Thursday, September 29, 2016

**Updated** Coordinates Linked to 4Chan thread

Someone just alerted me to this post that appeared on 4Chan, in 2015. The coordinates on Desolation Trail appear along with this message: "Bring a shovel. You'll have to trespass to get into the area, but no one will be around"

Here's the link. Warning: it contains not-safe-for-work images.

There may be a bit of an "echo chamber" effect here as readers have noted the 4chan post is dated the same day as the original post on the blog, meaning the poster could have simply grabbed the coordinates here and reposted on 4chan for internet karma.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Unfound Clue

Just a reminder that nobody has yet successfully traveled to the coordinates off Desolation Trail, where Maura's body is alleged to be found, according to an anonymous email I received several years ago. The weather is about to turn, again, and soon the location will be under snow.

Click here for more on that story and the coordinates.

Do not try this if you are not an experienced hiker. Do not go alone. Be aware that there might be a goddamn bear trap or something left there for me.

And please provide evidence in photographs and gps data if you go.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Woman From New England Leaves Family, Creates New Life

The strange case of Lori Erica Ruff was just solved by some astute online sleuths. Looks like this woman wanted to leave her family behind and start fresh, under a new name.

Then one day, she told her mom she was leaving for good. Don’t come after me, she warned.
The family never heard from her again. They tried everything they could think of, but Kimberly had ensured they would never find her by changing her name not once but twice.
It's not very well known, but there are certain agencies in New England that help women leave abusive situations and start a new life somewhere. I wonder if that's what Lori did.

Read the full article at The Seattle Times. It's a great piece of journalism and an odd end to an odd story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Maura Murray Went Off the Grid Before Leaving UMass

Now that the excitement around the book has calmed down a bit, I think I'm able to see the data related to this case with clear eyes. There's a lot we missed in the phone records that I received last year. Yesterday, I talked about how the phone call data suggests Maura was with Kate Markopoulos just before she left UMass and disappeared. Today, something else hit me:

It appears that Maura turned her phone off when she was still at UMass.

In fact, Maura appears to have turned the phone off at exactly 2:18 p.m. since no incoming call was logged on her account from Bill Rausch's phone number. His records show he called her at 2:21, 2:22, and 2:24. Since we know she was in range of a cell tower at that time, due to her call at 2:18 to Bill's voicemail, the only way Bill's calls could not register on her bill is if Maura's phone was off.

There are two ways this is possible. 1. It ran out of batteries. 2. She turned it off.

I think the most likely explanation is that Maura purposefully turned off her cell phone immediately after Bill called Kate Markopoulos's dorm room at 2:18 p.m. Bill was looking for her. Maura didn't want to talk.

So, the next question is: did Maura turn off her phone just so that Bill couldn't find her? Or did she turn it off so that nobody could find her?

Maura made one last and final phone call, when she turned on her phone again around 4:37 p.m. She checked her voicemail.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Was Maura with Kate Just Before She Left UMass?

I'm taking another close look at the phone records for Bill Rausch and Maura Murray, from the day Maura disappeared, and I found a sequence of calls that is interesting.

According to Bill, he was "out in the field" helping with some kind of training exercise at Fort Sill. But apparently, there was cell phone reception out there because he's busy calling Maura all morning. She's not returning his calls. Then, at 2 p.m. EST, Maura sends this email to Bill:

Subject: hey hey
To: "Bill Rausch"

I love you more stud
I got your messages, but honestly, i didn't feel like talking to much of anyone, i promise
to call today though
love you

Bill ignores this and calls her cell phone again. Maura doesn't answer. So at 2:18 EST, he calls Kate Markopoulos's room at UMass, twice in one minute. Seconds later, Maura calls Billy back but he's still connected to Kate's room so the call goes to voicemail.

Bill then immediately calls Maura's cell again. Three times. She doesn't answer.

A couple take-aways: there was some stress between Maura and Bill that day. And Maura is only prompted to call him once he calls Kate. Did Kate tell Maura? Why wouldn't she talk to Maura if Maura's boyfriend was calling from Fort Sill - obviously Billy really wanted to get a message to Maura. Was Maura in Kate's room - is that how she knew he was calling at that moment?

