Saturday, November 27, 2004

Police Have New Lead In Maura Murray Case

Thursday May 6, 2004
Caledonian Record

There may be a break in the case involving 21-year-old nursing student Maura Murray who disappeared the night of Feb. 9 after she was involved in a one-car accident on rural Route 112 in Haverhill.

New Hampshire State Police Troop F Lt. John Scarinza said a witness has come forward with information he may have seen Murray about four to five miles east of the accident scene.

Scarinza said a man, whom he declined to identify, was returning from a construction job in the Franconia area when he spotted a young woman matching Murray's description hurrying east on Route 112, about an hour after her accident.

He not only believes the witness' information is credible, he also believes the man actually saw the Hanson, Mass., resident.

Murray, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, left campus the afternoon of Feb. 9 after e-mailing professors and her boss, telling them she was going to take a week off because of a family problem.

Before heading north, she packed her black 1996 Saturn with some clothing, books for her college classes, expensive diamond jewelry from her boyfriend, Billy Rausch of Fort Sill, Okla., and computer-generated directions for locations in Vermont.

Although directions found in her car indicated she may have been headed toward Stowe or Burlington in Vermont, Murray apparently exited Interstate 91 at Exit 17 and headed east on Route 302.

She then turned right onto Route 112 and apparently headed to Lincoln, which she was familiar with because of family excursions to the area.

About a mile east of Swiftwater, around 7 p.m., she lost control of her car while rounding a sharp left-hand curve near The Weathered Barn. Her car went off the right side of the highway and into some trees, causing minor damage.

Butch Atwood, a school bus driver who lives about 100 yards east of the accident site, discovered Murray's disabled car while returning from taking students on a skiing trip.

Atwood spoke with her and offered to help, including calling police and EMS. However, Murray insisted that Atwood not call police and EMS because she had already contacted AAA.

Murray did not appear to be intoxicated, according to Atwood. Police said a container of alcohol was found in the car.

Atwood went to his house to call for help. About seven to nine minutes later, Haverhill Police Sgt. Cecil Smith arrived at the accident scene. Murray was nowhere to be found.

"Based on the description of what he saw, we believe it may have been Maura," Scarinza said, referring to the witness seeing a young woman fitting Maura's description about an hour after the accident. "Based on the place and based on the time, there is a good possibility the person he saw on 112 was Maura."

The witness contacted state police April 29 about possibly seeing Murray the night of the accident.

Scarinza said although the witness thought shortly after her disappearance he may have seen Murray, he discounted that thought after talking with a friend. His friend had said Murray's accident had happened Feb. 11 instead of Feb. 9. And he had seen the young woman the night of Feb. 9.

It was after seeing subsequent news reports, and realizing the accident had occurred Feb. 9, he decided to contact state police.

The man, who Scarinza said is a contractor, checked his work records and verified he was returning home from a job in the Franconia area the night of Feb. 9 when he spotted who he and state police believe was Murray.

Maura's father, Fred Murray, is upset police didn't travel Route 112 toward the Woodstock area, at least calling ahead to the Woodstock police to ask them to look for his daughter.

"This was a young woman involved in an accident," he said. "She had a head injury by the indication of the spider hole in the windshield."

"They know she is somewhere close by and they don't go down the road to bring her to safety?" Murray asked. "If they had searched for my daughter, she would most likely be safely here now."

Sharon Rausch, Billy's mother, said she believes the news of an eyewitness is wonderful.

"It gives me renewed hope she is still alive," Rausch said. "If she sees this in print, we want her to know she's more loved than ever."

Scarinza said because of the new information from the eyewitness, a search will be conducted Saturday in the area of routes 112 and 116 where Maura was last seen by the eyewitness.

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