Friday, April 20, 2018

The Best of the Worst Comments

Something about this case brings out the worst in people. Over the years, people associated with this case have threatened me, posted videos of my son on YouTube, and attempted to access my personal email. Eventually I had to switch comments on this blog to a system where I had to approve every single one. What ends up on here is only the tip of a very dirty iceberg.

Here are some screenshot samples of some comments I've kept from Facebook, YouTube, email, and the blog.

UMass Police Detective: Renner was right. Maura lives in Canada.

As I'm wrapping up the blog, I'm going to share some things I've held back over the years before I take it all down in May.

Here's a conversation Lt. Thrasher shared a couple months ago on Facebook. Thrasher was a Lt. at UMass when Maura went missing. He's the one who first share info about the call Maura received from her sister the night she had a breakdown.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

This Blog Will Close in May

I had an idea as a reporter way back in 2005, that I might be able to use the Internet to crowdsource investigations into cold cases. After my first book, a look at the 1989 unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic, I started a blog devoted to her case. It produced a mountain of new clues but ultimately it did not bring closure to that case. In 2011, when I began looking into the bizarre disappearance of Maura Murray, I started this blog to generate new leads. It worked a little better than expected. To date, this site has received over 7 million visitors.

My hope was that these blogs and their comment sections could serve as an online Writers Room where people could openly discuss every aspect of these cold cases - clues, suspects, evidence. I thought that readers would be able to separate the blogs from traditional journalism. I thought they'd be able to read these thoughts and ideas and not prescribe guilt or innocence to specific people (the way reporters do in a traditional writers room). But as George Carlin once said, consider how stupid the average person is and then realize half of them are stupider than that. Real news sites sometimes took the names debated on these blogs and reported them as if they held as much meaning as an officially named suspect. Readers assumed that if a name was mentioned, they must be guilty.

This blog will cease to exist in May. I'm ending it now for a couple reasons. I feel I've taken my reporting on this case as far as it will go. I feel Kate Markopoulos and Bill Rausch know more than they've said. Their phone calls to each other in the days leading up to and following the disappearance speak volumes. I believe Fred Murray knows more than he's said and I will always suspect the $4,000 he took out from several ATMs the weekend before the disappearance does not pass the smell test. Neither does what I found at his house. But unless they share what they know, I don't believe we'll ever know what Maura was doing in New Hampshire that night or where she was going.

I believe the women who have come forward accusing Bill Rausch of sex assault and harassment. And I can say the police are aware of their stories, too. My hunch is that Maura was killed later in the week in New Hampshire, not near the site of the accident. But I really do hope she managed to get away.

Mostly, I don't have the stomach for this anymore. The meanness and lack of empathy in the comments section and in emails are unrelenting. People are mean when they can be anonymous. Mean to sources, mean to victims, mean to writers. Also, heartfelt conversations with other writers, most notably Jon Ronson and Kathryn Schulz, have caused me to reconsider the value - or lack thereof - of discussing these cases so publicly with an active audience/pitchfork brigade.

There are people who now define their lives by their obsession with Maura Murray. I don't intend to be like them. I have other stories I'd like to get to.

I still have some things to say regarding true crime and will do so in a new podcast soon - The Philosophy of Crime. I hope you tune in.

For those still interested in research, I will archive this blog and add it to my collection of material at the Special Collections Archive at the Kent State library, where anyone can read and review it in the future.

I hope this all meant something. We'll see.

P.S. If you'd like to stay connected, I'm on Facebook.  And Twitter.

Monday, April 16, 2018

UPDATE: Bob McDonald provides further alibi for Bill Rausch

After some questions arose about Bill's whereabouts in the days following Maura Murray's disappearance (based on cell phone roaming charges), I heard from one of his West Point professors, Bob McDonald.

Here's what McDonald says:
I was with him for all that time. My wife and I arrived late Friday and checked into the Wells River Motel, which is where everyone was staying. If my memory is correct (not a 100% certainty given that 14 years have passed) my wife drove home on Monday (it was a three day weekend) but I was able to get colleagues to cover my classes and didn't head home until -- I think -- Wednesday. That last day Bill and I drove to UMass and met with campus police; afterwards he drove me to Springfield (or maybe it was Worcester), where I rented a car and drove home.
Bill basically didn't leave my side. While my wife was with me, he slept in his parents' room. After my wife left, he moved over to mine. There were times when he'd go to the motel office to do phone interviews with Greta Van Susteren, etc., but other than that I don't remember us being apart. I wish I had a better memory of NH and VT geography and place names. The first day or two I was there (Saturday and maybe Sunday) we searched in the general vicinity of the crash site. We visited the tourist town near Mt. Washington and also went to a few other towns both in the direction in which she was traveling (into NH) but also in the opposite direction (toward VT) since, if she got picked up, we weren't sure in which direction the car was traveling. We were posting fliers, talking to people in convenience stores and food markets, and trying to get her picture and police contact info out there. We went to UMass on my last night up there to meet with campus police and also to get me a car rental so I could drive myself home. I hated to leave. Bill stayed up there for a while longer. 

As the days passed the focus shifted from searching near the site of Maura's crash and talking to people who lived nearby to trying to do everything possible (distributing fliers, speaking to the media) to raising awareness that she was missing and getting her photo out there in the hope that someone had seen her.

