In our first post of the series analyzing what occurred in the months and days leading up to her disappearance, we are going to cover the basics of who Maura Murray was, what was going on in her life, and some odd events that occurred prior to her going missing. When looking into a missing person’s case, detectives go over what happened in the victim’s life the days before they disappeared with a fine tooth comb, as often it is within those details that crucial clues will emerge. I feel it’s very important to keep this in mind when looking at Maura’s case. Everything needs to be looked at- the good and the bad.
Maura Murray was an achiever…and it showed. Growing up in Hanson, Massachusetts she was involved in a number of activities and was a standout track and field star. Boy, could Maura run. Hanson is a small town of just under 10,000 residents located in a part of Massachusetts known as “The South Shore”. It’s close to historic Plymouth, MA, a town most readers likely know as the infamous landing port of The Mayflower, First Thanksgiving, etc. Here is an arrow showing Hanson’s exact location in Massachusetts.
Born on May 4,1982, she grew up in an Irish Catholic family typical for the area surrounding Boston. Her parents Fred and Laurie (née Mehrman) Murray were divorced. It appears that Maura primarily lived with her mother, but was incredibly close with her father, as they shared a love of the outdoors. Camping and hiking (including in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the area where she disappeared) were activities they loved to do together. Sadly, Maura’s mother Laurie passed away from cancer on May 4th 2009 on what would have been Maura’s 26th birthday.
Maura grew up with several siblings, all rather close in age. She had two older sisters (Kathleen and Julie), an older brother (Fred Jr.), and a younger brother, Kurt. In 2001 she graduated from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School. Here are some of Maura’s yearbook photos. Her full yearbook can be viewed online via archive. (Maura Murray High School Yearbook). She was by all accounts a lovely person with a solid group of girlfriends who she remained close with even though they were at separate colleges across the country.
After graduating high school, Maura was accepted and enrolled into prestigious West Point Military Academy, which her sister Julie was also attending. West Point is ” is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in West Point, New York.” Getting into West Point is no easy task. With a LESS than 10% acceptance rate, it is considered one of the most selective schools in the country. And stellar grades alone won’t get you in- you also need a letter of recommendation from a member of Congress. (I’m interested to know who Maura received a nomination from, as I don’t believe that information has ever been made public). While at West Point, Maura met her boyfriend William “Billy” Rausch, a fellow cadet who we will discuss more in detail in a separate post. Billy and Maura were still in a relationship when she went missing, and he was one of the last people to speak with her.
While at West Point, Maura began having trouble which eventually lead to her leaving the academy to transfer to Umass Amherst. For quite awhile it was unknown why Maura left WP so suddenly, but author James Renner uncovered the facts and spoke with a friend and WP classmate of Maura’s who stated that Maura was caught stealing makeup from a commissary at Fort Knox while on a training expedition. While the makeup was valued at less than five dollars, this resulted in an honor code violation. Maura was able to leave before technically being expelled, allowing her to transfer into the Umass Nursing program, which is also highly selective. (Note: James Renner is another person we will talk about in a future post. Mr. Renner has been at the forefront of investigating Maura’s case, and has brought an incredible amount of information to light in a case where so little has been shared publicly. In addition to his meticulous blog He has also written a book about his work titled “True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray” )
It’s been heavily rumored that Maura and her boyfriend Billy were having relationship trouble. Long distance relationships are tough to begin with (when Maura was at Umass Billy was stationed at an army base in Oklahoma). While they spent Christmas break together in Billy’s home state of Ohio, and post disappearance both the Murray and Rausch families made media statements about how wonderful their relationship was (comments like “they were engaged-to-be-engaged”), things have been uncovered that point to trouble in paradise. There was alleged cheating on both sides, and Maura’s assistant track coach (known as ‘Hoss’), divulged information to James Renner that pretty much confirmed he was dating Maura in the spring and summer of 2003. She cut things off with him to focus on Billy, though Hoss made some concerning remarks that he got the impression Billy was controlling and Maura felt like she could not get away from him.
History seems to have a way of repeating itself, and just as Maura had trouble at West Point, she began having issues at Umass. In November of 2003 (three months before her disappearance) a young woman living in Maura’s dorm noticed unauthorized charges on her credit card from a restaurant local to campus called Pinocchio’s. She went to police, who in turn contacted the restaurant. As fate would have it, a call came in shortly after. The caller (using the same stolen credit card number) placed a delivery order. Police scrambled to set up a sting to figure out who was behind the fraud. When the delivery man buzzed the dorm and requested a signature on the receipt, police came in. It was Maura they busted. They took a booking photo on the spot. A judge eventually ruled that charges would be dropped if, along with repayment, Maura did not get into any type of trouble for the next four months. If she broke any laws, she would be on the hook criminally (which, going by Mass law, would likely be identity theft and credit card fraud). Not good things to have on a criminal record, especially for someone who planned to go into nursing where background checks are a huge part of the hiring process. Maura’s future career essentially depended on her staying out of trouble until February 2004, when the judge would review the case and determine the final outcome.
Stay tuned for PART TWO, where we will look into a set of bizarre events (including another car crash) that happened shortly before the crash in New Hampshire.
Sources that have been particularly helpful while fact checking this article: Wikipedia / MM Blog