“Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day. “
It was the 9th of February 2004. A Monday. Maura Murray, a 21 year old college student, left her dorm in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States to go on an adventure. Or so it seemed. There were a lot of people doing different things that day. Even though it was a Monday, classes were called off due to a snowstorm. Maura had no intention of hanging around her dorm though. She got into her 1996 black Saturn car and took off.
Maura was a go getter. She was a dedicated , hard working, fun and intelligent girl. She was a track star, a nursing student and had two part time jobs. In between her hectic schedule , she also made time for her boyfriend Bill Rausch, her parents, siblings and friends. Maura had an older brother, two older sisters and a younger brother. When she was just six years old, her parents divorced and she lived with her mother Laurie. She was also very close with her father Fred. Certainly, to anyone looking at Maura’s life from a distance , she seemed to have it all. But Maura's life had started to unravel.
Maura and Bill
Maura made a number of mistakes in the time leading up to that day, the 9th of February. She was involved in an incident which led to her arrest in November 2003. She was arrested for the improper use of a credit card but she managed to get that matter dealt with. There were a number of other troubling incidents that took place. She was worried about her sister and Maura had started drinking. There were a couple of occasions where it was believed she was drinking and driving. Despite her hard work and part time jobs, she was also under strain financially and had little money to spend.
On the 7th of February 2004, Maura met her father Fred at the university. He would often visit her and they enjoyed meeting up, going for dinner and visiting breweries. That weekend began as normal and they discussed getting a car for Maura. Her Saturn was quite old and she felt she wouldn’t get too much longer out of it. They made plans to look for a car the following weekend. While things certainly began as a normal weekend for Fred and Maura, they didn’t end that way. After a night out , Maura crashed Fred’s new car and caused around $10,000 worth of damage. Maura was upset about the situation.
Fred and Maura
After that weekend, on the 9th of February, Maura made plans to head towards New Hampshire and on to Vermont. She called a number of rental property agents to try to rent an apartment for a week. She emailed her Professors and told them she would not be at classes for a week as there had been a death in her family. There had been no death. She also emailed her boyfriend and told him she loved him but wasn’t up to talking to anyone but promised she would call him that day. Whatever led Maura to seek a break away that day is a mystery as she didn’t tell any of her family or friends that she was going away so we can only speculate that she may have needed some time to herself.
When she left the university that day in her Saturn, Maura stopped to withdraw some cash. She took $280 out of her bank account which was almost everything she had. She used some of that money to buy a few bottles of alcohol and she continued on her journey.
CCTV of Maura at the ATM
On Route 112 in New Hampshire, Maura crashed her car. A bus driver stopped to help her but she assured him she was fine and told him she called AAA. The driver continued on his journey. He was aware there was no signal in the area so he called police when he got home. Several other residents saw the crash too. When police arrived, they found Maura’s Saturn but there was no sign of Maura anywhere.
The timing is significant here as it was such a short space of time. It was reported that Maura crashed into a tree on Wild Ammonoosuc Road in Woodsville, New Hampshire. Police were notified at 7.35 pm. They arrived at 7.45 pm and in that short ten minutes or so, Maura had disappeared.
Wild Ammonoosuc Road
Police noted that Maura’s car was locked. There was a box of Franzia wine in the car and red liquid on the driver’s side door. A coke bottle inside the car smelled like it had alcohol inside. The bus driver told police that Maura did not appear intoxicated or injured but he noticed she was cold and shivering. The windshield was cracked and there was damage to the driver and passenger doors.
A search followed. There was no sign of Maura anywhere and no footprints in the snow to indicate where she may have gone. The fact her car was locked made it appear that she may have just gone for help and intended on returning. In the days that followed, a wider search took place which covered 20 miles along Route 112. The search included dogs and helicopters but nothing of significance was found. Tracking dogs lost Maura’s scent within 100 feet of the accident.
Apart from those few details, little else is known. This case has been plagued with rumors, mysteries and secrets since the day Maura disappeared. When Bill was on the way to help with the search, he received a voicemail. He had turned his phone off for the flight and the voicemail sounded like it was Maura sobbing. It was traced to a call card issued by the American Red Cross. That led some to believe that Maura was in danger and distress.
It was clear that Maura’s actions leading up to that incident indicated that she needed to switch off, she needed a break from her life and her day to day routines. This may have been the result of having little money, trouble with her drinking, regret about Fred’s car or normal concerns she may have had over where she was going in life and if her relationship was what she wanted.
If that was the case and Maura made a decision to take her own life, there are aspects of that that do not make sense. Her dorm had been packed up but she was still making plans. She took books with her and exercise clothes in the car and from all accounts, she seemed to just want a few days away. She also did things like lock her car and get the accident forms she needed to report the accident she had in Fred’s car. It all appeared that Maura was not planning to stay away for long. There was also no sign of a body or her black back pack that was missing.
Other theories included that she may have willingly disappeared in order to start a new life. That theory is not impossible but there is no evidence of that.
It has also been suggested that she was intoxicated and died due to the extreme weather conditions that day. The bus driver had noted how cold she was. But if that was the case, why was nothing ever found in any of the searches?
Her father firmly believes that there is no innocent explanation for Maura’s disappearance. He believes that Maura was the victim of a crime. He believes she is dead. For years, speculation surrounded a house very close to where Maura crashed her car. Fred received a tip off from the brother of the man who lived there that his brother was involved in Maura's disappearance. But it was believed he may have just wanted reward money. However other suspicions surrounded the house. There was talk in the area that strange and unusual things happened in the year that followed Maura’s disappearance including new concrete poured in the basement. The owner at the time would offer no help or assistance. It was only when the house was sold that the new owners agreed that the house could be searched. Fred brought cadaver dogs to the house and a radar scan. The scan identified something under the basement and both dogs lay in the same spot on the basement floor. The floor was dug up in 2019 but no remains were found although there is a fear that the search may not have been as thorough as it could have been.
What happened to Maura on Route 112 remains a mystery today. Fred will continue trying to find out what happened to his daughter.
Did she take a lift or was she taken? Did she wander deep into the mountains to take her own life or did she die as a result of an accident or the elements? Was something more sinister at play and was she the victim of a crime? Despite numerous videos, podcasts and articles, nothing of any great significance has been uncovered as it continues to remain a complete mystery.
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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