Monday, January 30, 2012

Open Question

What happened between 2000
and 2004?
This is the face of a woman who has gone through some kind of hell.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

UMass Code of Student Conduct Might Have Been the End of Maura's Nursing Career

American universities have found a way to skirt the court system and basically double-charge students when they commit a crime. Not only will they face fines and possible jail, but, even if the charges are dismissed in a court of law, they might still be kicked out of school. Yeah. Because denying the kid a college degree will really help them from committing more crimes.

Anyway, the code of conduct at UMass is just an absurd example of this.

Here's an except (provided by an astute reader):

E.Students may be accountable to both civil authorities and to the University for acts which constitute violations
of law and of the CSC. Disciplinary action at the University will normally proceed during the pendency of criminal
proceedings and will not be subject to challenge on the ground that criminal charges involving the same incident have
been dismissed or reduced. When a student has been charged by a civil authority for a violation of law, the University
will neither request nor agree to special consideration for the student solely because of his or her status as a student.
2.Representing one's self as another person with or without that person's permission, or representing one's self improperly,
and not by error, as any other member of the community.
6.Unauthorized accessing of the records of any individual, whether such access is obtained through paper records, computer files
or systems, where such information is protected by the University regulations concerning privacy and confidentiality.
Looks like Maura's dream to be a nurse wasn't going to happen. If she did end up committing suicide, UMass should own up to some culpability.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Note for Maura, If You're Out There

I posted this before, but I guess I should repeat it in light of these new developments.

If Maura is out there, somewhere, living a new life, I certainly don't want to blow her cover. It's her right as an adult to disappear.

If she can contact me and can offer some proof of her identity, I'll happily stop searching. I'm sure others would like to know she's alive so that they can stop searching, too. That doesn't mean she has to reveal her location.

But right now, the possibility still exists that she was murdered, or that she was the victim of an accident of some kind that led to her death. This is still very much a confounding mystery. So I'll keep digging until we know otherwise.

Mysteries frustrate me.

Did you live in the Kennedy dorm at UMass in 2003/2004?

If so, I'd like to speak with you. Please contact me at

Thank you!
-James Renner

Was Maura About to Be Expelled from UMass?

I didn't think about this until a recent comment from a reader, but is it possible that Maura was about to face disciplinary action from UMass related to this improper use of a credit card?

It's notoriously difficult to get records from universities, but hopefully someone within UMass can help us answer this question. Obviously, UMass would have been alerted by Amherst PD about this charge. How would that have affected Maura's job with campus security?

I wish Maura had just gone home to her Aunt Janice and gotten her head back together. We all make mistakes. She could have gotten through all this and have still been successful.

** Note to readers: The police have redacted the written signature. But it is on the receipt.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Maura Used Stolen Credit Card Number, Charges Would Have Been Dismissed in Feb.

Another rumor can be confirmed. Maura Murray was caught using a stolen credit card number in early November, 2003, according to documents received today from Amherst Police.

According to the police reports, in early November, a female student at UMass discovered some odd charges on her credit card statement. Someone had been using her credit card number to order take-out from Pinocchio's Pizza. After calling the credit company, this student called Amherst Police who then contacted Pinocchio's and two other area pizza restaurants. After checking their records, Pinocchio Pizza managers found that the orders had been delivered to Maura's dorm room. That very night, shortly after Pinocchio's was made aware of the fraud, Maura called and again tried to use the same number. Officers enlisted the deliveryman in a sting in which he would present the bill for Maura to sign. When she did, the police approached her dorm room.

The police quickly explained why they were there and took her picture (above). Maura at first gave no explanation. Eventually, she admitted using the card number, which she said she'd found on a discarded receipt in the trash.

According to the documents, the charges against Maura would have been dismissed in February, 2004, around the time she disappeared-- if she managed to stay out of trouble until then.

Here's the heartbreaking part. Maura was doing this for food. And the theft only amounted to $79.02.

To me, this hints at desperation. Life was coming down on Maura and for whatever reason she was not asking for help. Did the accident the weekend before her disappearance frighten her into running away? Did she mistakenly believe that being cited for the accident would keep these charges from being dismissed?

Why wasn't she asking friends for help? I'm sure she could have turned to any of her friends from Hanson and they would only have been too happy to help her out.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Need help in Norfolk County

Some records are starting to come in, which I'll be sharing soon.