But what happened next? That is the question.

Again, phone records show that Bill is petty consistently making phone calls that day (he made a LOT of calls, to West Point professors and former girlfriends and family members) and that alone suggests he could not have been in the White Mountains, where cell phone service is scarce to this day.

A year ago, I asked Bill about his alibi. Here's the email he sent back.

As previously discussed with you and confirmed by authorities in NH while I was on the ground searching for Maura after she went missing, I was at Fort Sill, OK the day Maura went missing to include the weeks in advance. The last time I saw her was during the holiday season.

Understanding that you need to confirm, please reference the information below.

- From June 2003-June 2004 I was assigned as the Executive Officer (XO) to Charlie Battery, 1-19th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, OK.

Two individuals who can confirm that I was at work when Maura went missing and that I was unable to leave until the Army gave me permission are:

1. Senior Drill Sergeant Robert Ramos -- assigned to Charlie Battery, 1-19th FA and in charge of operations and all Drill Sergeants assigned to the unit.
2. LT Nate Mayfield -- roommate at the time

Nate Mayfield and Robert Ramos have not returned emails or phone calls asking to confirm.

One bit of interesting info that just came to light: records show that Bill was part of the Information Operations Task Force. In 2005, journalists discovered that American soldiers were writing propaganda in support of the unjustified war in Iraq and funneling it through private groups which then helped to place the articles in foreign newspapers.

As the Los Angeles Times put it:
As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
On his RallyPoint page, Rausch is listed as working for the IOTF in 2006.

Prior to this Rausch was stationed at Fort Trotten as part of the 301st battalion, part of the 151st Theater Information Operations Group, which was tasked with "synchronizing related capabilities comprised of five core functions: electronic warfare, military deception, psychological operations, operational security, and computer network operations."

Psychological operations is known as PSYOPS in the field. PSYOPS create spin, "to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own." In the past they have attempted to infiltrate American media as well, most notably getting caught at CNN and NPR.

You can read more about this sort of thing in this article from Christopher Hitchens at Slate.

The Top 5 Episodes of "Missing Maura Murray"

In July, 2015, Lance Reenstierna & Tim Pilleri launched a humble podcast about the mystery of Maura Murray's disappearance, with a special focus on the obsessive minds that are attracted to the case. Since then, they've produced over 30 episodes of "Missing Maura Murray" and their little podcast has attracted many obsessive fans of its own.

It's a mostly thankless job. They work hard for weeks on a single podcast and once it's up, because of the nature of the case, and the disparate opinions on what happened to Maura, they face constant criticism and anger. But those same people are the first to start asking, "When's the next one going up? I need my fix."

If you haven't already started listening and want to catch up, here's my list of the Essential Episodes, the top five podcasts you shouldn't skip.

5. Episode 11 "Defining Sociopath."
Early on, Lance and Tim ending an episode with an off-the-cuff quote by yours truly, where I called Maura Murray a sociopath. I've since reconsidered that statement. Now that new evidence about her relationship with Bill Rausch has come to light, I consider Maura not a sociopath but a survivor. In this episode, the guys interview University of New Hampshire Professor of Forensic Psychology Doctor Robert Eckstein to get some clarity on the definition of sociopath and whether Maura might be one.

4.  Episode 8 "Fred's Letters."
I think episode eight is where Lance & Tim hit their stride. There's so much going on in this episode, from an examination of Fred's letters to the state of New Hampshire, to the introduction of "Truthseeker," to a discussion about a former police officer's Facebook post, in which he claims to know the location of Maura's body.

3. Episode 21 "Behind the Scenes."
After criticism that the Missing Maura Murray podcast is a bit of a sausage fest, the guys bring on some much-needed female voices, specifically investigator "KF" and Vanessa Grigoriadis, who wrote a much-referenced early article about the case.

2. Episode 29 "Rick Graves."
This interview with Rick Graves, who worked beside Fred Murray for many months, searching the woods for Maura Murray, was more enlightening that a dozen online articles about the case.

