The Biggest Maura Murray Theories: What Really Happened?

On the afternoon of February 9, 2004, 21-year-old Maura Murray emailed several of her University of Massachusetts Amherst professors to turn in her homework and inform them she would be absent for one week, due to a death in the family. As reported by Maura Murray is Missing, Murray packed a small bag, which contained some clothing, makeup, school books, and toiletries, and left the campus.

Authorities said Murray drove her black 1996 Saturn to an ATM at approximately 3:15 p.m. and withdrew $280. She then drove to a liquor store, where she purchased around $40 worth of alcoholic beverages. At approximately 4:30 p.m., she left the Amherst/Hadley area and began driving north toward New Hampshire.

Maura Murray is Missing reports there was no death in the family, and Murray did not discuss any of her plans with her family or friends.

At 7:27 that same evening, authorities in Haverhill, New Hampshire, received a call from Faith Westman — who reported a vehicle crashed in a ditch outside her home. Moments later, another motorist, named Butch Atwood, stopped to see if the driver was injured or needed assistance.

The woman, who was later identified as Murray, told Atwood that she already called roadside assistance. Maura Murray is Missing reports he attempted to call the police, but he did not have any cell phone coverage. As she did not appear to be injured, Atwood left Murray with her car and went home to call the police on his landline.

Maura Murray crashed into a ditch and was never seen again

Maura Murray is Missing reports Atwood placed the call at 7:42 p.m. He told authorities that Murray seemed to be somewhat disoriented. However, she did not appear to be physically injured. When authorities arrived at the crash site four minutes later, Murray was gone.

Authorities said the car doors were locked. Although there was not any blood inside the car, there were red stains on the ceiling and door — which were later determined to be wine. Maura Murray is Missing reports police found a box of red wine on the floor in the back seat. They also found a Coke bottle in the car with red liquid inside.

As reported by Maura Murray is Missing, the police also noted Murray had no cell phone or bank activity following the time of the crash, including the call she told Atwood she made to AAA.

According to Christopher Peak, authorities initially assumed Murray hit a tree before crashing into the ditch. However, they later determined she struck a snowbank instead of a tree.

EMT Dick Guy, who responded to the scene of the crash, said he believes "the car stalled and she was trying to regain control as she came to the turn." Guy said she "clipped the corner" of a snowbank, which likely turned the car around and sent it into the ditch. As reported by Christopher Peak, Guy also said "everything about the accident scene was weird."

Maura Murray had a troubled past

Although it has been 17 years since Maura Murray vanished, authorities have never found a trace of the missing woman, and her disappearance remains unsolved. The lack of tangible evidence has led to numerous theories about what actually happened on the night the 21-year-old student went missing.

As reported by MamaMia, Murray had a troubled past, and some people believe she orchestrated her own disappearance — possibly with the help of her father.

Murray's parents contend she "was an overachiever that excelled both academically ... and athletically." As stated at Maura Murray is Missing, she attended the United States Military Academy at West Point for just under two years. According to her parents, Murray "continued to excel in the rigorous military and academic program." However, she chose to leave West Point when she realized "the military was not for her."

In stark contrast, MamaMia reports Murray "was asked to leave" West Point when she was caught stealing makeup from a campus store.

After transferring to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to pursue a degree in nursing, Murray started using stolen credit card numbers to make purchases, including food. As stated on her arrest record, she used the cards "to make purchases at restaurants and stores in town." During a police interview, Murray admitted finding the card numbers on discarded receipts and using them to order food from local pizzerias. Murray was sentenced to probation with the charges to be dismissed upon completion, according to Family Lawyer New Hampshire.

Maura Murray's behavior was unusual prior to her disappearance

Maura Murray's actions and behavior in the days prior to her disappearance were somewhat unusual. As reported by MamaMia, Murray was rumored to have been the driver in a hit and run, which injured one of the classmates, three days before she vanished. However, there has never been conclusive proof connecting her with that crime.

Later that same evening, Murray was working her job at a campus reception desk when she became visibly distressed. MamaMia reports her supervisor asked her what was wrong, and she simply replied, "my sister." The supervisor told her to take the rest of the evening off and escorted her back to her dorm room. Murray's sister later confirmed there was nothing wrong with her on that particular evening.

The following day, Murray's father Fred visited his daughter at the University of Massachusetts. As reported by MamaMia, Fred stopped at eight ATMs along the way and withdrew a total of $4,000. He reportedly planned to buy a used car for his daughter, but he never followed through with the plan.

That evening, Murray borrowed her father's car to go to a campus party. WCVB reports she ended up crashing the car into a guardrail, which caused an estimated $8,000 in damage. However, she was not ticketed or charged in the incident.

Late that night, and early the following morning, Murray performed several internet searches and made a number of phone calls that may have been relevant to her disappearance. 

Theories about Maura Murray's disappearance

Christopher Peak's blog reports Maura Murray searched for driving directions to the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and Burlington, Vermont. She also called the owners of a condominium complex and a resort in Vermont — presumably to inquire about making reservations. However, authorities were unable to confirm any reservations were actually made. She also searched for the effects of drinking alcohol on an unborn child.

MamaMia reports some people believe Maura may have arranged her own disappearance because she was pregnant. Author James Renner, who wrote a book about Murray's case, suspects she may used an underground system to leave the country and is likely living in Canada. Although she did not have any money, some people have suggested she could have used the $4,000 from her father.

Despite the fact that it is an intriguing theory, Murray did not make any phone calls following her accident. Nor did she attempt to contact any of her family or friends in the 17 years since she went missing. MamaMia also reports that there have never been any credible sighting of Murray in Canada (or elsewhere).

Some theories suggest she could have wandered into the woods and simply died of exposure, or that she walked into the woods and ended her own life. However, WCVB reports authorities never found any tracks or footprints leading into the woods. Nevertheless, the woods near the crash have been searched numerous times, and no sign of Murray was ever found. 

Maura Murray's family believes she was abducted

The prevailing theory is that Maura Murray was abducted by either an opportunistic predator or a serial killer.

Fred Murray believes "someone locally ... who knows the area, knows where to go, knows how to get into some place and out of some place without being seen" abducted his daughter. In an interview with WCVB, Fred admitted he still visits the site of his daughter's crash. 

The Murray family, and some residents near the crime scene, have criticized local authorities for their failure to thoroughly investigate Maura's disappearance. In an interview with WCVB, Murray said the police were initially on the scene for fewer than two hours. He also thinks they waited too long to conduct a thorough search of the surrounding area.

As reported by WCVB, local resident Jeanne Foley said authorities did not search for Murray "along the roadway during the daylight hours for several days," and she "never saw anyone" search the area in the days following the crash.

Fred said if his daughter were alive, she would have called someone in the family or one of her friends to let them know she is safe. At this point, he simply wants to know "what happened" to Maura and "who did it."

In September 2021, authorities announced a construction crew found human remains on New Hampshire's Loon Mountain. As reported by WCAX, the remains have not been thoroughly examined as of this article's publication. However, the Murray family is hopeful they may finally get some closure.