Inside The Mysterious Disappearance Of Maura Murray

In the span of less than 20 minutes, a bright and talented young nursing student named Maura Murray somehow disappeared without a trace into the New England winter night. The 21-year-old was a junior at UMass Amherst in 2004, where she kept a busy schedule studying, completing clinical rotations, and working as a security guard in the dorms and at a nearby art gallery, per Boston Magazine. By all accounts, Murray was an accomplished, well-adjusted, regular college student, at least until the evening of February 9, 2004, when she inexplicably disappeared.

The mystery began several hours earlier that afternoon, when Murray emailed a professor, letting them know she would not be attending classes that week, as there had been a death in her family. That would be understandable — except no one in her family had really passed away. And rather than planning a trip home to Hanson, Massachusetts, where her family lived, Murray had instead printed out MapQuest directions to Burlington, Vermont.

Surveillance footage captured Murray just before she left Amherst

Murray's phone records indicated she had made several phone calls the day of her disappearance. That morning, she left a message for her boyfriend, as well as called a fellow nursing student, although the contents of the conversation remain unknown. She then contacted the owner of a condominium in Bartlett, New Hampshire, in which her family had previously vacationed, inquiring about a stay, but they declined to rent to her. The last reported use of her cell phone was at 4:37 p.m., when Murray called her own voicemail to check her messages, according to Boston Magazine.

Sometime that afternoon, Murray packed an overnight bag with workout gear, a week's worth of toiletries and clothing, a necklace her boyfriend had given her, and her favorite stuffed animal. At 3:40 p.m., Murray was captured on security footage taking $280 from an ATM in Amherst. Shortly after, she was picked up on camera again, purchasing $40 worth of liquor from an off-campus liquor store. Both times, she appeared to be alone. Sometime between 4-5 p.m., she left Amherst for good, telling no one of her plans.

Police discovered Murray's car off Route 112 in Haverhill, New Hampshire

Murray was last seen in person just past 7 p.m. that evening. Haverhill, New Hampshire resident named Faith Westman reported seeing a car stuck in a snowy ditch off Route 112 in Haverhill at 7:27 p.m., according to Maura Murray Missing. Around the same time, a bus driver named Butch Atwood was driving along Route 112 and spotted Murray's crashed car. He stopped and asked Murray, who appeared shaken up but otherwise unharmed, if she needed assistance. She declined, saying she had already placed a call to AAA. Atwood, sensing that something was amiss, called the police anyway.

The police arrived on the scene of the accident at 7:46 p.m. They found Murray's car, a black Saturn, which had suffered a damaged left headlight and deployed two airbags after hitting a tree on the driver's side. The car was locked, but Murray herself was nowhere to be found. Inside the car they found the alcohol, the MapQuest directions, her overnight bag, and a book titled Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire, per Boston Magazine.

Police could find no trace of Maura Murray

Initially, authorities believed her disappearance may have been voluntary. She appeared to have been planning some sort of trip, perhaps taking a secret vacation to blow off some steam, although where she was headed and who, if anyone, she planned to meet, remain a mystery to this day. However, once she failed to turn up, authorities began to consider other explanations. The police briefly considered the possibility that she had committed suicide, although they ultimately determined it was highly unlikely. Murray was a promising straight-A student with no history of mental or medical problems. She appeared to be close with her family and in a happy, loving relationship with her boyfriend, and, perhaps most importantly, she had left no note. 

Some people speculated she may have simply wandered off, perhaps under the influence of alcohol, and succumbed to the harsh New England winter. However, that scenario also seems unlikely, given the fact that there were no footprints, search dogs could find no trace of her scent, and her body was never recovered, despite an extensive search of the surrounding area, according to the Boston Globe.

'I want to know what happened to my daughter'

That left just two other options: that Murray had been kidnapped in the less than 20 minutes between her encounter with the bus driver and the arrival of the police, or that she had received a ride somewhere else and escaped of her own accord. However, her credit card, debit card, and cell phone all disappeared with her, and no activity has been detected on her phone or bank accounts since the day of her disappearance. According to Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin, there have been no "credible sightings of Maura since the night she disappeared," reports WCVB5

Her family has at times been critical of the investigation, and remain desperate for any answers as to where Murray might be. "I have been asking for the FBI for 10 years to enter the case. I am still asking as I sit here right now to enter the case. It is the only way this will be solved ... I want to know what happened to my daughter. I want to know who did it. That's what I want," her father, Fred Murray, told WCVB5. In 2009, Murray's case was listed as a suspicious disappearance and is being investigated by the state of New Hampshire's Cold Case Unit, according to the New Hampshire Department of Justice.