Sunday, July 31, 2011

Billy was a player.

I've discussed before that the phone call the Rausch's have long claimed came from Maura the day after she disappeared was just a Red Cross worker trying to help Bill get leave from the military. No calling card was used. But his distortions of the truth don't stop there.

There was something about Bill Rausch that Maura couldn't walk away from, even when she knew he was bad news bears, according to her aunt Janis.

"He cheated on her. Cheated on her with her sister Julie's friend as if that wouldn't get back to Maura. Then he'd buy her expensive jewelry. Maura was heartbroken. She came to me sobbing. I told her he wasn't worth it. But she always went back."

One detective went further. "He's a scumbag, the way he treated Maura. If she did go up there with the intention of committing suicide, it's because of the way he treated her."

Bill Rausch has not responded to requests for an interview.

Items found inside Maura's Car:

Some of the items Maura left behind in her car, like the bottles of alcohol, have been removed, but others still remain, including the coke bottle that allegedly contained booze of some sort.

Beside the bottle is a tag from a place called the Lynwood Cafe, located in Randolph, Mass, which is kind of an odd place for Maura to have visited. Here's a quote from one review:

The place is called the Lynwood Cafe, and it is located at a deserted-looking crossroads in a rather gritty part of Randolph. Aside from being relatively little-known, the Lynwood is nearly impossible to find if you don't know the area, and indeed, even people who have been to the place a few times (including this writer) still have trouble finding it. But for bar pizza, it may be the best in the Boston area, which makes it well worth seeking out if you like that style of pie.

Also does anyone know what the strange packet is resting in the change holder? I don't know what the metal contraption in the door compartment is, either, or if it was something left behind from the towing company. The parking pass was on the ground beside the car and may be unrelated.

Maura's Car

Maura Murray's car is still parked outside behind Troop F's barracks near the white mountains. It's locked, but I could clearly see red stains on the ceiling inside.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finally, people are beginning to talk!

There's a bit of a cultural divide between NE Ohio and eastern Mass, I've discovered. The people out here on the east coast still have manners. They keep things close to the vest and still think pride is a sin. It's a nicer way of living. From New Jersey, west, we're only too anxious to share what we know about everyone and to tell you what's so great about ourselves.

The very culture out here makes my job so difficult. It's like pullin teeth to get people to open up. But finally, I'm making a little progress. Last night I spoke to Maura's aunt Janis, her mother Laurie's sister, a big influence on her life. Great woman. Lots of stories. And just an hour ago, I sat down for an interview with the youngest sibling, Kurt Murray. What a great guy. He reminds me of a young Ben Affleck, except with red hair.

Still no response from the father, Fred. Though he continues to tell Maura's friends not to speak to me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thoughts from the road...

Just wanted to thank everyone (except maybe Bill Matteson) I met over the last couple days in Haverhill. Everyone knows everyone up there and is only too willing to help.

Thanks, too, to all the people emailing me new info I did not have. I'll try to get through everything when I get back to Ohio next week.

One tiny bit of new info for today: I was surprised to find Maura's Saturn still parked behind Troop F's office. The coke bottle is still in there, too. I took a bunch of pics and will post them soon.

A new theory

I spent yesterday re-interviewing the people of Haverhill who witnessed Maura outside her vehicle moments after the crash as well as the people who responded to the accident. I'll be posting a lot of new info about the crash (it did not happen as reported) and the moments surrounding it in the next week.

For now, I will say this. I no longer like the theory that she may have checked into a hotel before the crash. I agree with Fred at this point, that she was on her way to Bartlett. I think her plan was to stay a night or two. I also believe she left on foot shortly after the accident and continued East down 112, where she was seen by Rick Forcier about a half hour later near the intersection of 116.

If this is what she did, it increases the time she was alone. The probability that a bad guy happened upon her then is not so astronomical anymore. It's about 16 miles from the scene of the accident to the next town, Lincoln. At this point, I think she was picked up somewhere in the quiet distance between.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Incident at Swiftwater Stage Shop

I'm up here in Haverhill, trying to confirm some information about Maura's disappearance. One of the details I'm trying to run down is this business about Rick Forcier. Forcier lived at the intersection of Bradley Hill Rd. and Rt 112/Wild Ammonoosuc, within sight of Maura's crash. He came forward months later and told police he saw Maura running down the road the night of the accident. It's always been an odd detail. Forcier, unfortunately, has moved and is proving hard to track down.

