Thursday, May 30, 2013

Other Cases With Similar Elements

May 31, 2013

Although difficult to quantify, experts estimate that 2,300 people per day are reported missing in the U.S. The vast majority of these are not stereotypical stranger abductions and many are resolved quickly.  The following is a good discussion of the demographics of the missing by David Krajicek: tp://

Other cases may spur insights.  If you know a lot about one, I would like to hear your thoughts.

Here are two cases I have looked at closely because they feature elements that could illuminate thinking about Maura's case.

Brooke Wilberger - Most who know of Maura's case know also of Brooke's. They both were abducted in 2004 and their cases were featured together in a 2008 ABC special, made before Brook's case was solved.

Brooke's case illustrates that a body can be effectively hidden in the back woods in cunning ways.  Officials close to the Wilberger case have said that but for the apprehension of her killer via other investigative tracks and his subsequent deal to avoid the death penalty, Brooke may never have been found. In terms of Maura, therefore, it raises consideration of whether - even with the rivers frozen and the ground too hard to dig in New Hampshire in February - a cunning serial killer might effectively have hidden her body.This short article and video provide background on that topic:

Leah Roberts was a 23 year old young lady from Durham, North Carolina. Like Maura, she bolted in her car without telling anyone (we know of) where she was going or why.  Also like Maura, she had recently seen tough emotional times, including the death of both her parents.  Her jeep was found crashed down a highway embankment north of Seattle.  Other than a few reported sightings (including one reported in a mysterious, suddenly terminated call to authorities), she has never been seen again. Like Maura's case, there are intriguing details whose ultimate significance remain unknown.  This case perhaps has or will someday yield insights about Maura's perhaps confused or panicked state of mind after the accident.  This is good discussion of Leah's case:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Crash Test Dummies

May 22, 2013

A few months ago I was thinking about that crack in the windshield of the Saturn. I looked around on, Topix and other places to get a sense for what people were thinking. The following summaries represent two common views:

[1] The damage to the Saturn, including the cracked windshield, is evidence of a prior crash and perhaps an indication that the car was being towed prior to the accident on 112. Related to this, Maura's head could not have hit that particular spot near the upper corner of the driver's side windshield in what probably was a fairly low speed impact, given the obstacle of the steering wheel and the deployment of the airbag.

[2] The crack is evidence that Maura suffered a head injury and thus might have been susceptible to collapsing not far outside the short distances away searched by authorities that night.  The Murrays, for instance, appear to feel this way.

This is a picture of the crack in the window (with red lines highlighting it that have been added to the picture) on

Bear in mind two caveats about this picture. First, it was taken some unknown time after the accident and so the cracks - according to an auto body guy I know - could have spread out a little more as temperatures changed and wind or rain influenced the the windshield.  Second, whomever colored the crack's seams in the photo - to make them easier to see - had the ability, if they chose, to exaggerate or modify their appearance and thus the suggestive impact of the photo.  I have no reason to think this happened mind you, and I don't allege that it did.  Instead, simply in terms of prudently taking a neutral posture toward evidence, it is worth keeping in mind.

For what it is worth, the site states that the impact came from inside the car.  I myself cannot tell by looking at the picture.

For purposes of this post, I provide the photo for a limited and specific purpose: to show the general location the crack.

It appears that a first, I subscribed to an intuitive idea that is not true.  At first, I agreed with those who said her head never could above the steering wheel with enough velocity and energy to break the windshield.  But then I started thinking about suddenly being thrown forward at 35 miles an hour (assuming the car stopped short) and I was not so sure.  I talked it over with a engineer friend who has studied car-body crash dynamics. He said it as possible. He suggested that I watch some crash test dummy videos and think about how an airbag influences the vectors of force on the driver relative to the car in a crash.

So I did.  Check out this video, for example.

While not proving anything about Maura's case, it debunks the facial validity (see yesterday's update to the "My Sister" post) around the concept that her head could not have gotten up into that corner of the compartment under the windshield in a relatively slow speed impact.

