Monday, September 26, 2011

There was no second crash site.

A lot of people are saying the damage to Maura's Saturn does not line up with the official explanation of her accident. This rumor started on other boards and has taken on a weird frenzy in recent weeks. Please let me put this to rest so we can concentrate on other clues.

The reason the damage does not seem to match with the report is simply because what was reported was not accurate. As I reported in the summer, Maura's accident did not happen the way newspapers have reported. According to one of the first people to arrive on the scene, it was obvious that Maura's car had crashed through a snowbank on the left side of the road before spinning around and coming to rest on the other side. The snowbanks were high and could have caused the damage to her hood that we see in the photos

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Credit Fraud and Lying Witnesses: What the Private Eye Found

Private investigator, John Healy, was one of the first sources I spoke to when I started looking into Maura's disappearance earlier this year. Healy, 62, served 20 years with the New Hampshire state police, working his way up to Lieutenant. Since then, he's been a P.I., working on famous homicides and writing the occasional mystery novel. He was contacted by Helena Murray and was instantly gripped by the case.

He has a daughter about Maura's age. She's blind in one eye, which sometimes makes her less aware of her surroundings. One day, while hanging out in her college room, she looked up to find a large man standing in her bedroom. He seemed to lose his nerve when she caught him and he backed out of the room and ran away. She was so shook up it took her 20 minutes to find her cell phone to call her dad. "There but for the grace of God goes my daughter," he says.

The first thing Healy did when he agreed to look into Maura's disappearance, was to speak with Jeff Strelzin, the chief prosecutor at the AG's office, who happened to be a childhood friend. He wanted to give them a heads-up before he started interviewing witnesses. Shortly thereafter, Healy spoke with Fred and Maura's family. In 2006, with the help of a dozen other PI's and a slew of local volunteers, Healy organized a massive Search and Rescue operation, using cadaver dogs capable of sniffing out a body under cement or water. "We've searched pretty much everything within a 5 mile radius of where Maura wrecked her car."

But, for the most part, the searches have yielded no clues. "We found a piece of rug with some blood in an old abandoned house but I'm 90% sure it had nothing to do with the case. We gave the location to police."

Most of Healy's investigation has been conducted in New Hampshire, but he did learn a little about Maura's life at UMass and some things that might have stressed her out enough to want to get away for a little while. "She was caught using someone's credit card inappropriately. What we were told was that she had ordered pizza with a credit card that was not her own."

Healy and his friends interviewed a number of strange characters near where she went missing. One of the people he looked at closely was the man he refers to as "that shithead, Butch Atwood. He gave us 3 different versions of what happened the night he talked to Maura on the side of the road." In one version, Maura spoke to him from the car. In another, she was standing outside when she spoke to him. Healy even went to Florida, after Butch moved there, to question him again. But Butch wouldn't say anything other than to tell the PI that he had once been a police officer in Taunton , Mass--another lie, as Butch was never a police officer, though he did work for local government in Taunton for a time. In the end, it appeared Butch was nothing more than a tale-tale teller, a guy prone to exaggerating stories, "a pathological liar."

Rick Forcier was another strange puppy, as far as Healy is concerned. "When we went to talk to him, he wouldn't let us in his trailer."

As for his relationship with Murrays, that has disintegrated over the years. "Fred is a volatile man," he explains. "But I can't fault him."

Healy believes Maura was murdered. "We're sure she was killed. Her death was caused by the intervention of another human being. And we're pretty sure we know who did it. Everything points to one direction."

His personal theory is that Butch may have seen someone stop and pick up Maura. He thinks it might have been someone who Butch was afraid of. Afraid enough to keep it secret even on his death bed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Team Captain Butted Heads With Hoss

When Maura was on the track team at UMass, her team captain was Crystal Therrien.

Therrien was what they call a "multi-eventer," a sprinter-jumper, while Maura ran distance with Markopoulos. She remembers Maura as having the whitest teeth and the biggest dimples she's ever seen. "I remember her smile. She was always smiling. We used to hang out at these track parties, where the whole track team would go to somebody's house off campus."

Therrien remembers Hoss being at some of these parties but never knew they were dating. Hoss, she says, had his own way of motivating the women during practice. "He was not a very good leader," she says. "We'd have them running hills and he'd try to motivate them by yelling at them. 'Suck it up!' That might work for some people. But not everybody. He just had a cocky way about him."

Still, other teammates like Nastaran Shams saw good in him. More than they heard about Maura's boyfriend Billy, back at West Pointe. "[Hoss] was great. He was an incredible runner. He was in incredible shape. He had a big crush on her. So we tried to hook her up. Let's just say we weren't big fans of Billy."