However, I need someone on the ground in Norfolk. If you have some free time and want to help out, please contact me at


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Public Records

Just sent out several requests for public records to the following offices:

- Grafton County Superior Court
- New Hampshire Supreme Court
- New Hampshire Attorney General's Office
- Weymouth Police Department
- Quincy District Court
- Norfolk Superior Court
- Eastern Hampshire District Court
- Amherst Police Department

These requests mark the midway point of my research. I'll use the results as supporting documentation and as a jumping-off point for further interviews.

And I'll share scans as they come in.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Common Sense *UPDATE*

Think about all the 21-year-old young women you know. Would any of them really take a break from school and drive hundreds of miles into the country without telling a soul? I'm a man of probability. And the odds overwhelmingly suggest someone knew of Maura's plans. So why haven't they come forward?

I want to highlight this reader's comment. Sometimes we overlook the little details.

If she was simply going to drive north and walk off into the woods to commit suicide, why would she have called places to inquire about lodging and bring along a suitcase?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rick Forcier rocks out.

Lot of talk about Rick Forcier, lately. He was the guy who lived in the trailer at the corner near the scene of Maura's accident. Prof. McDonald's wife thought he was an albino (though, perhaps he just hadn't been out in the sun in a while). And it is true that Forcier would not let police search his trailer and didn't want the Murrays walking around his property.

Like I said before, I'd forget Forcier. Everyone who lives in the area had nice things to say about him. Would he really have picked Maura up just to drive her 100 feet down the road to his trailer? No. Also, his trailer was later searched by police after he sold it.

I firmly believe the most likely scenario is that Maura had planned to meet someone up in NH all along and that person contributed (directly, or indirectly) to her death. The key to her disappearance is finding out who she planned to meet.

Anyway, here's a music video from Forcier. Just another example of the strange and cool characters you're likely to meet in the North Country.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Aren't You Posting My Comments? A Reminder.

Before any comment is posted, I review it. If at all possible, I will approve it and you will see it posted usually the same day. You don't have to agree with me in order for me to post your comment. I welcome discussion. However:

Your comment will not be approved if:
1. You make accusations against people without supporting evidence.
2. Your comment does not serve any purpose other than to be mean.
3. Your comment is about something we've already proven to be untrue (ie, "Maura left a message with Billy and it sounded like she was moaning,")

If you are new to this blog, please take some time to get up to speed by reading through the previous posts from last year. Many of your questions will be answered.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New City number identified.

The New City number that shows up on Maura's cell phone bill belonged to Billy Rausch. Apparently he got the plan in New City and kept that number while stationed in Oklahoma in 2004.

West Point Prof Joined the Search

Robert McDonald is an associate professor of History at West Point. I reached out to him last week, after I found his name in an obscure article about the case. He decided to give a heads-up to Billy Rausch before responding. To my surprise, I heard back from him early this morning. Here's what he had to say:

Thanks for your patience. I've now heard back from Sharon and I've spoken to her son, Bill.

Neither one objects to me speaking with you. That said, Bill sent me the URL of your blog. Besides thinking that you're mischaracterizing Maura's relationship with her father (a decent, honorable man and a great dad), I'm worried that your investigation has the wrong focus.

It's true that no one knows what Maura planned to do the weekend that she disappeared. But it's also true that, as soon as she had her accident, her plans changed. What happened next is what we really need to know. Given the evidence that she'd been drinking and driving, it's understandable that she didn't want Butch to call the police or Triple-A. What happened next is what is unknown and unexplained. The mystery may never be solved, but since you're trying, I want to help you as best as I can.

My wife and I knew Maura through Bill. I had him in two classes. We got to know him well. Given all the restrictions on cadets, West Point encourages faculty and staff to give them a social outlet by including them in their family activities. Bill was an usher in our wedding and regularly came over for Sunday dinner. When he graduated, his family stayed at our house.

We thought that Maura and Bill were a great match. Like Bill, she impressed us. Her personality sparkled. She was smart. Best of all, she was really nice.

We were distraught when we heard from Bill that she was missing. He had already flown out from Oklahoma. We drove up to the Vermont/New Hampshire border to help in the search. Once up there, we helped Fred, Maura's brother, and Bill and his parents look for Maura. We searched the woods near the crash site, posted signs locally and, as the days passed, in an ever-increasing radius around Haverhill. My wife went to the houses near the crash site, asking residents if they'd seen anything.