While a different car, the video shows a fairly low impact speed (25 miles an hour) with a air bag deployment.  Look closely at the passenger compartment zoom in the slow motion replays.  Look where the head gets thrown: upward, above the steering wheel.  This is net influence on the body (the driver) of two forces: being thrown forward relative to the suddenly stopped car and the generally opposing force of the airbag in deployment.

In that context, consider too the possibility that Maura was drinking and perhaps intoxicated. If so, she may not have braced for impact in any way, even by tensing her body. Thus her body was even more likely to move a crash dummy's would. But even aside from that, there is so little reaction time in a stopped short accident, and the forces are so strong, that even bracing likely would not have made a difference in terms of where her body and head were thrown.

A few posters have alleged that the crack was deliberately created after the fact, perhaps as a part of a staging of an accident. I think this is prohibitively implausible. For one thing, a great deal of energy is required to crack a windshield. Up in the corner, above the steering wheel, in that hard to reach portion of the passenger compartment, you would have to swing a hammer to get outward pressure and cracking.  A hammer would leave a much different kind impact mark, more like a smashed hole or what you get when a rock hits your windshield on the highway.  Recreating that particular impact pattern as part of a staged accident scenario seems highly unlikely

Finally, I noticed in this video a kind of secondary upward thrust of the head toward the upper windshield.  This suggests the possibility of an injury to the back of Maura's head. That would tend to affect vision and spatial reasoning (i.e., perhaps making her more prone to getting confused and lost, as well as less able judge distances and dodge oncoming cars). Moreover, the onset of symptoms from head trauma is sometimes not immediate.  Symptoms can manifest minutes, hours, or even days later, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually.

Call to action: if you know auto crash dynamics, or you are an engineer, or you have some other type of insight or expertise, I am really to interested to hear what people think. I am willing to bet that someone in our group knows this topic well and I could use their information to post an update and put a finer point on this topic.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Disturbing Email

A few days ago I received a very disturbing email from    

This blog receives a lot of mean and angry messages but this one is in its own special class. Here's a couple snippets:

b-Murray was a white trash ho.   Fucked the entire track team, including her "assistant track" coach (who is apparently now in Taiwan, putting that PhD of his to good use designing sneakers-I am sure it galled him to give up all of that  white, American, undergrad poontang, poor guy), and lord knows who else at UMASS and in the surrounding community.  Now, sadly (and admittedly) this does not differentiate her in the slightest from 99% of the white trash ho's currently attending universities and colleges in this country. However...

c-her little ho greek friend,Kate Markopoulos,    clearly KNOWS a hell of a lot more than she is letting on. You have established that.
 g-Maura Murray was fucking some local yoke, whom she met out at a bar while getting wasted (or possibly online), but I favour the random bar hookup for obvious reasons.   He either bought her a trac/burner phone to keep ole' Billy Boy and his mommy in the dark, or he just called her on her dorm phone.  Regardless, this is the guy with whom she planned to spend that weekend.    I am sure that he picked her up and scooted her away to parts unknown that night.  Now, whether or not he killed her...well, who knows, but I doubt it.    Something tells me she is still alive and the greek ho knows all of this.    It's a shame the cops can't water board her, 'cause requesting information from  her nicely doesn't seem to be getting the job done. 

First thing I did was forward it to the NH Cold Case unit. The second thing I did was reach out to the husband of a frequent reader of this blog, who knows a thing or two about backtracking emails. What he discovered was quite bizarre. Here's his response:

Whomever wrote it was in Northern New Jersey. That's as specific as I could narrow the location down as I don't have any contacts at Comcast (their ISP). I found one indication they are located in Manchester, NJ but that is unconfirmed. 

