Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Tour!

I have a couple events coming up in Massachusetts and I'd like to finally meet you in person, after all these years.

The first official public reading for True Crime Addict will be at Trident Booksellers Wednesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. There will be a short Q&A and signing after the reading.

The next day - June 16 - I will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Hadley, near the campus of UMass, beginning at 7 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Women Claim Bill Rausch Assaulted Female Coworker in 2011

True Crime Addict is out, today. It is the definitive book on the Maura Murray case and includes several new clues and insights into the 12 year old cold case. It ends with an epilogue in which we learn more about the character of Bill Rausch, who was Maura's boyfriend at the time of her disappearance.

Last fall, four women who worked with Bill at Ray Group International, in Washington D.C., in 2011 came forward with stories about what it was like to work with him. One woman, whom I call "Andie", claimed he pushed her down the stairs in the Metro one day and pretended it wasn't him. Another woman who shared an office with him believes he destroyed ultra-sound photographs of her unborn child which she'd brought to work to show around. Another woman says Bill mentioned Maura one day. According to her, he said he and Maura were breaking up when she disappeared and, in hindsight, he was glad things worked out the way they did.

But what caused Bill to lose his job at Ray Group was an alleged sexual assault that took place in the president's office, after hours. Andie returned to the office one evening, after meeting with coworkers nearby. She found Bill inside and he appeared to be intoxicated, she said. This is how she explained the rest: He asked her to come into the president's office and once inside, he locked the door behind her. Alone, he turned to her and smiled in a way that scared her. He told her he was the one who pushed her down in the Metro. She tried to leave. He blocked her.  He pushed her toward a wide table. Then he turned her around and pushed her face-down into the tabletop and pushed his body against her. She struggled. He pushed her down harder. Luckily, a coworker arrived. They could hear her outside the door. "Don't say a fucking word," he said. Frightened she called out. This appeared to shock him and he hid under the desk. She took this opportunity to open door to let the coworker in.

After this incident, Ray Group International did "an internal investigation" and Bill never came back to the office. He no longer lists the company in his public LinkedIn profile.

I spoke to Bill about this. He admitted he knew about the allegations and left the job after the women reported it.

It is important to note that Bill has a tight alibi for the night Maura was missing and he was actively searching for her after she disappeared, calling her friend, Kate Markopoulos repeatedly.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hoss: "Maura felt she couldn't get away from Bill Rausch"

A little recap: Last week, we learned about a cabin owned by the Outing Club at UMass, which could have been Maura Murray's destination the night she disappeared. The cabin was known to family and police for years (though they never mentioned it publicly on forums as a lead). Lance & Tim from the Missing Maura Murray podcast were told the prosecutors in the case have never found evidence to suggest Maura was at the cabin in February, 2004. But what wasn't known until last week was that Hossein Baghdadi was active in the Outing Club and knew about the cabin. "Hoss" had an affair with Maura in 2003.

When I interviewed Hoss years ago, he told me a few interesting things about Maura. She never once mentioned her father, he said. And she sometimes fantasized about disappearing and starting a new life. "I wish I could disappear" she told him. He always thought she'd choose Mexico.

In light of this new info, I've gone back to my notes on that interview. A few more things are worth mentioning.

According to Hoss, Bill Rausch was very controlling and Maura wanted to get away from him. "There were hints that he got physical with her," he told me. "She felt she couldn't get away from him. He wanted her to be in certain places at certain times. He'd check up on her. He was very demanding."

Hoss is not the only one who told me Bill could be physical with the women in his life.

I've left messages for Hoss. He has not returned my calls or emails.

I will tell you this much, after speaking to Hoss, I think he was the only one who was totally honest with me in my years of research.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Comments Policy

Now might be a good time to explain the comments policy again.

Because of the number of spam and trollish comments, and because of the sensitive nature of the case, I have to approve every single comment. I try to do this in batches a couple times a day. So when you comment, know it could take some time to post but that I am getting to it as quickly as possible.