She got weird vibes from the guy who lived in the trailer (or maybe it was just a small house) close to the intersection of side road and the main road where Maura crashed her car. I don't have a name and address, but he was an albino--or at least appeared to be--and my wife thought that he was creepy and seemed evasive. Years later, my wife learned from a private investigator hired by the Murrays that this man's ex-wife had accused him of spotting Maura at the gas station down the road, stuffing the rag in her tailpipe (believing that it would cause her car to break down?), picking her up at the intersection (this is where the dogs lost the scent), driving her the short distance to his house, and taking her inside to rape her and eventually kill her. His ex-wife supposedly claimed that he dumped her body in a lake.

I'm guessing that this has already been looked into--but how well, we're not sure. If our understanding is correct, the police doubted the veracity of the ex-wife, who they thought was merely trying to smear her ex-husband.

I hope this helps.

I'm very happy that Billy gave McDonald permission to share what he knew about Maura and the search. I hope to hear from Billy himself one day. I'm always willing to share his side of this story. Of course, he knew Maura better than just about anybody.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who are these women? **UPDATED/CORRECTED**

Who are Barbara and Patricia Curran and why were their old high school pictures inside an adult magazine at Fred Murray's house?

**UPDATE/CORRECTION** Patricia is now married and has a different last name. Same as her sister. Their mother is related to the Murray family, apparently.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Was Maura a Victim of the Connecticut Valley Killer?

I read once that, at any time, there are about a dozen practicing serial killers operating in the United States. According to profilers, most serial killers target women of similar race and socio-economic background. Like predators in the wild, these men stalk their prey, wait for the perfect moment to kill, then leave or transport their body to a place they are familiar with enough to be somewhat secure and comfortable in their actions.

From around 1978 to about 1988, the Connecticut River Valley was the territory of a particularly fearsome serial killer who dumped women's bodies up and down Route 91 from the Mass border up to Hartford. During my travels to the North Country, many people asked me if I thought there could be a connection. I didn't think so. The killings stopped a while ago, after all. But, the more I read about the cold cases, the more I wonder...

The first victim attributed to the Connecticut River Valley Killer is 27 year old Cathy Millican, who was photographing birds at the Chandler Brook Wetland Preserve in New London, NH. Her body was later found nearby, with 29 stab wounds. Six other women may have been murdered by this man. A couple were hitchhikers. Three worked at local hospitals: 16 year old nurses's aide Bernice Courtemanche (last seen in Claremont); 27 year-old Ellen Fried (a supervising nurse at Valley Regional Hospital); 38-year-old Barbara Agnew (her car was found in Hartford, VT). All stabbed to death.

The killings presumably stopped after a botched attack in 1988. 22-year-old Jane Boroski was attacked outside a convenience store in West Swanzey by a man in a Jeep Wagoneer. He stabbed her 27 times and left her to die. She managed to survive and was able to provide police with the sketch of her attacker (above).

Sixteen years later, Maura vanished in this serial killer's sandbox.

What do you think? Related or not?

As always, you can send tips directly to me at

View The Valley Killer's Victims in a larger map

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Scarinza speaks

Since Day 2 of Maura Murray's disappearance, John Scarinza was on the case. Until 2009, when he retired from the New Hampshire State Police, he was the point man for the investigation and probably knows more about the details of her mystery than anyone. I caught up with him awhile back for a lengthy interview.

"I got the call at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning from the chief of police in Haverhill," recalls Scarinza. "They had a car accident. But they didn't find a driver. At first, if didn't seem like an unusual occurrence. If you've had too much to drink and then have an accident, you don't want to wait around for law enforcement. We see similar incidents all the time. But you expect a call eventually. The driver calling in, looking for their car. That didn't happen."

The car Maura was driving at the time was registered to her father, Fred. Haverhill P.D. tried to contact him early on Tuesday, but only got the answering machine. In the meantime, the police obtained a search warrant to open the car and examine the contents. Inside they found a box of wine, a book about the dangers of the White Mountains (Not Without Peril), and a receipt from a liquor store.

"She had purchased Kahlua, wine, and a six pack of Seagrams. The box had splashed all over the car. The bottle of kahlua was not there."

Around mid-afternoon Tuesday, Fred Murray called Haverhill P.D. "What I was told was that the first thing out of Fred's mouth was, 'She's gone to the North Country to commit suicide, to go off and die like an old squaw."

"Then, the scenario changed," says Scarinza. "Now we have a missing girl."

