Maura was born on 4th May 1982 in Hanson, Massachusetts to parents Fred and Laurie Murray. Sadly, her parents divorced when Maura was around 6 years old. Maura has four siblings, an older brother and two older sisters, and a younger brother. Following their parents divorce, the children resided primarily with their mother Laurie.
Maura was a smart girl, and graduated top of her her high school class where she was also a star track team athlete. After high school, Maura attended the United States Military Academy in New York and studied chemical engineering. However, upon completion of her freshman year, Maura decided she wanted to pursue a career in nursing, and she transferred to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At age 21, Maura continued to excel academically at the University of Massachusetts, and she even made the Dean’s List, and she was a track star here too. She planned to spend the summer months working at a hospital in Oklahoma to be close to her boyfriend, Billy. Things seemed to be going very well for the young student. However, in late 2003, Maura was found to be using a stolen credit card, which she appeared to use mainly for small amounts of food from the college campus. As this was Maura’s first offence, law enforcement agreed to drop the criminal charges after 3 months of good behaviour.
On Thursday 5th February 2004, Maura was was working a late night shift at her job at campus security, which involved checking people who were coming onto campus by validating their ID cards. She had a phone call with her sister Kathleen that evening, who was having some problems with her fiancé. Following the phonecall, Maura was still working at her desk around 1am when her supervisor walked past. Reportedly Maura was staring into space, with a distant look on her face, ignoring the open book in front of her. Maura appeared to have been crying, and when her supervisor questioned her, all that Maura replied was that it was about her sister. Maura’s supervisor was concerned enough to allow her to finish her shift early, and even insisted upon walking her back to her room. She did not feel comfortable leaving Maura alone when she was visibly upset, but Maura insisted that her roommate was there and that she would be fine, and so the supervisor left, albeit rather reluctantly. Later, it was discovered that Maura lived in a room on campus alone.
On 7th February 2004, Maura’s father Fred came to visit his daughter on campus, and the two of them went used car shopping to try and replace Maura’s old beat up car. After choosing a car, Maura and Fred went for dinner that evening with a friend of Maura’s. Fred then took both young women to a store to buy alcohol for a party they were planning to attend that night. Fred’s account of this varies, in that during interviews he occasionally says that he waited in the car whilst Maura and her friend were in the store, and during other interviews he states that he was in the store with them. This point is not something that I tend to dwell on, because as I have stated before, people’s recollection of a seemingly minor event can be difficult to remember years later, and in any event I do not think much hinges on whether or not Fred was in the store when Maura purchased the liquor. Fred has recently bought himself a new car, and that night he allowed Maura to borrow it. Maura dropped Fred off at his hotel before heading back to campus with her friend.
On 9th February 2004, Maura contacted her college professors and informed them that a death had occurred in the family, and as such she would not be attending any of her classes for a week. It later transpired that Maura had gotten rid of her nursing scrubs and some textbooks, and packed a bag which seemed to contain toiletries and clothes. It was also later discovered that she had placed a call to the owner of a condo in New Hampshire, with whom she had a brief conversation and wished to view the property. The owner was later questioned by law enforcement, and confirmed that although she had spoken to a lady who she believed to be Maura over the phone, she had not visited the condo.
ATM activity shows that Maura stopped at a cash machine around 3.15pm and withdrew a total of $280, almost all of the money in her bank account. After withdrawing this cash, she spent almost $40 on alcohol before leaving Amherst around 4.30pm that evening and drove towards New Hampshire. Law enforcement have questioned all of Maura’s family and friends, but they all reported that Maura had not told them of her plans to leave Amherst, and no one knows why she would have been travelling towards New Hampshire. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that there had not been a death in Maura’s family, and for some unknown reason she had lied to her professors.
Haverhill law enforcement received a call around 7.30pm on the evening of 9th February 2004, from Faith Westman who was reporting a motor vehicle accident near her home, and that the vehicle involved seemed to be stuck in a ditch. Shortly after this call was made, a local bus driver called Butch Atwood was driving past the scene, and stopped to check on the driver. He asked the young woman if she was hurt or needed him to call for assistance. The woman appeared to be alone, and said that she had already called AA, and that she was waiting there for them to arrive. As he lived near the scene, Butch was aware that there was no mobile phone service in the area, so there was no way she had been able to call AA. Not wanting to press her further, he drove home and called law enforcement. The call logged was around 7.40pm. Butch was asked whether the driver appeared to have been injured, to which he replied that he had not seen any blood, but she seemed shaken up and acting strangely, and that the airbags of the vehicle had been deployed. Law enforcement were already in transit to the scene, given Faith’s prior call. However, upon arriving around 7.45pm, there was no sign of the driver.
Perplexed, law enforcement realised the car had been locked. Upon looking into the vehicle, a box of red wine could be seen behind the driver’s seat, and a coke bottle appeared full of a red liquid which was also likely red wine. There were liquid stains on the ceiling and door by the driver’s seat, which were likely caused by the crash. A rag had been stuffed into the tailpipe of the vehicle. When the family were informed of this, Maura’s father Fred stated that he had told Maura to do this to prevent her from getting a ticket for excessive smoke coming out of the tailpipe. As a side note, I know absolutely nothing about cars but this struck me as an odd thing to do, as I imagined it would be dangerous and that the smoke would be forced to come out somewhere else. I randomly called my boyfriend at work to discuss this (sorry Matt!) and he confirmed that it would be dangerous, and the smoke could have been forced into the interior of the car. This may not be of relevance to Maura’s disappearance, but it did strike me as very strange advice to give, and I wouldn’t recommend trying it.
Upon arriving at the scene and being unable to locate the driver, law enforcement searched the area near the vehicle, incase she had walked off to look for help. Fire and ambulance services were sent to the scene, but were quickly dispatched when Maura was unable to be located. The last known sighting of Maura was by Butch. She has never been seen again.
There is no law against an American citizen from starting a new life, or disappearing. In fact, unless their death is associated with a criminal act, you can fake your own death in America and no one will ask any questions. However, I do not think that Maura faked her own death. Personally, the fact that she brought text books with her, and had the mindset of informing her lecturers that she would be absent for a week suggests that wherever she went, she planned to return. On the other hand, to inform her lecturers that she would be back in a week if she were planning not to return would be a very smart move to give her a head start on her disappearance. I have empathy for Maura - she had a boyfriend who was reported to have caused difficulties, and her sister had been in and out of rehab multiple times. I personally have had thoughts of running away and starting somewhere new, so I can see her ambition. Albeit that I do not believe she faked her own death, I do think Maura wanted to run away from her life, and has ultimately succeeded in doing so. The Canadian border was just 80 miles from where Maura crashed her car, and if one sympathetic driver decided to stop and pick her up, that could have been the way to a new life.
Bone fragments were found in 2021 which many hoped would shed new light on Maura’s case. However, as far as the public are aware, these did not belong to Maura and we are still no closer to locating her. If Maura did decide to flee her life, I sincerely hope she is happy and well, and is living without fear.