Why Some Comments Are Not Posted

I have held back several comments over the last couple days. Please keep these guidelines in mind:

1. Do not identify suspects by name, unless you have supporting evidence.
2. No libelous or mean rants about anyone, except me. You can say stuff about me. That's fine.
3. No crazy conspiracy theories. They distract from the truth. Also, there are other websites for that.
4. Tips should go to my email:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Her Best Friend

Finally got a chance to speak with Kate Markopoulos this week. Kate was a distance runner at UMass, like Maura, and they were quick friends. Everyone on the team I've spoken to referred me to Kate, as she was never far from Maura on and off the track.

Two days before Maura disappeared, Kate went with her and Fred to a brew pub in town and then returned with Maura to Kennedy Hall, where they went to a party at a friend's dorm room. The room was stuffed full of people, some they knew, some they did not, an even mix of men and women. She and Maura drank Skyy vodka mixed with Franzia blush wine, their drink of choice. Around 2:30 am, Kate and Maura left the dorm, accompanied by a male student. Maura said she was going to bed and the male student walked Kate back to her dorm. That was the last time Kate saw her friend.

She tells a different story about Fred than Hossein. "She talked about her Dad all the time. You could tell he really loved her. She loved him. She loved hiking with him." They traveled to New Hampshire together a lot, she says.

Oddly, Kate does not recall Maura mentioning that Fred had come into town that day to help her look for a new car, but is unsure if time has fogged her memory.

At the time of her disappearance, Maura was under a lot of stress, she says. She had quit track to focus on school work. And she was not thrilled about plans to move to Oklahoma with Billy after graduation. "She thought it was in the middle of nowhere, but she was going to move because she loved him."

After she vanished, Kate spoke to several detectives who were not too pleased with her imperfect memory. "What do you mean you don't know who was at the party?" they asked her. "There are good cops and bad cops, I get that. But they were not nice. They couldn't understand why I didn't remember."

Kate misses her friend and wonders often what happened. It's obvious the disappearance still affects her profoundly, today. In light of the news about Hossein and the location of Maura's last known whereabouts, Kate realizes there was a lot Maura must have kept secret. "The more I think about it, the more I realize I didn't really know her. I don't know what she was doing behind closed doors."

Friday, September 9, 2011

To Maura, If You're Out There...

I'm still very much treating the research for this book like an investigation into a murder. The most likely explanation to me is that she traveled to the North Country planning to meet someone (possibly picking them up along the way, or meeting them in the area and following toward some other location) and then something went wrong.


After speaking to Hossein, members of the track team and getting this info about the bank, as well as a very interesting tip on a recent sighting of Maura with a child, I am open to the possibility that she is alive and choosing to live a new life. If that is the case, and Maura is reading these posts I'd like to make a request:

Please let me or the police know you're alive and well. If this isn't a case of murder, you have the right to continue on with this new life away from the ones you left behind. Verify that you're okay and the police can close their investigation, I can stop researching the disappearance, and you can stay in hiding. Right now, though, everyone is kind of assuming the worst.

The real Maura Murray

We are all sinners. All liars. All complicated little petty people with our own agendas. Examine anyone's life and you'll start to find their demons. Maura is no different. And some of the stuff I've heard this week--which I'll be covering in the next few posts--paints a different picture of the young woman that family and friends tried to paint as a saint. But that doesn't mean she was a bad person. In fact, she was strong. She was happy. She was just complicated like the rest of us.

Some of her happier times were spent with Hossein Baghdadi, the assistant coach of the track team, in 2003. At the urging of friends, they started seeing each other in the Spring of 03 and had a hot and heavy relationship that went into the summer. Sometimes they went to movies, restaurants, or went running but they kept it on the DL, because he was a coach, even though she had stopped running and participating in track by then. Alone with "Hoss," Maura referred to Billy as an "ex." With Hoss, she never mentioned her father. "I never knew her father was even alive," he says. They talked about taking a vacation to the White Mountains so she could hike and he could go fly fishing.

Maura drove to Amherst to visit Hoss that summer and stayed with him for a bit. But shortly thereafter, "She fell off the face of the earth." She stopped returning his phone calls, stopped answering his emails. When they returned to UMass in the Fall of 03, Maura explained that she'd gotten back with Billy.

"He seemed very chauvinistic," says Hoss. "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." He also got the impression from Maura that Billy could be physical. She felt she couldn't really get away from him.

After Maura went missing, detectives visited Hoss and he shared what he knew with them. One of the things he shared was a conversation he says he had with Maura when they were alone one day. "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.'"

Later, he learned she'd been sleeping with other members of the track team. "She was very promiscuous, it turns out."

