The family of Maura Murray, the 21-year-old nursing student who mysteriously vanished in New Hampshire fifteen years ago, has expressed frustration over what they feel is a slow response by law enforcement to a new 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. Although the case was never closed, it has often seemed like it has gone stagnant. Despite the fact that several online communities have grown obsessed with the case—it 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—there haven’t appeared to have been any promising leads. Until now.
Last week, the family announced that two different cadaver dogs responded to what could be human remains in the basement of a home right nearby the site of Murray’s crash. Ground penetrating radar also had a positive hit at that location.
Julie Murray, Maura Murray’s sister, told Oxygen.com that it feels like the most promising lead to finding closure thus far. She said back in 2004, shortly after her sibling vanished, she began hearing rumors of what may have happened to her sister. In one version of the rumors, “someone took Maura back to a party and drugged her or something and then buried her in a basement,” Julie told Oxygen.com adding that in another version of that rumor her sister was buried “in a concrete basement in a house very close to the accident site.”
Julie said she and her family found the rumor far-fetched, but they told law enforcement about the tip anyway at the time.
“They [law enforcement] are very adamant about telling us that they look at every lead so we’re like okay there’s nothing more we can do without a search warrant,” she said. “We never got any conclusive yes or no, or ‘we ruled that rumor out’ or ‘there’s nothing to that rumor.’ For all these years we didn’t know.”
Recently, the house in question changed ownership, so Maura’s dad Fred Murray ‘went up right up to the door all by himself and said, ‘Hey, I’m Fred Murray. There’s a rumor that my daughter’s buried in your basement. Can I investigate this?’”
The new owner was happy to help and Julie explained how they hired two independent professional cadaver dog trainers to enter the basement with their dogs on separate occasions. Nobody from the Murray family was present, as to not potentially contaminate the test, according to Julie, but it was documented with video.
Both dogs, Julie said, hit the same spot in the basement. And as for the ground penetrating radar test, she said it appears to show that there’s “a disturbance in the earth right where the two cadaver dogs sat.”
Experts say that cadaver dogs have an 80 percent or better at recovering remains.
One expert who is not involved with this case, Dr. Barbara Weakley-Jones, is the county coroner for Jefferson County, Kentucky who worked as a medical examiner for three decades. She’s also a K-9 handler and the previous director of the State Cadaver Dog Program. She told Oxygen.com that the reliability of a cadaver dog all “depends on the dog and the training of the team.”
Julie said her family sent the documentation and video footage of the cadaver dogs’ response to a part of the basement to the New Hampshire State Police and that they confirmed receipt of the information when asked.
The family felt confident this would lead to something.
“We were sure the cops would go in that week but they haven’t done anything,” Julie said, adding that the new homeowner has no problem with police looking around the house. “They’ve done nothing.”
Julie claims that the Attorney General’s Office in New Hampshire told the family they may look into it but not until the spring, and that they allegedly cited a lack of funding.
Julie also said she feels like her family has little to no communication with investigators on her sister’s case. The officials, however, claim otherwise.
“I disagree with her statements,” Jeffery Strelzin, Associate Attorney General in New Hampshire told Oxygen.com. “We had reached out with Fred Murray and he refused [to speak with us].”
As for the home where the cadaver dogs searched, “the family has their opinion and we’re aware of the allegations, and we are considering next steps. The outside of the area was searched by dogs [previously] and they turned up nothing,” Strelzin said.
One recommendation the Murray family is hearing right now: Dig up the basement themselves. She claims that even an officer from the New Hampshire State Police suggested as much this week.
Julie said they might just do that.
"But, it really shouldn’t have to come down to that,” she said. ‘If I’m now doing the investigation then give me the case files.”
Other issues that may be at play include whether law enforcement would need probable cause to search the basement, as well as if the difficulty of excavating frozen ground would be an issue. Oxygen.com reached out to New Hampshire State Police who forwarded the media request to Strelzin, who said they will not be commenting further.
“It’s a tough position to be in on both the family and law enforcement sides,” Lance Reenstierna told Oxygen.com. He, along with Tim Pilleri, have been investigating the disappearance of Maura Murray on their armchair detective podcast "Missing Maura Murray.” "We are not sure what is under the concrete but we do know that investigations have to be handled delicately at times, especially if there is potential evidence confirming a crime has taken place.”
The disappearance of Maura Murray is still considered an active investigation. Back in 2004, police said there was no evidence of foul play, according to an Associated Press report at the time. They have never publicly said they believe that there is any nor have they appeared to have publicly ruled out whether it was voluntary disappearance or if she died in an accidental way after the crash. In 2014, according to a Caledonian Record report, Strelzin said any future arrest is "impossible to predict at this point."
Ethan Harfenist contributed to this report.
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