“Hundreds of people disappear every year. All you do is to cut all your ties to your old self by telling no one about your plans, fabricate a new name and history, and pay for everything with cash. It’s fairly easy if you just take on the identity of a dead person.”
–Secret Justice, Chapter 28
Could that be what happened to Maura Murray? The 21-year-old college student disappeared ten years ago, on February 9, 2004, in New England after a series of one-car crashes and strange behaviors. To review the facts of the case I set out last week, CLICK HERE.
Many of the facts investigators uncovered at the time of her disappearance suggest a planned departure:
- Her dorm room was packed up
- Friends say she was bulimic, which suggests internal conflict in her life
- A book on surviving in the White Mountains was found in her car
- She emailed her professors saying she would be gone for a few days
- She withdrew cash from an ATM before her disappearance
Like Jack Reacher, Lee Child, and me, Maura was an introvert, a person more comfortable with solitude and naturally less effusive about sharing her plans. She’d probably make new friends after a while, and she wouldn’t be lonely until she found companionship like extroverts might. Certainly she was smart enough to figure out how to take on a new identity.
Maura’s friend from West Point (where Maura started college but got kicked out…) recently made the following comments* regarding the possibility of a planned disappearance:
“If she wanted to make up another life, she could do it. If she wanted to disappear, she could. She never wanted to look bad in front of people. After she crashed her father’s car, and this trouble with the credit cards, I think she probably thought, if I just disappeared, they wouldn’t think badly of me. I believe she’s alive. It’s just a feeling I’ve always had.”
*Thanks to James Renner for obtaining this quote.
Yes, I think she could have simply run away, don’t you? I think Maura’s personality would have enabled her to cut ties to everyone she knew initially. But could she have stayed away all these years? Reacher lives off the grid, but could a college girl do that?
“The most difficult aspects of changing one’s identity were not the initial strategies, such as acquiring foreign passports under assumed names. Instead, the hardest thing to do… was to cut all ties to your old self. Most people can’t manage it and eventually return to their old lives in some fashion.”
–Secret Justice, Chapter 34
One person Maura might feel compelled to contact could be her father. They were close. He claims he hasn’t heard from Maura.
If FBI Special Agents Otto and Gaspar were hunting Maura Murray, where would they start? Like Reacher, there’s no trace of her present whereabouts.
“Americans attempt to reinvent themselves all the time, without hiding their assets and disappearing.”
–Secret Justice, Chapter 34
The more compelling question is why would Maura do it? Her circumstances weren’t serious enough to chase her away as far as we know. What was so devastating about Maura’s life that she felt she had to completely start over without a trace?
Yes, Maura was facing charges of credit card fraud.
But the charges were about to be dismissed at the time of her disappearance.
I wonder if Maura Murray hit Petrit Vasi with her car and thought she killed him. He was in a coma for two months after the apparent hit-and-run. He survived, but at the time, Maura would not have known that. The upsetting call Maura received at work Thursday night could have been someone falsely informing her that Vasi was killed.
Looming manslaughter charges could be motive to run away.
It’s possible Maura was running away from someone dangerous. What if she fell victim to a “dirtbag”, as her father suggested, and is being held captive somewhere? Improbable, perhaps, but possible.
We could speculate for hours about her motive. But the reality remains that a young girl alone in the north winter woods does not have the same resources as a giant ex-Army policeman. Who helped Maura get away? Who knows where she is now? Both of these questions have answers. What are they?
“People had trouble remembering names, but faces were imprinted in a different area of the brain, more easily recalled.”
–Don’t Know Jack, Chapter 3
Take a good look at Maura’s face. If you think you may know where she is, please email New Hampshire State Police at email@example.com.
What do you think? Where is Maura Murray?
I can certainly understand why so many writers enjoy this case. It is full of creativity and mystery. You can argue that she was abducted or ran away all day long. I would like to know if police ever tested the rag in the tailpipe for corn starch or talcum powder from the airbags, if the cap was on the Coke bottle after Maura crashed the car, and if there was a wine stain underneath where the responding officer said the wine box was in the car. I think getting answers to those questions would help direct one down the right path as to what happened to Maura Murray.
How could there be corn starch on the rag AFTER the accident?
How could there be wine stains from the Coke bottle she was drinking from if the cap is ON the Coke bottle when found?
How could there NOT be a wine stain underneath the wine box if the wine box broke up and left the other stains in the car? She certainly did not drink 5 liters of wine in 3 hours.
That being said I believe police are smart enough to have already tested and checked this stuff out. I think most likely she was the victim of foul play. And I still think the bus driver might have something to do with it. If she left the scene walking down the road she literally would have to walk past him sitting in his bus.
There is a lot of character language about Maura that I think would be interesting to any writer. Maura lied but she was not a liar, stole but she was not a thief, drank but she was not an alcoholic(her grades, etc did not seem to suffer). I would have asked to see Maura Murray’s final exam schedule to see when the last exam was. People that do have problems at home usually try to avoid home. Most college students bolt out after their last exam. That might sound dumb but that is what I would checked on.
The number one reason that I think she is dead is that I do not think she would let an innocent person take the criticism for what happened. I graduated in the top part of my class and thought about going into the military but did not. I agree with her father. It takes a lot to get into West Point. I think someone who does get in has developed a level of honor, integrity, and professionalism even before they actually get to West Point. I respect someone with that type of accomplishment.
Even where she crashed her car was strange near an antique shop. I read somewhere the number one name for antique dealers is Maura.
While I have a lot of questions about the accident scene in New Hampshire, there is still that family emergency email that indirectly says she planned to return. There is no denying that is a fact.