Forcier is a friend of Bill and Winifred Matteson, who own and operate the Swiftwater Stage Shop just down the road, in Bath. It's a quant little convenience store that serves as a grocery to some of the people who live in the area. In the past, Winnie has been very nice. But today, Bill was working.

Bill's a medium sized guy with a mostly bald head.

"Do you know how I can reach Rick Forcier?" I asked.

"No," said Bill. "And I'm not telling you a damn thing."

Obviously, I was taken aback. "Why?" I asked.

"Because I'm tired of answering questions about that girl. And you're trying to make a buck."

"I'm not..."

"Get out of my store or I'm going to beat your head in."

It's a strange thing to actually hear said out loud. And it took me a minute to react. "Why are you so angry?" I asked.

"That's it," said Bill. He reached under the counter, grabbed a long wooden rod and came at me. I didn't budge because I didn't think he'd really do it. He grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me out of his shop. I suggested we call the cops, have them ask him why he was making such a scene. And then he swung the bat up and I really did think he was going to lay me out. He seemed to think better of it at the last second, though, as two bikers were watching us from under an umbrella in the parking lot. Bill walked back into the store.

It's a weird goddamn reaction to some simple questions about something that happened over 7 years ago. But he's not the only one I've met up here who's acting weird.

No alcohol missing.

Official word from Haverhill PD: all booze was accounted for. Vodka. Baileys. Wine. Maura left it all behind in the car.

Like I said, little things have been mis-reported for years. Best to start from the ground up and see where it takes us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back in Mass.

Having some baked ziti at Venus III in Hanson, right now. Just came from the high school, where Mr. Floeck was nice enough to help me with some scans from the yearbooks.

Here's some new pics.

Off to the North Country now. Might be out of touch for a couple days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Any true crime blog will eventually get a few resident trolls. I learned this with Amy's case. I think I have literally around 800 profane messages that have been sent to me through that blog. They've started here, already. Here's a couple of the best so far:

It appears that you have decided to try to make money off the Maura Murray case, as you shamelessly did with the Amy Mihaljevic case.

Please note this is not the Mihaljevic case. We have real qualified professionals working on this investigation - the New Hampshire League of Investigators, the Molly Bish Foundation, Let's Bring Them Home, and countless volunteers who actually live in New Hampshire and know the area and people. We don't need another failed newspaper journalist, desperate for work with no investigative training or skills whatsoever, trying to play Columbo.

You are not going to "crack" this case by interviewing people and visiting the scene of her disappearance. The only thing you are going to accomplish is the same thing you have accomplished in the Mihaljevic case - distract the real professionals from doing their work and leaking information that will hinder the real investigation. We've all seen how successful your efforts have been in finding Amy Mihaljevic's killer.

There is no need for you here. We have very qualified and skilled investigators working on this investigation. No one reads your blog. No one in NH cares about the book you're going to try to write about "your" meaningless investigation. No one needs an unemployed journalist getting in the way of real investigators who actually have a chance of solving Maura's disappearance.

Thanks, but no thanks,

And then this one, which seems to be a vague threat towards my four year old son:

Please respect Fred's wishes. He doesn't want you to write a book about his family's tragedy to make money.

You have a son. If he tragically disappeared, would you want an out-of-state novelist to show up at your doorstep asking questions and fishing for information to try to get a book deal?

***UPDATED*** Clarification on time of Maura's breakdown.

One of the reasons I started this blog before publication of a book is so that I can work towards "sussing out" the details of this case from the beginning to the end until we find the truth. I don't like to rely on any one else's reporting and so I have to interview everyone again. Sometimes it's hard to recollect exact times from seven years ago. I got a chance to contact Karen Mayotte again and here's what she says:

I think I might have screwed up with the times that I originally gave you, and if is that the case, I apologize. That Thursday night, the receptionists had to work until 1:45 (2:45 on Fridays and Satursdays). I think when I first talked to you I got mixed up as to the day of the week, becuase on Sunday-Wednesdays till 11:45. That night, after I visited the other areas of campus, when I got to Southwest I met up with the other coworkers at the eatery in SW (can't remember the name, can find it after if you are interested for more specifics). I didn't eat, but when visiting with the others another area supervisor told me that Maura was upset and that I should go check on her. At that point I did, and you have the specifics from that visit- I do remember when signing her out early, thinking that she would have to wait about 45 to an hour until I could get off shift to bring her to Dunkins or the counseling area. I got off shift at 2:30, so I would've started packing her up at 1:15pm. (30 min before she would get off) Too bad we couldn't grab the police report I filled out the following morning at UMass Police, which would have had the exact time of signing her out to the specifics. Also to clarify my job title- I was an area supervisor.

