Bone fragments found in the area where Maura Murray went missing are still being analyzed and could take several more months before a determination can be made regarding who the remains belong to. Maura went missing 17 years ago in February 2004 when she abandoned her car for unknown reasons on the side of a New Hampshire road and then completely vanished.
The 21-year-old was driving along Route 112 in Woodsville when she crashed her car and left it on the side of the road. By the time authorities got there, Maura was nowhere in sight. Bone fragments, parts of a skull, were found in September of 2021 on a Loon Mountain construction site, only 25 miles away from where the missing woman’s vehicle was found.
The remains are believed to be human and are being tested to determine age and sex. New Hampshire State Police have done a thorough search of the area and the investigation into her disappearance is ongoing. It could still be a long wait for Maura’s family and the rest of the true-crime community before any definitive answers are officially released.
When Maura went missing around 7:25 pm on Monday, the 9th of February, there was a small amount of time between when she was last seen and when her vehicle was found. The University of Massachusetts nursing student had somehow lost control of her car, causing damage to the exterior. When police arrived Maura was no longer at the scene of the accident and there was little evidence to point police in her direction.
This perplexing cold case has caught the attention of people all around the world and many have spent hours reviewing the facts and evidence in hopes of finally solving the mystery and bringing Maura back home to her family.
The night before she disappeared, Maura had emailed her university tutors explaining that there had been a death in the family and she would be gone over the next few days. The university was 150 miles from the crash site and Maura’s parents later confirmed there had not been a death in the family and she had fabricated that story.
She packed a bag of her belongings and withdrew $280 from her bank account. After buying alcohol, which was later found in her car, Maura left her residence at approximately 4:30 pm. Three hours later, she would be seen for the very last time.
School-bus driver, Butch Atwood, was driving along Route 112 in Woodsville when he came across Maura and her damaged vehicle. He stopped to ask if she needed help and if she would like him to call the police. She politely declined and insisted she had already called roadside assistance and they were on their way.
However, cell phone reception was extremely poor in the area and Atwood knew this so he proceeded to call 911 when he got home. His residence was only 100 yards away from where he had spoken to Maura. He reported the accident at 7:43 pm.
A Haverhill police officer responded to the scene at 7:45 pm, a very short period of time since Atwood had attempted to assist the young woman. The officer, Police Sergeant Cecil Smith, reported a locked vehicle with damage to the front end and both airbags deployed.
The driver was never located.
“[The] evidence at the scene indicated the vehicle had been eastbound and had gone off the roadway, struck some trees, spun around, and come to rest facing the wrong way in the eastbound lane.” — Police Sergeant Cecil Smith
Shortly before February 9th, Maura had searched online for rental properties in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She had contacted a condominium in Bartlett and hotels in Stowe, Vermont, although she never made a reservation at either location. A search for directions to Burlington, Vermont were also found on her computer. Maura’s father insists his daughter was on her way to Bartlett: a place where she and her family had been spending family holidays.
Did Maura just want to get away for a while?
It was a snowy day in Woodsville and investigators believe if she had walked into the nearby woods from the crash site they would have immediately seen footprints leading in that direction. Despite this, the woods were searched using K-9 units and thermal-imaging helicopters. One of the dogs led investigators east along Route 112 and indicated that the scent abruptly stopped there, suggesting Maura may have willingly, or unwillingly, gotten into another vehicle.
A theory of suicide has been presented by police on several occasions. Under the assumption that Maura wanted to take her own life, it is said that she staged the car accident and then walked into the surrounding woods to end it all. Nothing has been found to indicate this theory has any basis, moreover, the contents of her packed bag contradict this frame of mind. Maura had packed her schoolbooks, clothing for several days, and had even turned in homework via email that same morning.
Leads to a Dead-end
If Maura was truly kidnapped by what her father calls a “local dirtbag” there would have been a very small opportunity of time for someone to abduct her, as it was mere minutes between the last sighting of her and when Sergeant Smith arrived at the scene. The possibility still remains that a passerby or even someone local could have taken her.
In 2006, two years after her disappearance, private investigator John Smith searched a home nearby the crash site where cadaver dogs had signaled the scent of human remains. Carpet samples were taken to be tested but the results of those tests have unexplainably never been released. The house was searched again in 2016 where bloodstains were found in the closet, but the stains were too degraded to test for DNA.
One other home was searched in relation to the Maura Murray case in 2019. A tip came in that there was a body buried underneath the house, so investigators came in with ground-penetrating radar and confirmed the presence of human remains. Unfortunately, nothing found was linked to Maura and therefore the investigation came to a grinding halt.
What does this new discovery mean for us?
Maura Murray has always been a frustrating case for internet sleuths and has led to numerous podcasts and forum pages full of speculation as to what really happened to the beautiful UMass student. Her story is an ever-popular topic among the true-crime community, one that baffles us all and sticks to the back of our minds; remaining there until we have more clues to go on.
The bone fragments found in September 2021 could be the break we have all been hoping for in this case. If they are indeed those of Maura, the mystery doesn’t end there but will likely lead us in a whole new direction. If her cause of death can be determined, then we could have the answers we’ve been desperately looking for all these years.
And long-awaited closure for her family.