There is one very strange thing about this email: even though the email is plain-text (sent insecurely), there is an encryption fingerprint. What this means is that whomever wrote the email has email encryption software on their computer but, for whatever reason, chose not to encrypt this message. This is very uncommon and generally only found among security "nuts" in the IT world. What makes it even more bizarre is that they wrote the email by logging in to as opposed to sending it from a phone or email client such as Outlook. That in itself isn't strange but because of the encryption fingerprint, that means that the encryption software that they have on their computer is setup to secure whatever they do, which is a step beyond paranoid. Most encryption software won't touch anything you're doing unless you specifically tell it to ("encrypt this specific email", etc). Their setup seems to be reversed - it touches everything that's happening on their computer, and they have to specifically tell it to not encrypt something, like the email they sent you. 

When I started to poke around and see what else they had been doing with this email address, AOL had flagged the account with "Suspicious activity has been detected on this account. For your protection we are blocking access to this username." I can't say that I'm incredibly familiar with AOL's security policies or what they consider "suspicious activity", but I do know that in the IT industry, AOL is a joke - whatever this person did must have been rather severe to warrant AOL blocking their account entirely.  

That caught my interest, so I dug deeper and found that their email address has been placed on an alert list for RIPE in the Netherlands. RIPE is one of the organizations that essentially helps keep the internet running in Europe. Unfortunately, there were not details as to why they had been placed on this list. Making their shitlist means you were really causing some trouble. The odd part is that this was only instance I found this email address referenced. Normally if you're causing enough trouble to be put on a RIPE shitlist, whatever you've done has also landed you on dozens of other shitlists. Whatever this person did was very, very specific - not something like blasting out a bunch of spam to thousands of people. More like targeting one computer or network and successfully causing some damage. 

They were added to this RIPE list Apr 30, 2013 at 10:04:56 GMT. This specific list has since been deleted and they haven't reappeared on any of their other lists. This again goes to show that whatever they did was very specific - if it were inexact, they would have appeared on several of RIPE's lists.

And just when you thought this mystery couldn't get any weirder.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Did Maura Run East?

May 14, 2013

I have been watching Topix for substantive nuggets amid the vitriol regarding my posts.  Someone on Topix pointed out a foolish mistake I made in "Did Maura Run East" analysis.  Franconia Airport has no commercial service.  Unless Maura knew somebody in the glider association that it is home to, who then ... glided her to Toronto, this airport is irrelevant.

My apologies to you all for not having researched this better in advance.  The central point of the analysis stands but that extension falls.

Incidentally, citigirl also pointed out that Bradley Hill Road to 116 to 112 is hillier than 112 to the same point.  I checked this out.  Indeed the alternate route rises at 5.6% for 2.3 miles, dips suddenly then rises suddenly as it crosses a creek, then goes down hill about 5.6% back to 112.  This is a great observation by citigirl who clearly has one of the best commands of this case factually of anyone out there, but in the end it does not change the analysis.

This for three reasons.  [1] I used a really slow running rate in the first place, one benchmarked (with the help of an expert on running) on road running, thus including hills.  [2] A fit runner (unlike most of us) gains as much or more speed on a downhill as she loses on an uphill.  [3] Even if overall it affected her speed to some degree, four of the six scenarios involve the direct route on 112 and even if you add 30 seconds a mile to an unthinkably slow 9:30 per mile that only adds 2:30 to her total time.  

Thus the larger point of the table stands even if the assumption fails on hills.  But the assumption, being slow in the first place and with Maura being a runner, does not fail.

I really hope citigirl might become willing to lend her expertise to my methods.  She knows a lot more about this case than I do.

May 13, 2013

Rick Forcier reported an evasive-seeming person in a hoodie running on Route 112, four to five miles east of the Saturn accident scene, between 8:00 and 8:30 pm on February 9. Rick likely is not a suspect. Police searched the trailer he was living in after he sold it and nothing happened thereafter.

The relevance of Rick's report is often dismissed. For one thing, he did not offer it right away. Moreover, he has a morbid sense of humor, it has been alleged by some that his story changed across multiple interviews, and many have reasoned that the time frame was too tight for the person he saw to have been Maura.

Looking closely, however, the time frame was not too tight. In fact, the timeline of events is precisely consistent with Rick's statement.

