Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna, who will be seen on Oxygen's "The Disappearance of Maura Murray," premiering Saturday, Sept. 23 at 8:15/7:15c, have always been interested in trying to solve mysteries. The two met in 2001 after Lance hired Tim to work on a murder mystery dinner theater play that Lance wrote. Together, they wrote, and acted in a handful of other murder mystery dinner plays.
A few years after they met, Maura Murray vanished. On February 9, 2004, the 21-year-old nursing student emailed her professors at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and her employer requesting time off after a death in her family. The death turned out to be made up. That night, she crashed her car into a tree in northern New Hampshire. A few witnesses called the police, and when they showed up, Maura was gone.
The mysterious disappearance intrigued Lance and Tim. Like Maura, both are from New England. So, when it happened, they heard a lot about it. Anytime they would Google “New Hampshire unsolved mysteries,” Maura’s case would come up. The two are true crime junkies. Together they run "Crawlspace," a true crime podcast. So, they began reading up on the Maura Murray case.
“The case itself is pretty sad and dark,” Lance said in an original Oxygen.com interview, adding that Maura’s disappearance itself was fascinating, But, just as interesting, was the online community of people infatuated with Maura’s case. The duo estimated that community is made up of a few thousand.
“It starts off as this hobby, then they will go up to the crash site, and before you know it you’re obsessed.”
Lance came up with an idea to make a documentary about the people who are obsessed with the Maura Murray case. In 2013, they began working on the documentary alongside former reporter James Renner who penned the book “True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray.”
The three would take trips up to relevant locations and to interview people connected to Maura. By now, they’ve visited sites of interest countless times. Tim and Lance have even spent time in an abandoned, dilapidated house, rummaging through items looking for clues. They had heard that a man squatted there at the time of Maura’s disappearance. Lance said the man’s brother had handed a blood-stained rusty knife to Maura’s dad.
Going to the crash site and other locations made them feel connected to Maura and the case.
“It’s hard to do this for as long as we have and not feel some sort of connection,” said Tim. “Being there at the accident site, I think anyone would start to form a connection. Especially on an anniversary. You form a bond. It really makes Maura someone that you think about a lot.”
Lance said that he feels more of a connection with Maura’s family, especially her father who reminds Lance of his own New England dad. He also feels connected to the time period when she went missing.
“When you are in the late teens, early twenties, you read about what she did and being on the track team. I have a connection to that because I know people like that. I could have gone to school with her. She’s just a very human person.”
Both he and Tim are around the same age as Maura.
Their fascination with Maura Murray’s disappearance have taken a toll on their personal relationships, at times.
“There have been some points where this has been an issue in my relationship and it sucks,” Tim admitted to Oxygen. He had dreams about Maura and the case. Once, his baby woke up in the middle of the night crying, and Tim woke up to feed the child. But, his girlfriend noticed that he was still sleep-talking about the Maura Murray case.
“My girlfriend pretty much took the baby out of my hands pretty quickly and kind of got a little freaked out. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I was saying that and then I was really depressed the next day.”
At that time, the interest in Maura’s case was still just a hobby and they said that fact made it difficult to justify at times. Often, it would be awkward explaining that they were going up to New Hampshire to once again look for a missing woman's body.
In 2015, Tim and Lance started recording their podcast, "Missing Maura Murray," for “armchair detectives.” They recorded the first three episodes in person. From there, most episodes are conducted over Skype as Tim and Lance live 90 minutes apart, in different parts of Massachusetts. When they began the podcast, they spoke to people who worked on the case, investigators and others who had direct connections to it. From there, they interviewed public figures who covered the case, including Nancy Grace and Billy Jensen. From there, it snowballed. People would contact them asking to go on the podcast. That included experts and criminal psychologists.
At first the pair didn’t accept sponsorship money for their efforts. They wanted to make sure that everyone, especially Maura’s family, knew that they were doing this with pure intentions. But eventually, they spoke to the family who told them that they should accept some money to go on with their work. Early on in the podcast, the duo said they realized that they had a chance to make an impact on the case.
But there was only so far they could go.
“We were kind of at a point where we wanted to go forward with this but we are just two guys who are doing this as a hobby,” said Lance. “So we didn't have the means or the time to do this."
They said when Texas Crew Productions approached them about the show that will air on Oxygen, that gave them both the means and the time to investigate further. Tim and Lance said that the show is all about finding answers.
“They [Texas Crew] wanted to make sure that what they are making is watchable,” said Tim. “They did a great job investigating it and just creating a top notch production that people are gonna watch and you never know. Someone might know something. If [the show] doesn’t solve the case, it will open up new new leads and close other rabbit holes that don’t need to be followed any longer.”
He added, “We can’t predict what will happen afterwards, but i’m sure there’s going to be a lot of activity up in that area and if someone knows something they may talk.”