Nearly two decades ago, a nursing student from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) disappeared along Route 112 in Haverhill, New Hampshire — never to be seen again. Today, her family seeks to commemorate their loss with “a state highway historical marker” in the place of her disappearance, several sources say.
From the time Maura disappeared, her family has been installing a bright blue ribbon around a tree along Route 112, reported The Caledonian Record. But since the property owner plans to take the tree down, the family has then sought to have a permanent marker built in its stead. A recent report in The New Hampshire Public Radio says the petition for this marker’s installation has garnered over 3,000 signatures.
What Happened to Maura Murray?
The mysterious disappearance of Maura Murray, who was 21 years old at the time, has been the subject of multiple true crime channels, covered by YouTube personalities and popular podcasts, all tackling the case’s plausible theories, persons of interest, and everything in between. So, what exactly happened to Maura?
In 2004, exactly on February 9, Maura got into a car accident on Route 112, North Haverhill, and crashed in front of the house of one Faith Westman. According to Crime Junkie host Ashley Flowers, two calls from 911 followed this incident.
First, Westman dialed 911 to report the crash that occurred in front of her home, without investigating the scene. After a while, a man named Butch Atwood, who was driving a bus, passed by and asked Maura if she needed help, which Maura declined. “The second and final” 911 call would come from him, Flowers notes in the podcast episode.
However, when a dispatcher arrived at the scene, which Flowers says was around seven minutes from Atwood’s interaction with Maura, the 21-year-old could not be found, which remains to be the case 16 years later.
Before Her Disappearance
Several events are of note when the discussion of what had happened to Maura, prior to her disappearance, comes up. Two of these events involve Maura fabricating stories.
Flowers says four days before she drove off to Route 112, Maura was working on campus when her boss found her in a “catatonic state”. Alarmed, Maura’s boss approached her, which caused Maura to break down in tears. When her boss asked what was wrong, Maura responded with “my sister”. Then, before dropping her off to her dorm, her boss asked if she had anyone to talk to, and responded saying she had a roommate in whom she could confide. That was the first lie — Maura didn’t have a roommate, Flowers says.
Maura lied the second time on the day of her disappearance. She had emailed her professors saying there was a death in the family, which meant that she would be out for a week, Flowers says. Then, she drove off to New Hampshire where the accident took place.
Another oft-cited, and even similar, incident happened only days prior to the crash. After going to a party, Maura got into another car accident — except this time, she was using her dad’s brand new car. Flowers notes about $10,000 in damage resulted from her crashing into a guard rail.
Several Theories About What Happened to Maura
There are two popular theories surrounding Maura’s case and the aftermath of her accident. One involves her running away, and the other, more harrowing one involves her having been kidnapped.
The reasons behind the first theory stem from the purported problems in Maura’s life. According to the second Crime Junkie episode tackling this case, the 21-year-old transferred from the US Military Academy at West Point, also known as West Point, to UMass. While studying at West Point, Maura ran into the law due to allegations of theft, according to journalist James Renner. Renner says this confirms why she left West Point — “to avoid disciplinary action and expulsion.”
Another recurring problem in Maura’s life was her relationship with her long-term boyfriend Billy Rausch. Despite their families’ long-held faith in the idea that the two will eventually get engaged, both parties had committed infidelity during the course of their relationship. In one of Renner’s articles, he says he interviewed Hossein Baghdadi, a former assistant track coach and someone with whom Maura had an affair. Baghdadi says Maura had opened up to him, saying Rausch had been emotionally — and possibly physically — abusive toward her. Moreover, he says Maura had actually contemplated “disappearing” and “starting a new life”.
And lastly, one other possible stressor in Maura’s life was her sister’s addiction to alcohol. In the episode, Flowers cites a theory where Maura’s breakdown was caused by her sister Kathleen’s, with whom she was on the phone, trip to the liquor store initiated by her sister’s fiancé. However, this particular call with her sister came about around two or three hours before her boss found her in an unstable state.
The second theory proposes she was kidnapped. According to online entertainment news outlet Showbiz Cheat Sheet, true crime streaming app Oxygen concluded its coverage of Maura’s case with this theory. This is because dogs had tracked her scent only up until a certain point, a few feet away from the crash. The tracking’s outcome suggests Maura was abducted by strangers in a car as she was walking away.
Aside from this theory, another one was offered by a former private investigator. An article published in Oxygen says the former investigator had mentioned rumors about Maura’s murder taking place in a nearby residence, which is referred to as the A-frame house. Yet, despite the alarming findings arising from the house’s search, including carpet samples and cadaver dogs pursuing a scent indicating human remains resided in the closet, not much resulted from the investigation.
No one has seen Maura since that tragic day in February 2004. Perhaps she did leave of her own volition and wanted to start a new life, one with a clean slate. And perhaps one day, Maura will return to her family.
Whatever the case, we can only hope the Murrays get to remember their daughter, sister, and friend through the marker they seek to build in memory of Maura. And in a greater sense, we can hope that the marker will serve as a reminder that Maura’s case has yet to be solved.