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A vigil was held Saturday to honor Maura Murray, the 21-year-old nursing student who mysteriously vanished in New Hampshire, on the 15th anniversary of her disappearance — and on the heels of a new announcement of a possible break in her case.
Murray was last seen on Feb. 9, 2004 after crashing her car into a tree along Route 112 in Woodsville. A few witnesses called the police, but by the time authorities arrived on the scene, she was gone.
The vigil was held at the same location, and the same tree, where Murray crashed her car.
Murray’s immediate family, including her father Fred, her sister Julie and her brother Kurt were present in addition to friends and supporters. In all, about 40 people showed up despite temperatures of under ten degrees, Scott Wahl, an administrator for the Official Maura Murray page on Facebook, told Oxygen.com. He has helped the family with the case for a decade, including with social media to raise awareness and any tips that come in through sources like Facebook.
Wahl told Oxygen.com that local law enforcement closed down the road for the vigil and that supporters from as far as Tennessee joined to show their support. The family, including Fred Murray, thanked everyone who attended.
“Fred continues to be steadfast and resolute in his search for his daughter and it seems he is as determined as ever,” Wahl said in a provided statement. “Most of the day he even refused to wear a hat or gloves as he seemed more concerned with addressing everyone that came to the tree to support him and the family. One of the more astonishing things is Fred did this with a broken foot, however you would never know because it didn’t slow him down one bit.”
Wahl also noted that “police had a mobile command center setup in the area and were actively searching for something. I took the time to find the location and speak with law enforcement on the scene. They couldn’t say what they were looking for, but the timing seemed very odd with recent media pressure with the 15 year anniversary and the unusually large mobilization of manpower so close to where Maura was last seen.”
Just days earlier, it was announced that two different cadaver dogs responded to what could be human remains on the grounds of a home right nearby the site of Murray’s crash, according to WBZ in Boston.
Fifteen years ago, Maura was enrolled at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as a nursing student when she lied to professors about a death in the family and left campus the day she vanished. She then headed up to New Hampshire, where she was never seen again. Her father thinks someone killed her.
Maura’s baffling case has been the theme of at least one book, several podcasts, including Missing Maura Murray,” and "The Disappearance of Maura Murray,” a docu-series which aired on Oxygen. In the series, former U.S. Marshal Art Roderick and journalist Maggie Freleng concluded that in their opinion Maura was probably murdered.
John Smith, a former police officer and private investigator who has helped the Murray family for over a decade, stated on the show that he heard rumors that Maura was killed in a nearby A-frame house.
Wahl explained to Oxygen.com that the new lead was not found in that house.
"It’s a new location that hasn’t been looked at before," he said, adding that it's also not Rick Forcier or Butch Atwood’s house. Both men lived by the site, and Atwood was a school bus driver. Both have been at the center of online theories about the case.
Recently Fred Murray and supporters searched the basement of this new location near the crash site. The previous owner never allowed him to search the home but the property has a new owner now, who gave the family permission. Last fall, two cadaver dogs identified something under the basement floor of that home, the Associated Press reports. Ground penetrating radar also had a positive hit at that location.
Supporters who could not be at the vigil in person took to social media, lighting candles at home and uploading photos in a show of support and unity.
“I wish some of these people that have been supporting my family for 15 years now could have met her,” Julie told local outlet WMUR, referencing the people who came out to Saturday’s vigil.
Maura’s brother Kurt told the outlet she he refuses to let his sibling fall “into a pile of cold case files.”
Julie told WMUR that she is more hopeful now that the case could get solved than ever.
[Photo of Kurt, Julie and Fred Murray (from left to right) provided by Scott Wahl]
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