The following comments will not be approved:

1. Any comment that suggests a specific person murdered Maura. Nobody has been charged with a crime. In fact, there's no evidence that this is a crime at all. It may be. But let's not directly accuse anyone.

2. Any mean or rude comment about the podcast or the blog or specific people. I'm not sure what that accomplishes.

3. Any comment that suggests police were somehow involved in a conspiracy related to Maura's disappearance. This isn't a place for fan fiction.

As always, I welcome fresh insight and especially suggestions for new avenues of investigation.

James Renner

Friday, May 20, 2016

Maura's Hometown Paper Covers True Crime Addict

Today's Whitman-Hanson Express has a lengthy article about True Crime Addict.

"At the time Murray vanished on Feb. 9, 2004, Renner was a reporter for alternative weeklies in northeastern Ohio. By 2009, the fallout from his coverage of an Ohio state senator at the center of a sex scandal had cost him his job and he was looking for a new story.
The new mystery he was ready for was Maura Murray. While conducting his investigation, there were mysteries in his own life to confront: the truth about his grandfather, the violent tendencies his son was beginning to display and Renner’s own impulses."

Check it out!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Podcast Episode Explores Criminology and the UMass Cabin

Fascinating new episode of the Missing Maura Maura podcast, this week. Lance & Tim talk to Professor David Wilson and Elizabeth Yardley of Birmingham City University, in England, criminologists who have some fresh ideas about armchair sleuths and Maura's case in particular.

They also spend a little time talking about the Outing Club cabin.

Turns out Lance and Tim found out about this cabin a few weeks ago, in time to ask the NH prosecutor's office about it. Listen to the podcast for the full explanation but the gist is that there is "no evidence" to support that Maura was going there. Of course, it's unknown at this time if the police knew about Hoss's connection to the club, which, in my mind, makes it exponentially more likely that Maura knew details about the cabin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

True Crime Garage: Maura Murray Part 2

The True Crime Garage podcast continues this week, with Part 2 of their discussion on the Maura Murray case. Some really fantastic ideas are bandied about this week. A must listen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BREAKING: The Cabin in the Woods

Yesterday, we learned of the existence of a cabin in the White Mountains, owned by the UMass Outing Club and wondered whether this was Maura's ultimate destination the night she vanished in Haverhill, New Hampshire. Everything I've learned in the last 24 hours leads me to believe this is - at the very least - a real possibility.

Today I spoke to Erik Hjerpe, who has helped run the Outing Club for several years. The cabin, he says, was often reserved by UMass clubs during the weekends but was usually vacant during the week. He found some documents related to cabin rentals from Spring 2004 that show it was rented during the weekends before and after Maura disappeared. But the cabin was likely - officially - empty the day she vanished.

The keys to the cabin were kept in a numbered lock box at the door. Anyone who knew the four-digit combination could get the keys and enter the cabin. Erik was up there often, and when he traveled with the crew from UMass they got off at the Woodsville exit and traveled to Bethlehem, where the cabin is located, up 302. This is the same exit Maura likely took that night.

With me so far?

Erik did not recall if he'd ever met Maura and figures he probably did not. So I gave him a list of people close to Maura to see if someone she knew was familiar with the cabin. One name stuck out to him: Hossein Baghdadi, known as "Hoss" to his friends.

Hoss was an active participant on hiking and canoeing adventures with the Outing Club and very likely stayed at the cabin, himself. Erik has fond memories of Hoss, saying he was always up for a challenge, always giving 110%, always up for adventure.

Hoss was Maura's lover. She was seeing him when she was still with Bill Rausch but according to Hoss, she broke things off late fall, 2003, before going to stay with Bill's parents for the Christmas holiday. He says she sometimes talked about running away.

I have a message out to him, but he has not yet returned my call. Is it possible he told her about this cabin at some point? In these cases, you look for coincidences that begin to line up and form a coherent story. Here, we have a cabin in the woods Maura likely knew about. She got off at the right exit, was headed the right way. It also explains why she stopped looking for rental properties - maybe after the Salamones turned her down, she realized she had a place, anyways. A place she didn't need to call ahead to.