It's no fault of Karen's. Take a moment and try recalling in detail times from a specific day several years ago. I expect this will happen now and then as we move forward. In the end, though, I believe we will have a more concrete version of events than has been published before. You're seeing the reporting as it's happening here.

I've also been waiting on public records before I start listing an exact timeline of events. I have those now and will be uploading them soon.

Now, off to New Hampshire.

Spoke with Karen again. What she meant to say was that she filled out the police report the day after she learned of Maura's disappearance, thinking it may be helpful to the case.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On Running

Maura was a runner. A damn fine one, in fact. A state record holder. She trained daily. People in Hanson remember seeing her jogging around the school grounds on Christmas with her father and her sister, Julie. A runner, especially an accomplished runner, has a certain mindset that non-runners can't understand without a little explanation.

I'm no award-winning marathoner. But when I hit 32, my metabolism went to shit and now I run a four mile course three or four times a week. Having never run before, I thought it would be easy. Just listen to some Zeppelin on my iPod and have at it. What I discovered was that distance running is a lot like writing a book.

First of all, you cannot think of the entire course at once, you have to consider it as little accomplishments: can I make it to the end of that bridge without stopping for a break? can I make it around that turn before I slow down? can I make it to the halfway point in twenty minutes? Writing a long novel is like that. You have to think chapter by chapter or the sheer length of it will get you down.

It's also addicting. And I don't mean addicting like the way you think you're addicted to chocolate or TV. It's addicting like a drug. Like good coke, even. That adrenaline that surges through your body after a good, hard run. And like any drug, you have to go a little farther the next time to get the same high. Eventually, you find that you're chasing it. That you crave it.

Running trains you to control your mind, your emotions. You retreat into your mind on long runs, even if you're listening to music. Like the kid from the Neverending Story who was faced with his own reflection in the middle of the snowy wastes, you are forced to confront your true nature on long runs. You make a peace with yourself or you simply cannot do it.

This was Maura. She knew control better than the average person ever could. Better than even a part-time runner. Mostly I'll never believe she committed suicide because she was such a good runner. She was hard-wired to make peace with herself. Through running and also through her military training.

I think she was getting away (running away if you want) to get her bearings again. I think she only intended on being away for a couple days.

If she is alive out there somewhere, she'd be running, still. She couldn't stop if she wanted to. Unfortunately, that probably means she would have been spotted by now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Returning to the scene.

I've decided to return to Haverhill and Hanson next week for some more interviews.

If you knew Maura personally I'd love to talk with you while I'm out there. I think we may be closing in on the answer to where she was going and why she was leaving in such a hurry.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The big reveal: Maura might have been pregnant.


I can now report that forensics on Maura Murray's computer at UMass revealed searches for websites related to pregnancy which were conducted just prior to her searches for lodging in the Stowe, Vermont area. She was specifically searching for material relating to the effects of excessive drinking on an unborn fetus, according to those familiar with the investigation.

In Feb, 2004, Maura was not in a good place. She'd been shown the door at West Point. Had reason to believe her boyfriend was unfaithful. Had just wrecked her father's car. And apparently suspected she could be pregnant. She sent an email to professors, in which she lied and said she would be missing classes due to a death in the family. Then, she packed her things and headed into the mountains.

Regardless of what happened next, there is no doubt in my mind Maura was running away. Even if it was only long enough to think through her troubles.

I may have been unclear in the post above. 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.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Did Maura reach her destination?

In February, I drove to Haverhill (pronounced Haive-rull) for the first time. It was on the seventh anniversary of Maura's disappearance and I set out to reconstruct her journey as well as I could. I left Amherst at about the same time she did, based on the time stamp on that ATM where she withdrew most of her savings. I bought a copy of the book, Not Without Peril, which she had in her car when it was found. I bought some booze and headed into the North Country.