1. Episode 27 "Questions & Answers"
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office responds to a list of questions Lance & Tim posed about the case. These are definitive answers from law enforcement that end speculation on certain aspects of the case while raising new questions.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Poll Shows Plurality of People Believe in Tandem Driver Theory

The poll just closed. The results are in. Over 1,000 people responded. Here's the results:

What Happened to Maura Murray?

She was abducted by a serial killer.  5%

She was picked up by a stranger who never killed before but things got out of hand and she died.  17%

She was picked up by a tandem driver (someone she trusted) who then killed her. 11%

She was picked up by a tandem driver (someone she trusted) who helped her continue on to her new life, somewhere. 32% 

She committed suicide. 3% 

She wandered off into the woods and died. 26%

She never left Amherst. 2%

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Unidentified Phone Number

The day that Maura disappeared, before she left campus, she made a number of calls trying to find lodging in New Hampshire and Vermont. But she also made one call to a local number on campus that has yet to be identified (and it doesn't appear in the student directory that was recently shared online).

That number was 413-546-1466.

It was suggested this was the phone number for the UMass messaging service but I have not been able to confirm that.

So... who can figure it out. Where did this number go to in 2004?

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Poll: What Happened to Maura Murray?

True Crime Addict came out in May. The podcast continues. You're up to date on the facts of the case, now.

So what happened?

Click an answer on the poll above to let us know which way you're leaning, today.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rumsfeld Ordered Review Of Sexual Assault in Military the Day of Maura's Breakdown

On Thursday, February 5, 2004, Maura suffered some kind of mental breakdown during work at the security desk of Melville Hall. Her supervisor discovered her in a "catatonic state." The only thing she would say was "my sister."

The same source who provided new insight into Maura's crash in Hadley just pointed me toward an interesting coincidence. On Feb 5, 2004, Donald Rumsfeld ordered a 90-day review of sexual assault on female soldiers in the military. The review focused on female soldiers already in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this investigation would ultimately kick up stories of sexual assault at West Point and other military institutions. There were Congressional hearings. It was a big deal.

Later investigations would show that at the time Maura was at West Point, at least 6% of the female cadets were sexually assaulted and 62% were sexually harassed.

How did this news affect Maura? We do know she knew at least one man from West Point who was later accused of sexual assault: her boyfriend, Bill Rausch.

New Insight Into Maura's Accident in Hadley

About 39 hours before Maura disappeared, she was involved in another accident, in Hadley, very near the UMass campus. The story relayed to police by Maura's friends, family, and the responding officer was that Maura was driving her father's car to his motel at 3 a.m. after leaving a party at Sara Alfieri's dorm with Kate Markopoulos -- a party that was standing-room only, but one where Kate doesn't remember who else was there.

I've always questioned why Maura would be traveling to Fred's room at that late hour instead of waiting for the morning. A frequent reader who has spent time in Hadley has the best explanation I've heard of so far. I'd never considered how strange it would be for her to have kept her father's car on campus to begin with, for any length of time:

"Why would Maura take her dad's car to campus when UMass police are nazis with parking tickets? His car did not have a pass and the lots are only partially plowed in winter. They actually truck snow into those lots from other lots to let it melt in a massive pile in the back corner. There would have been limited parking for students with stickers let alone guest spots. There are no guest spots there and visitors can only park in blue lots. The blue lot there is tiny and would have been full. Full to the point that it would have been stupid to leave a spot to run out and think it would be open when she returned.

So I got to thinking about the townhouse apartments on Meadow Street. The parties there are massive. Like 300 kids and police getting bottles bashed on their heads kinda crazy. I remember my friend having a massive party at his place and him saying that there are lots of UMass athletic kids that live across the street and that is why the parties get so huge over there.

Now think about this. We doubt the party was at the dorms. It just does not happen. RAs do checks on the floor and it would have been busted.