Was this her destination?

Monday, May 16, 2016

UMass Athletes Had Access to Cabin in the White Mountains

It has been a long time since anything in the way of a new clue has surfaced in Maura Murray's disappearance. But today, a Redditor known as AncientExplorer1989 discovered an interesting connection between UMass Amherst and the White Mountains.

Turns out UMass students could reserve stays at a cabin located in the White Mountains, not far from where Maura disappeared. We've never known Maura's destination that night. Could this have been where she was heading?

The question is whether or not Maura knew about this. I think there's a very strong possibility she - and the friends she hung out with - did. After all, Maura enjoyed the outdoors, and particularly enjoyed hiking the White Mountains.

The cabin was in the news today, because police were called out to it on May 10 when a girl overdosed on LSD. Police found several intoxicated, under-aged students when they arrived. Was this area ever searched? I doubt it.

This is the best lead I've seen in a couple years.

Now, who can find some posts of pics of people there in February, 2004?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

True Crime Garage Delves into the Maura Murray Mystery

Looking for a new podcast to binge on? Check out True Crime Garage, where Nic and The Captain crack open a cold one and discuss today's most frustrating unsolved mysteries.

This week is the first part of their coverage of the Maura Murray case. It actually works as a pretty decent definitive timeline of the days leading up to her disappearance, for those new to it.

I'll be on Part 2, which I believe is coming out May 23.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lance & Tim Speak to the AG in new Podcast

The latest episode of the Missing Maura Murray podcast just went live. According to Lance & Tim, this is the first episode of "season 3" and a new turn in their investigation as they begin to go directly to sources close to the case.

Joining them this week is Marley Davis, who works for a public defender's office in Massachusetts. The focus of the episode is a series of answers the New Hampshire Attorney General's office gave them, in order to put to bed some rumors surrounding the case.

The most interesting thing that comes out of it is a statement from the AG's office, saying that they are considering releasing the video footage of Maura at the ATM prior to her disappearance.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Maura's Case Featured on The Night Time Podcast

The latest episode of The Night Time Podcast, a really spooky show out of Nova Scotia, features the Maura Murray case. I'm on for the first half.

Check it out here.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Top 10 Unsolvable Unsolved Disappearances

Head on over to Boing Boing for my new crime article, "10 Unsolvable Unsolved Disappearances." Guess who's #1? Here's a snippet:

As a true crime journalist who searches for the missing, I am keenly aware of the breadcrumbs I’m leaving behind throughout a typical day. If I were to suddenly disappear, these bits of information will mean everything to detectives. But I worry that these clues will be misleading, that my receipts and cell phone pings will only muddy the waters of the official investigation should I vanish without a trace, because the littlest detail can seem quite suspicious when taken out of context.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

So What is True Crime Addict About, Anyway?

With three weeks to go before its release, more early reviews are popping up in magazines and on Goodreads. The book contains some answers and some new clues not yet discussed on this blog, as well as a secret epilogue not given to reviewers. It will stand as the definitive book on Maura Murray's case. But it's going to be quite unlike any other true crime book you've ever read.

The latest Goodreads review sums it up nicely:

Throughout the course of this book, James Renner will investigate crime, get himself incarcerated, be verbally and physically abused, follow false leads, learn that he scored "very similar to" Ted Bundy on his psychopathy test, spend the night in a room full of teddy bears, find a chilling surprise in a dirty magazine, drink and drive to put himself in the shoes of a missing woman, get into cars with strangers, take the advice of a psychic, explore his own family's legacy of violence, be internet-stalked and threatened by a creepy dude making targeted videos straight out of a low-budget slasher film, witness his autistic son predict the future with chilling accuracy, discover a modern-day underground railroad, and casually, but earnestly, drop in some theoretical physics bombshell about how there's a fairly good chance that the entire universe as we experience it is just a computer simulation in which it's possible to trigger glitches in reality.