But that doesn't change the image he has in his mind of the bubbly girl he fell for. "She was super energetic. Always seemed happy. But she was sad, too. Underneath."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

UPDATED: Banker says Maura has open, active account.

I don't know what to make of this. On the surface, it seems very exciting. It suggests Maura may still be alive and laying low (everyone's secret wish, I believe). Or, perhaps there is a simple explanation.

If she did just start a new life, law enforcement are under no obligation to tell anyone they found her. She's an adult, after all. But they certainly seem to still be searching for her, too.

In light of this tidbit and this news about a secret suitor at UMass, I'll have to check in with police in the next couple days. I'll update here.

So here it is. This came in via email today. I've been able to tentatively verify the identity of the person who sent it and it seems to check out. For obvious reasons, this source will remain confidential.

This probably doesnt mean anything, I don't know. I was always terrified to post on websleuths, topix, or the MM forum because everyone who doesn't agree with the official party line gets attacked.
Anyway, I have always been kind of weirdo and looked at the Doe Network, then the Charley Project, etc. In 2007 I worked as a bank teller at a "chain" bank that has branches in NY, PA, and New England. It would get pretty boring sometimes, and I am nosy, so during lulls I would go through the database and search for people I knew, famous people, random missing people, etc. One time I searched "Maura Murray". As of the end of 2006/early 2007, there was a Maura Murray, born May 4, 1982 with an active account opened in New Hampshire. If I recall correctly, it was attached to a car loan, and the account was active in that it was collecting payments. I remember the information looked pretty familiar, so I wrote it down and checked it against the Charley Project profile when I got home. I was always afraid to say anything, maybe it is a coincidence and I'll look stupid, and at the time I didn't want to get in trouble at my job. I saw this blog and figured what the hell.
thanks and best of luck
id prefer to remain somewhat anonymous

Editor's note: It was a Citizens Bank.

Some clarification from my source:

Citizen's Bank no longer does car loans, but they did then. To have one, you needed a checking account that was attached to the car loan for payment purposes. By "active", there had been payments within the last 30-60 days on the car loan, because once a person was late and sent to collections, the account would read 0000 next to the name and be flagged. So if this was in fact an account related to her, it was after she was missing. As I didn't work in the vehicle finance department, I could only see partial info.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BREAKING: Maura's secret suitor.

Some info came in from a reliable source last night that kind of rewrites the narrative we've been given about Maura by her family and Billy Rausch.

It turns out Maura was considering ending things with Billy. Seems she had gotten very close to a nice, ambitious young man at UMass and her friends were pushing her to drop Rausch for this new guy. It was a relationship she had to keep secret at the time for a good reason.

I have the man's name but I'm waiting for him to respond before I go into it too much.

I would very much like to speak to anyone who knew Maura at UMass. Please contact me at

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Haverhill Police Chief Who Worked on Maura's Case is a Troubled Man

When I visited Haverhill earlier this year to speak to people familiar with the investigation into Maura's disappearance, several sources pointed me toward former Haverhill police chief Jeffrey Williams. In 2004, when Maura vanished, Williams was chief. He's not anymore. We'll get to that in a second.

It didn't take long to track him down. Haverhill, Bath, and Woodsville are small towns. Everyone knows everybody. I was directed to a property on Bradley Hill Road, about a mile from where Maura got into her accident. Williams' house is a mansion, with a gigantic barn/garage he built himself, topped with an ornamental golden cow. Not bad digs for a former public servant.

When I knocked, Williams opened the door only a little but it was enough for me to get a sense of his size. He's a big man. Intimidating. Ruggedly handsome. And pissed off. When I told him I was a reporter, he slammed the door in my face. I went to his car and began to write a note, so that I could leave my contact information. At that point, he opened the door and shouted at me to leave his property, "before I kick your ass." I obliged.

It was an odd response from a former chief of police. But after speaking to neighbors, I learned that Williams has gone through a bit of a rough patch over the last couple years and has reason to fear the media.

His troubles began in April of 2009, when he wrecked his Harley when he collided with a pick up truck in Woodsville. And then, on July 24, a Haverhill cop spotted a car speeding along Rt. 10. The car tried to get away. The cop gave chase. Eventually, the car pulled over near the Bath line on Swiftwater Rd. The driver was Jeff Williams. He was charged with DWI and disobeying a police officer and that was the end of his career.

The car he was driving was not his own. There's been a lot of talk about who it belonged to. A woman who was not his wife. But let's not get into gossip.

Fred Murray was perhaps the first one to call out Williams' character. He believed Williams' intentionally mislead newspaper reporters about how intoxicated Maura appeared after the crash.