Scarinza and the detectives of Troop F began to backtrack Maura's last few days. They quickly learned about the phone call she received while on duty at Melville Hall Thursday night, four days before her disappearance. The call was with her sister, Katherline, but no one can recall the specifics. "We have never understood what caused Maura to be so upset."

That Saturday, Fred Murray appeared in Amherst. "They went out drinking, her and her father and her friend. Father goes back to the hotel. Maura has his car. Gets in an accident. Why she doesn't get arrested then is beyond me. And she's headed to her father's hotel when she wrecks. She has a dorm room. It's weird."

They took to the skies to try to find Maura's tracks in the snow, or maybe her body. Scarinza, himself, rode in a helicopter. Fish and Game assisted. The helicopters had heat-seaking cameras. "I remember seeing a gorgeous red fox that stuck out like a beacon down below. Deer stands. You could see great detail. You could see human footprints. There was good clean snow in the mountains and it had not snowed since the crash." But there were no footprints leading into the woods around the site of the accident and no sign of Maura.

Later that Wednesday, they brought out the blood hounds. They gave the dog a scent article from the vehicle. "The blood hound went 100 yards East down the road, then appeared to lose the track. Does that mean she got into a vehicle? Perhaps. Does that mean it wasn't a scent opportunity? That it had been too long to follow? Perhaps."

They had people check Maura's dorm room at UMass. "All her belongings were in boxes. The sense was that she was leaving school." On top of the boxes was that email from Billy. Maura had discovered her boyfriend had been seeing another women when they had taken a break from each other.

The rag in the tailpipe is its own mystery. "Fred said he had suggested putting the rag in the tailpipe. Was it an attempt to kill yourself? If so, that's not going to work. But why the hell else would you stick a rag in a tailpipe? It's an anomaly."

When police asked Fred what might have been going on in his daughter's life that would make her want to leave, he would only say, "That's not important. She's missing. Find her." Scarinza sighs. "If we understood why she left, maybe we could understand where she was going."

Since 2004, investigators have put in something close to 6,000 hours on Maura's case, he figures. "We've been to Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine. We got a report that she was in a bar in Rochester. So we went out and interviewed the bartender."

"I've said this all along: My sense is that Maura's original intent when she left Massachusetts was to come to the North Country to get away from something that was occurring in her life down there. I take into consideration the family's thought that she was coming up to kill herself. But what was the initial catalyst to make her want to do that? And what happened when she got here? My sense is that she is not still alive."

Scarinza continued that train of thought: "My sense is that she might have gotten a ride. But we don't know her ultimate destination. It's interesting that her backpack was missing from her car. That some liquor was missing. Until we know for sure what happened, we're going to treat this case as if she was a victim of a crime."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Petrit Vasi Connection is HIGHLY unlikely.

Of the many conspiracy theories that have popped up around Maura's disappearance, the story of Petrit Vasi is one of the most persistent.

Vasi was studying economics at UMass in 2004. On the night of Thursday, Feb 5, Vasi was at a bar in Amherst, at the corner of Triangle and Mattoon. Maura was working the security desk at Melville Hall. Around 12:20, Vasi came out of the bar and was struck by a vehicle. Around 1 am, Maura broke down crying at work and was escorted back to her dorm. Some have speculated that Maura was upset because she was the one who hit Vasi -- before driving back to her shift before she could be caught.

I spoke to Lorina, Petrit's sister, today, for an update on Vasi. It was a difficult experience for their close-nit family. Following the accident, he was in a coma for two months, she says. Years later, he's still not the man he once was, though he is able to hold down a job and live his life.

She says the accident was definitely a hit and run, because there were marks on the street where a car had slammed on its breaks by his body. But no one has ever come forward.

"We've stopped looking back on it," she says. "It's hard for everyone. We just look forward, now, just thankful we didn't lose him."

Somewhere out there, someone knows what happened to Petrit. Maybe enough time has gone by that they can finally come forward to police and explain what happened. This family could sure use some closure.

But, it's too improbable for it to have been Maura. For one, she was working. It happened during her shift. There were two managers making rounds and surely someone would have noticed her missing. It was a long walk to her car and the accident happened in the city, a drive from the university. No way she made it there and back without anyone noticing.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Post from Maura

Just a little incidental update today.

One sharp armchair detective passed this along to me awhile back. It's a post from Maura that appeared on a website forum devoted to hiking in the White Mountains, in 1998.