To see this, first consider the following premises:
  • Corroborating it with my former cross-country coach (the legendary Bruce Lehane at Boston University, who has coached 100s and 100s of male and female runners in his distinguished career) I came up with an assumption about how fast Maura might have been able to run that night. As a benchmark, on a slower, aerobic training off-day, without especial strain, an average to good female collegiate distance runner covers 6-9 miles at a pace around 7:40 per mile, at what's known as a "conversational pace." Exerting a little more effort, they'd move at seven minutes per mile, but without much strain. Eight minutes a mile would be slow and nine minutes a mile would be very slow, to the point where a female collegiate runner in a training scenario likely would not bother to run at that point. So lets assume Maura moved at nine minutes per mile that night, given that she was in blue jeans and less than ideal conditions. With the urgency that almost certainly accompanied her departure, this is reasonable. I can corroborate this with my personal experience.  When I was a competitive runner, I once found myself running along a road at night in the dead of winter in hiking boots and jeans.  I was able to maintain a pace about half a minute slower than a "conversational" normal training pace. Thus, there is a good chance Maura was moving faster than nine minutes per mile that night, but she probably was not moving slower than that.
  • As a New England runner, Maura would have been familiar with running on snow covered roadways at night in the winter. This is the plight of student distance runners. The team typically gathers after 3:30 pm, after classes. After a meeting, stretching and a few warm up strides, the distance runners embark for a 45 to 90 minute jog when already it is almost dark, with it often being dark and a busy traffic hour by the time they return.
  • Maura could have taken two routes away from the accident scene to get to the stretch of road where Rick saw the evasive-seeming runner in the hoodie. In addition to Route 112, she also could have taken Bradley Hill Road to Route 116, back to Route 112. This alternate route would have put her first on 112 near the middle of Rick's "four to five mile range," 4.6 miles east on Route 112 from the scene. Nonetheless, it involves only 1/2 mile more distance (i.e., via it, she would have had to jog 5.1 miles). This because Bradley Hill Road and a portion of Route 116 are much straighter than Route 112. Please refer to the first two images with this post, a map and a legend.
  • The earliest Maura could have departed the scene was about 8:34 pm. This was five minutes after Faith Westman's call, thus giving her enough time to have talked with Bruce Atwood (which could have occurred as early as 7:25 pm), get out of the car, gather her thoughts and self, walk a short distance, then begin running. See the timeline posted to Renner's blog on Saturday the 11th.
  •  The latest Maura could have departed the scene was 8:46 pm, or seconds before Officer Smith arrived. See the timeline posted to Renner's blog on Saturday the 11th.
Now, please refer to third image, provided with this post, Table A. It shows that under each of the eight possible scenarios stemming from the above reasoning, Maura had enough time to jog to any point of Rick's "four to five miles east" range estimated by Rick, by as early as 8:10 pm and no later than 8:32 pm.

But what about the scent dogs tracking her 100 yards east then losing the trail? That fact certainly tends to suggest Maura did not run east and was not the person Rick saw.

I am no expert on this topic. But I know that if you watch a slow motion film of a good runner, their feet are touching the ground a surprisingly low percentage of the time. Thus, I wonder: if she bolted at that point - perhaps seeing a police car approaching - was her scent dispersed more so than it had been in the first 100 yards, possibly increasing its further dispersal over the next two days, before the dogs were brought to the scene? Moreover, perhaps she was carrying something bearing a scent specifically similar to those new gloves (like a new hat), which she stuffed into her back pack at that point, or cast aside, which was then later carried by some wind into a creek or somehow otherwise lost onto the record of evidence. 

Ultimately - as more than one person asserting knowledge of scent tracking dogs has said - it is difficult to conclude anything given that two days had passed. The possibilities here require some further research, if anyone is an expert or knows one.