The first thing I noticed was that, according to the accepted time frame (Maura leaving UMass at 4:30, getting into an accident in Haverhill at about 7:29), Maura had about 45 minutes unaccounted for. If she had driven straight from UMass to that location, she should have arrived sometime around 6:45. Of course, we know she stopped for gas somewhere along the way. And perhaps she stopped for food.

As soon as I arrived in the Haverhill area, I checked in at the Wells River Motel, dropped off most of my booze and luggage, and then drove out to the scene of the accident. It was only when I arrived that I discovered the items I had in my car matched the items found in Maura's. My bag and liquor were gone. The book was there. I started to wonder then if Maura might have already arrived at her destination before driving out to Route 112. It would explain some of the lost time. Perhaps she stopped, dropped off her stuff, then drove away, looking for a place to eat.

If that's the case, the prime suspect in her disappearance becomes whoever checked her into a her hotel (there are few in the area) or whoever she had driven up to meet (if that is what she did). Perhaps it was that person who picked her up at the scene. It would certainly go a long way toward explaining why she got in the car. It's another possibility I've thought a lot about.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Profiting off tragedy.

When people associated with a cold case don't want to talk (for whatever reason) they sometimes use a time-tested excuse: "You're profiting off a tragedy. You're only interested in making money."

Someone has been telling this to people with information in Maura's case, as a way to ask them not to talk to me.

The truth is not so sexy.

To date, I've not made dime off this case. True, I am working on a book that will one day be sold in stores and I will receive a portion of that. I've done it before, with the Amy Mihaljevic case, a case where Amy's family still sends me Christmas cards. Know what I've made from Amy's book? About $5,000. Know what I've spent on travel, stationary, security, private investigator fees, phone calls, and hotels? Probably around $5,000. I'm lucky if I break even.

Maura's case will be more expensive. I live in Ohio. I have to fly or drive to interview witnesses and family members (as I prefer to do so, in person). Will I really make much money from the book? Doubtful.

I am not investigating this case for money. Like Amy's case, this one is a riddle I want to solve. I love hunting bad guys who think they're smarter than the cops. And someone out there knows what happened to Maura, even if all she did was run away.

Let's share some more information so we can answer that riddle.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cadaver Dog Finds Human Skull in New Hampshire

WMUR is reporting that a cadaver dog unearthed part of a human skull at an old horse cemetery in Littleton, New Hampshire, about 20 miles from where Maura was spotted outside her car near Swiftwater.

The local M.E. will be examining it, soon.

Exclusive: Note left in dorm was email from Bill.

This is another one of those clues everybody got kind of wrong.

Here's what the Daily Collegian reported orginally:

In a June interview with WCVB-TV, the police officer in charge of the investigation, Lt. John Scarinza of the New Hampshire State Police, Troop F, claimed that authorities had found a note in Maura's dorm room that she had wrote to her boyfriend, Army Lt. Billy Rausch of Ohio, indicating troubles in their relationship.

"Sometime between Sunday and Monday morning, she packed up all her belongings in her dorm room, to include taking all her pictures off the walls, taking everything out of her bureaus, [and] put them all in boxes [and] left [them] on her bed," Scarinza told WCVB-TV, "[She] left a personal note to her boyfriend on top of the boxes."

Maura's mother, Laurie Murray, told the Daily Collegian in August that the relationship between her daughter and Rausch was a "very, very good relationship."

Raush's mother, Sharon Rausch, reiterated that statement in a recent interview. She said there was a point where the couple's relationship was rocky in the spring of 2002, but they had resolved their problems by summer and had a good relationship since then.

Her son arrived at Maura's dorm room with police just two days after she went missing. He said there was no recent letters to him from Maura that were found.

"There is no note," Sharon Raush said.

Well, actually it depends on what you mean by "note".

What was left on the boxes of Maura's belongings was a printed out email not from her to Bill, but a message from Bill to Maura. It was part of a longer conversation about Bill seeing another woman during the time they had taken a break from their relationship.

When a note like that is left behind on boxes of belongings, you have to wonder what Maura's motive could have been. Did she intend for him to find it? Was it a message? Why had she printed it out in the first place?

