Before her disappearance, Maura Murray packed up her dorm, withdrew $280 from the ATM, and purchased an assortment of alcohol.
At 7:27 p.m. on the night of Feb. 9, 2004, a woman called the Grafton County Sheriff’s Department to report a car accident. A small black Saturn appeared to be wedged against a snowbank on the road outside her home in Woodsville, N.H. The sheriff thanked her for calling and dispatched officers.
At 7:43, the sheriff’s department received another phone call about the accident, this time from a local school bus driver named Butch Atwood. He reported that the driver was a young woman and that she appeared to be cold, but unharmed.
Atwood also claimed she had begged him not to call the police, and that he had waited until he returned home to do so, so a few minutes had passed. Though he couldn’t see the car from his home, which was just a short distance up the road, he could see the stretch of road just before it and said a few other cars had passed by.
At 7:46, the police officer dispatched by the sheriff’s department arrived at the scene. The young woman was nowhere to be found. Police believed the driver to be Maura Murray, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Massachusetts, who had recently gone missing. To this day, her disappearance remains unsolved.
The Days Before
At first glance, Maura Murray’s disappearance could easily be chalked up as a chance abduction, or an accidental death. It was dark and cold, a snowstorm was brewing, and she was in an unfamiliar area. A dozen different things could have happened, not all of them sinister.
However, once police delved deeper into Murray’s past, they realized that the case was far more extensive – and far darker – than they ever imagined.
The last person to see Maura alive and well, before the bus driver, was her father, Fred. The father-daughter pair had had dinner the night of February 8, and according to Fred, it was perfectly normal. Afterward, Fred had lent Murray his car, so she could drive back to her University of Massachusetts Amherst dorm to attend a party.
On her way home from the party, around 2:30 a.m., she crashed her father’s car into a guardrail. She was unharmed, but the car was damaged. Fred assured her that she shouldn’t worry, as insurance would cover the damage as long as she picked up the proper forms at the DMV the next day. Aside from being a little distressed over the accident, Fred reported that when he took Murray home that night, she seemed perfectly fine.
The following morning, however, things changed.
Classes on the afternoon of February 9 had been canceled due to a snowstorm that threatened to close roads. According to her email, Murray contacted all of her professors, as well as her work supervisor, and told them she was taking a week off due to a death in the family. Family members say that there was no death.
After emailing her professors, Murray drove to an ATM and withdrew $280 dollars. Then, she drove to a liquor store and purchased roughly $40 worth of Bailey’s, Kahlua, vodka, and a box of red Franzia. She also stopped at the Amherst DMV and picked up the necessary paperwork for her insurance claim on her father’s car.
At 4:37, she placed a call to her own voicemail. After that, she apparently packed up her car and left.
Not much is known about Murray’s whereabouts between her liquor store run and her fender bender hours later. When police searched her abandoned car they found printed mapquest directions to a condo complex in Burlington, Vt.
Cell phone records show she placed a call to the owner of one of the condos, which had been listed for rent. Given the maps and the location of her car, police believe Murray was headed to Burlington, though no record of her informing anyone of her destination has been found.
Maura Murray Declared Missing
The day after finding the car, police declared Maura Murray a missing person. Upon searching her dorm room, they discovered her belongings had been packed away, and that her room had been cleaned. A typed email to her boyfriend detailing relationship issues had been placed on top of one of her boxes.
A search of the car revealed not only the mapquest directions, but the alcohol Murray had purchased earlier that day. The wine appeared to have spilled on the backseat of the car, and there was a coke bottle in the front seat that smelled of liquor. The search also revealed that while most of Murray’s belongings were in the car, her debit cards, credit cards, and cell phone were missing. None of them were ever used again.
Over the years, several people have come forward with news they say relates to the Murray case. People have claimed to have seen her hiking in the woods near Burlington, or found items they believe belong to her in the woods near where her car was found.
In 2012, several videos appeared on YouTube claiming to have cryptic clues about the disappearance. The police released a statement following the videos assuring the public there have been no confirmed clues or sightings of Maura Murray since the night she disappeared.
Several months after her disappearance, a contractor in Haverhill, where Murray’s car was found, reported seeing a woman matching her description jogging up the road around 7 p.m. on February 9. He’d thought nothing of it at the time and only realized once he’d read the news.
Police dogs searched a two-mile area surrounding Murray’s abandoned car but reached dead ends twice. Police have repeatedly denied that any sightings or clues are real, and even Murray’s family seems to have given up hope, admitting it’s likely she is dead. To this day, 14 years later, it still seems that Maura Murray vanished into thin air.