For now, we can say there are at least two bodies of evidence that indicate that Rick indeed could have seen Maura running on 112. Think of that possibility! She might already have been five miles away (a) before the Saturn was towed, (b) when Officer Smith had been looking around nearby the scene for the driver for at most 36 minutes, and (c) 57 minutes before he left the scene.

This possibility brings another into plainer view: that Maura found prior unreserved lodging that night. To wit, by the time Rick saw her - if that was her - she was fewer than seven miles away from the Pinestead Farm Lodge on Route 116 (to the north) and within ten miles of the Wilderness Inn Bed & Breakfast in Woodstock (and many other lodgings near it), down Route 112. Please refer to the 2nd map picture provided and the picture of the legend.  She easily could have gotten to these places in the next two hours - by 10:30 pm - alternately running and walking. And she had somewhere between $240 and (maybe) $4,240 on her person.

Just on the other side of I-93 from Woodstock is Lincoln, NH and a Greyhound Bus Station, with service to - among other cities - Montreal and Toronto. Just 3 miles north of the Pinestead Farm Lodge on Route 116 is the Franconia Airport. If Maura reached the nearest accommodations east, in Franconia or Woodstock, one has to wonder what she did the next morning.

I don't argue that it actually went down this way. Who can know at this point what happened? My purpose is to flesh out the facts and analyze what is possible or prohibited. Thus yet again, we have yet another possibility among the wide vector of them, each with their own supporting facts and contra-indications. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Timeline: February 5-9, 2004

May 11, 2013

The timeline is included as jpegs in this post.  The table (5 pictures) is the timeline itself.  The other five images are the source references.

If you would like copies of the files emailed to you, email me at

As you are read the timeline, some details or conventions might be confusing.  Don't worry too much about that now.  The follow up posts will better orient you.  Just focus on the flow of the facts and the time frames and how the pieces fit together.

A caveat ... this is version alpha.  I surely have not located all sources.  There may be better or even contradictory ones out there.  For example, I can't find an authentic original of the Grafton County Dispatch logs, which often are reproduced and quoted.  I may also have mad some errors in reasoning, such as where I inferred time frames.  And I may have left out an important event or two.

Par for the course.  For now, the point is that we have a working, detailed time line.  It will evolve.  Some have already expressed in email a willingness to review it for omissions and alternative or contradictory sources.  Thank you in advance. That process will tighten it up.  In particular, if you are familiar with a source or know a lot about a specific issue in the case, let me know where my efforts need perfecting.  In the end, as this product evolves, it will give James a good reference point as he writes, and all of us one as we think and chew and hypothesize.

But don't feel obligated to do review it critically.  Mainly I hope that by just looking it over, your sense of the flow of events is as edified as much as mine was by creating it.

Have a great weekend.  More to come next week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Changes to the Method of Our Investigation

I am still processing the events in Cleveland. I covered the Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus abductions for The Free Times back in 2006. Like the police and the FBI, I had the name of the girl last seen with Gina, Arlene Castro. I can't help wondering if maybe I'd pushed a little harder for info about the girl and her family... How could anyone imagine what her father, Ariel Castro was up to?

The moment I heard that Amanda, Gina, and Michelle Knight had returned from the dead, I understood that I had underestimated the evil that men can do.

In the Maura Murray disappearance, I have dismissed the theory that Maura was abducted by a dirtbag from New Hampshire. She was only alone for seven minutes, after all. The odds that a serial killer happened to drive by in that short window--and avoid being seen--seemed too astronomical. But look at Ariel Castro. He proved that sometimes evil can take advantage of those astronomical odds.

So, let's have a look at that theory. If you live in Bath or Swiftwater or Haverhill, do you know of any men who board up their windows and put padlocks on their doors? Have you noticed any single men buying food in bulk at McDonalds or the grocery store?

I'm changing something else. I'm letting other people add to the investigation into what happened to Maura Murray.

Beginning tomorrow, John Green will be contributing analysis of the evidence in this case. He's been sharing some insight through emails and it should be shared. The first thing he's doing is creating a very specific timeline of Maura's activities before her disappearance.

Let's figure this one out.