Fred Murray Does Not Want Book Published

Helena Dwyer Murray runs a website devoted to the search for Maura. She has been identified in news reports as an aunt, but is actually not related to the family through blood. She's also one of the administrators for the Maura Murray Missing Group on Facebook. According to Helena, Fred Murray has contacted her and said he does not want a book written about his daughter's disappearance.

Attempts to reach him through his personal email and phone number, in order to verify this, have gone unanswered.

Having covered many missing persons cases, I have never seen such a strong reaction against information that may help find a loved one. As any victims advocate will tell you, the more info you get out, the better.

Earlier today, posts linking to this website were scrubbed from the Missing Group Facebook page, with no explanation given.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Exclusive: Fred Murray would not be interviewed by detectives for 2 1/2 years.

Two independent sources now confirm a long rumored hitch in the Maura Murray case. A private investigator and a member of law enforcement claim Fred Murray refused to sit down for an interview with detectives working his daughter's case for a full two and a half years after she vanished in New Hampshire. And when he did, he brought two lawyers with him.

In the beginning days of Maura's disappearance, detectives tried to get Fred to open up about what was happening in Maura's life before she came to Haverhill. He refused to go into detail about any troubles, saying repeatedly that nothing that happened before mattered, that the only thing that mattered was that she was missing and they needed to find her. The detectives thought, as I do, that knowing what was happening in the woman's life prior to her disappearance might shed some light on where she was heading, and possibly what happened to her.

No explanation has been given as to why Fred refused to sit for a formal interview with detectives or why he brought a pair of lawyers with him when he finally agreed to it years later.

I would love to know Fred's side to this. I'm sure he has one. But, so far Fred and the extended Murray family have not replied to my requests for interviews. Likewise, Maura's close friends have stopped replying to requests as well.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


When it comes to the question, "What happen to Maura Murray," there are endless theories that can be organized into three camps: 1. Suicide. 2. Runaway. 3. Abduction.

I'm the kind of investigator who loves statistics and probability. It's the reason I play Texas Hold Em and not slots or roulette. And two of those explanations are improbable if you consider them logically.

First, suicide. Most suicides occur in the home. Why drive all the way to New Hampshire first? You can commit suicide in a dorm room as easily as you can in the wilderness. Why would she add freezing to death? Women tend toward pills and other forms of painless suicide.

Second, abduction. According to the accepted timeline, Maura was alone on the side of that road for all of about seven minutes. Of all the roads in all the world, a serial killer just happened to be driving by that obscure location in that small window of time? 99.9% impossible.

So, yes, I lean toward the moment.

There is, however, another possibility when it comes to the "abduction" scenario. It's less statistically improbable that she was abducted if you consider the possibility that the person who abducted her was someone she knew, someone she was planning to meet up there and came to her aide when the car broke down. Or, that the person who abducted her had the chance to meet her prior to the accident and knew she was alone and followed her to the accident site.

The key to finding Maura lies in her destination. If we learn where she was going, we should come a long way to understanding what happened to her. So far, people have taken for granted the theory that she was still on her way to her destination when she got in the accident. I believe there's clues suggesting she had already made it to where she was going. More on that soon.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Exclusive: Phone Call Was Not Maura

A lot has been made of the cell phone call William Rausch received on his way to New Hampshire to help with the search for Maura Murray. When Rausch answered it, he heard only breathing and then the call was disconnected. The call was traced to a Red Cross number and some have proposed that it was actually Maura calling for help--Maura apparently had calling cards that were connected to the Red Cross.

The truth is less exciting.

A source close to the investigation now confirms the person who made the phone call has been located and interviewed. It was a Red Cross worker trying to reach William in reference to his requests for emergency leave from the military (the Red Cross can help servicemen get emergency leave in some cases). The Red Cross worker hung up because they believed they had reached voice mail and did not want to leave a message, opting to call again later to speak directly to Rausch.

This brings up another interesting detail. Outside Rausch and his family, nobody seems to have been aware of an official engagement between Maura and William. He could get emergency leave if he was married or engaged to the victim, but to do so without at least an engagement would have made things difficult.

Whatever the case, I find no fault in Rausch or his family. If there was no engagement, I would have done the same thing. He cared for her. He wanted to help find her.

I hope to interview William and his family one day, but to date they have not agreed to a time and place for that to happen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Request for information

Before I go much further with posting details of the investigation, I would very much like to post a little more about Maura's life before the disappearance.

If you knew Maura, please contact me at

Thank you.