If they partied at the townhouses, the crash would make more sense. If she dropped the girls off and left to go back to the party with the random guy no one seems to know, she would have dropped them off at the turn around behind the building and went back the way she came leading to the crash intersection. If she wanted to avoid cops since she was drunk and get to her dad in the middle of the night, going right out of the lot and a right at the corner where Rafters is makes more sense. She is literally driving out of her way if she was heading to her dad's room.

It is more likely that she left to bring the girls home and go back to meet up with this guy. She headed out over 116 and crashed. She freaked and said she was going to see her dad and the cop let her go since the route makes sense to the cop. If she had taken a right where she had crashed and gone a mile, she would be at Meadow Street townhouses.

No one goes to a party where no one knows each other. No one hosts a party and then cannot name names. No girl goes off drunk driving daddy's car to go find daddy. That would be the last thing a drunk girl would want to do. She had to have taken that route for a reason and getting to her dad is not it. The route does not make sense. This was a track party off campus and the "foggy memory" is to cover their asses and the track teams ass."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Recent Sightings Focus on New Hampshire and Canada

I was contacted by a couple people this week who wonder if they've seen Maura Murray.

The first is from a woman who found this photograph posted under escort services on the New Hampshire craigslist page. The resemblance is striking, but of course the age is way off unless this was taken years ago. Note, too, that this photo that was used on craigslist actually comes from an adult-content website and is almost certainly not the photo of the person who posted it.

The second sighting, which occurred in Canada, is more compelling, in my opinion. Here's the story I was sent. Photo is above.

"The main town on Manatoulin Island is Little Current, population of around three thousand.  There are only a couple of restuarants in the village, one grocery store, so it's quite a cozy place.  In either 2012 or 2013 a group of our family (not including my wife and I, sadly) were vacationing on the island, and one evening decided to patronize a place in town called Garry's Family Restaurant.  They were chatting with their waitress, and in course of small talk this young woman told them that she was actually American as well.  She said she'd come up to the island to attend a band camp, and decided to just stay there and live.  It struck them as odd at the time (and the reason they relayed the story to me this year) because of the whole "band camp" notion.  Its very unique, at least.  If she was associated with a school music program that suggests she would have to have dropped out of her old life, whatever her academic pursuits, to take up menial work in remote Canada. But to be fair this not all that outlandish; it is a very "granola" area, so if you like the great outdoors and nature and living fairly (but not entirely) off the grid, it's a nice place to land.

So this summer I'm listening to podcasts discussion of Murray case, and the idea that Maura could be living beneath the radar in Canada.  Naturally this made me think of the band camp girl. This whole idea poses a huge problem, however, since if it was actually Maura why on earth  would she ever admit to being an American to other Americans?  That would be a very good way to you blow your own cover. Regardless, I decided to Google this place, see if I could find any staff photos or employee references or anything that might allude to this young woman's identity (assuming she is still an employee, now 3-4 years later).  I could find no such information, but on a restaurant review site I did find, among photos of food they serve and an empty dining room, the attached "action" shot of a couple eating at the place.  It's from a very unfortunate angle, but that waitress obviously looks a little like Maura.  My sister-in-law says the waitress in the photo looks like it might have been the same they encountered, as far as she can remember, but did not think the photo of Maura looked familiar.  So...??"

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Simple, Glaring Detail

Often, we get hung up on all the weird, possibly meaningless clues (the rag in the tailpipe, etc.) of this case, and we don't see the forest for the trees. But there's one simple thing that's always bothered me and I think it's another detail that points to the tandem driver who has still not come forward:

Does anyone really believe Maura left that day without telling a single other soul where she was going?

I know the quick, easy social-justice-warrior response to this is, "she was a grown woman, why would she have to tell anyone where she was going?"

But, seriously consider it for a second. Do you really think Maura left that day without telling any of her friends that she was planning a trip?

I put this question to women who come to my readings and signings and I have yet to find one who took a trip without telling a single soul, especially one into another state that would take a couple days. And before you step up and say, well I did - I go off on my own all the time - think about it again. Were you going away for days? Did you really not text anyone just to let them know not to call the cops when you didn't show up in a day or two?

What is more likely? That Maura didn't tell a single other person what she was planning to do? Or that she did, and it's that person or persons who were with her that night?