life. In the months before the accident, Murray was arrested for credit card fraud. She was on probation for the incident when she disappeared, and she also experienced an emotional breakdown while at work days before.
Two days before the accident, Murray’s father, Fred, visited her on campus. The two shopped around for used cars together, before Murray borrowed her father’s car to party with friends. Later that evening, an inebriated Murray decided to return the car to her father and got into an accident.
Murray managed to escape being arrested by police, but the event upset her. Her father said Murray felt as though she let him down. Fred left Amherst on February 8. He spoke with his daughter around 11:30pm on the phone that night to arrange to fix his car on the following Monday. As it turned out, his wrecked car would be the least of his worries.
THE ACCIDENT AND DISAPPEARANCE
On the day of her disappearance, Murray emailed her professors and told them she was taking a week off of school for a family emergency. In actuality, there was no family emergency. As well as the emails, she searched for directions to the Berkshires in Burlington, Vermont. She also researched condos in the New Hampshire area. A resident heard Murray crash outside her house at 7pm, and reported the accident by 7:30pm. The bus driver reported the accident around 7:43pm, and the police arrived at 7:46pm.
When she couldn’t be found that night, the authorities placed a B.O.L.O. (Be on the lookout) for Murray the following day. Her family and boyfriend arrived in Haverhill on February 11, and a search was done by New Hampshire Fish and Game—two days after her disappearance. The search yielded no evidence or sign of Murray.
As a part of the investigation, Murray’s family and boyfriend were interviewed by police. Her boyfriend, Billy, told them he received a voicemail (that has since been deleted) on the night of the accident that sounded like Murray crying. Police were not able to determine if the call was actually from Murray.
At the initial time of her disappearance, police explored multiple scenarios as to what happened to the nursing student. One possibility was that she had committed suicide, but police concluded it was unlikely based on information family had given to them about Murray’s state of mind at the time. She was doing well in school, and didn’t have anything truly disrupting her life—that they knew of.
Authorities also entertained the idea that Murray walked away from the scene, was picked up by a passerby, dropped off at a bus station and fled the area. Along with that idea, another theory speculated Murray was intoxicated when she crashed and she wanted to avoid getting into trouble.
Police explained the theory in a Boston newspaper, “Second unlikeliest is that, intoxicated, she ventured into the woods and was overcome by the elements. But dogs couldn’t trace her scent, there were no footprints in the fresh snow, and helicopters equipped with heat-seeking devices were no help.”
The case grew even more strange when another young woman went missing a month later. Brianna Maitland’s car was found crashed and abandoned outside a Vermont farmhouse, 100 miles away from the scene of Murray’s crash. Like Murray, Maitland has never been found. The eerie similarities between the cases prompted some to believe there was a connection between the two; however, police have never confirmed the cases are related.
What seemed like a possible lead in Murray’s case turned into nothing. It was almost as if Murray vanished into thin air. With no trace of the missing woman, the case went cold.
In 2011, writer James Renner decided to conduct his own investigation into Murray’s mysterious disappearance. Documenting his findings on a blog dedicated to Murray, Renner has pieced together parts of her life prior to the accident and formed his own theories as to what he believed happened that fateful night.
Renner uncovered more information about Murray’s Internet search history prior to her disappearance. According to his blog, she searched about pregnancy and the effects of consuming alcohol on an unborn baby. Renner theorizes that she may have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance.
He believes that her pregnancy prompted her to run away, and live in hiding. He doesn’t think she simply walked away from the scene and got lost, due to a lack of footprints in the snow at the time of the accident.
As well as a possible pregnancy, Renner has unearthed information about an alleged affair between Murray and a college track coach. She reportedly told her lover that she wanted to disappear.
Renner has also tried to connect Murray to a hit-and-run in the Amherst area prior to her disappearance. He has even pointed a finger at Murray’s father, suggesting the pair had a volatile relationship.
While his blog has an abundance of resources on Murray’s case, it has garnered a mixed reaction from websleuths everywhere. Some find that Renner is doing positive things to help solve the case, while others believe many of his theories are baseless and only tarnishing Murray’s reputation.
LEADS IN THE CASE
With the widespread attention of Renner’s blog—and Murray’s case—came new tips and leads. On the 8th anniversary of Murray’s disappearance, videos were uploaded to YouTube from a man who claimed to know information about her whereabouts.
In one video, titled HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, user 112dirtbag is just laughing maniacally into the camera for a full minute as his one tooth glistens against the glare of the screen. At the end of his taunting laughter, the mystery man winks at the camera.
In another post, the creep shows pictures of a map to a nearby ski lodge, suggesting it’s the location of Murray’s body. However, upon further investigation it was determined to be a false lead. And while the videos are unsettling, the man has been written off as a mentally unstable person obsessed with the case.
In company with haunting videos claiming to know what happened to Murray, various sightings have been reported over the years. The most recent sighting came near the 12th anniversary of her disappearance. In February 2016, a flight attendant reported seeing Murray in Quebec. She recorded a video of the sighting, and police are reportedly examining it.
MAURA IS STILL MISSING
Despite the National attention, and endless online debate the case has received, investigators haven’t come any closer to finding Maura Murray. Many online believe the troubled young woman did walk off into the woods, and her bones are burrowed in the dirt, waiting to be rescued from their makeshift grave. Murray’s father believes his daughter was abducted that night, and doesn’t want to give up hope in finding her.
As a family grieves the loss of their little girl, and tries to overcome the dread of not knowing what happened to her, the rest of the world goes on. We don’t know what happened that night, and we can’t assume to know what she was thinking or let her past mistakes determine her fate. Maura Murray crashed her car on February 9, 2004, and she needs to be found. All we can do now is hope that she’ll be brought home.