I'm not 100% sure how to explain the 4-minute call. Maybe he was trying to access her voicemail (I think I remember her voice mail being something all of us discussed, but can't remember if we had access to it right away, later, or ever), or maybe he was just leaving a long message in hopes that she would get it. I'm guessing that the period in which he didn't use his cell is explained by the fact that coverage up there was so lousy back then. He was using the hotel phone to speak with media and others in the evenings and during the daytime we were either searching or driving around passing out and posting fliers

Saturday, April 7, 2018

New Podcast Delves Into the Pyschology of Maura Murray

Host Ryan Kraus takes a deep dive into the mystery and applies psychology to Maura Murray's disappearance in a search for answers. It is fascinating. And worth the time to get into. Click here to listen.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Phone Records Suggest Bill Rausch Knew Maura Left UMass on the 9th

I must have looked through Bill and Maura's cell phone bills a hundred times but yesterday a Redditor noticed something I never saw. Here's what "Ashthered" had to say:
After having a look at Bills phone records, I noticed something which seems strange to me, although I'm not sure if what I have noticed is accurate and so would appreciate it if someone with more knowledge could correct me if I'm wrong, sorry if this gets confusing but bare with me...
On Feb 8th at 2:49pm Bill makes a 2 min call to Maura which I presume was him leaving Maura a message as her phone was off at the time, then 1 minute later he calls another Amherst number 413-546-????, i am presuming this is Maura's dorm room (could be wrong but makes sense).
Then on the same day at 4:47 and 5:45 he calls Mauras mobile again which both go unanswered and then his next call is to that same number again which surely is Maura's dorm. It would make sense to try Maura's mobile, if she doesn't answer, then try her dorm.
So if I am correct then Bill on the day before Maura disappears, twice tries to contact her at her dorm after she has failed to answer her mobile.
Then on the Feb 9th, after Maura's last ever call to Bill at 2:18pm, where they don't actually talk but Maura may have left a short message, Bill calls Maura another 8 times before around 5pm on the 10th which would roughly be when Bill was told she was missing, and not once does he try her on her dorm phone, this surely suggests that he must know she is not at Umass, otherwise surely he would have tried her dorm phone again, just like he did on the 8th, twice.
Maybe I have got this wrong and if so I will be very grateful if somebody could correct me, but if not then I'm sure this looks like Bill knew she was going somewhere, before everyone else did?
Bill doesn't like to be ignored. On Feb 8th and 9th, he's calling Maura's cell phone and dorm, trying to get her to talk to him. When he can't reach her, he calls Kate Markopoulos on her cell phone and also Kate's dorm room. But Maura doesn't want to talk and sends him an email text saying so. That doesn't work for him though so he calls Maura's cell again three times in three minutes. But she doesn't pick up.

By all accounts, Bill is acting manic on February 9, as Maura is ignoring him.  He makes a total of 52 calls that day from his cell phone while he's in the field at Fort Sill and after. Calls to ex-girlfriends, mentors from West Point, and family. He's reaching out.

Later that night, he tries to get Maura to talk to him again. But he doesn't try her dorm again. When he can't reach her in the morning, does he try her dorm room? Nope. It's a break in character for him - when she didn't answer on Sunday, he's trying her cell, her dorm, her friend's dorm, and her friend's cell phone. But on Tuesday, he doesn't try Maura on her dorm, even though by all accounts he doesn't learn that she's missing from UMass until around 5 p.m. that evening, when the Murray family calls him.

In fact, after the Murrays call him to say Maura's missing, he doesn't call her cell phone either. He doesn't try to call her, even though she's missing, for two hours. His first thought isn't to immediately try to get his girlfriend to pick up but to call the operator, inquiring about hotels in New Hampshire.

This makes no sense to me. Does it make any sense to you?

In light of allegations against Bill Rausch by multiple women of sex assault and harassment in D.C., I think everyone close to the investigation should sit down and go over timelines of the days following Maura's disappearance.

Another Redditor noticed that after Bill learns Maura's missing, he calls Kate Markopoulos' dorm for 6 minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fred Murray's Odd Behavior Caused One Organization to Rescind $75,000 Reward

In 2006, the non-profit organization Let's Bring Them Home, was contacted by members of Maura Murray's family and immediately put up a $75,000 reward for information that would bring closure to the case. The offer made headlines but the reward was quietly rescinded later and a member of the organization contacted me this week to explain why.

She says Fred Murray's behavior and Helena Dwyer-Murray's secrecy raised red flags.

Fred was difficult.  Often hostile.  Very controlling.  I did
everything he told me to do and that was the extent of the
relationship.  He would only talk to me when he felt like and IF he
felt like and then he abruptly cut off all communication once the law
suit was filed to obtain police records.  I was fine with that -- I
found him to be difficult and at the time I was helping dozens of
other families like his.

Helena was nice enough but she held back information.  It was strange.
I never felt like I was getting the full story.  They were all
secretive.  It frustrated me because I did a lot of interviews for
them back then about the reward and Maura's case.

I backed out of the case slowly.... and have never spoken to anyone
again about it until I emailed you.
I asked her what she thought Helena was holding back. Here's her reply.

She wouldn't answer direct questions unless it was on the phone . She
wasn't going to do it in writing. And even then she hedged a lot.  At
the time, I was trying to understand Maura's mental state of mind.
We were, after all, offering a very large reward for information in
the case.

I ended up pulling the reward about 3 months later.  I wasn't trying
to be ugly to the family but there were too many demands put upon our
organization by the Murray family.

A screen shot of one of Fred's emails to the organization is above, in which he says he wants to hear all tip voicemails that come in before anyone else listens to them.

Another thing she found weird were the hang-up calls the tip line sometimes received. Each hang-up was logged and the phone number traced. It went to a phone listed under Julie Murray's name.

And for those saying this isn't such a big deal:

Monday, March 26, 2018

***UPDATED*** Stop What You're Doing and Watch This New Analysis of Bill Rausch's Actions During the Search

The voices sound like Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but this is the best breakdown so far of Bill Rausch's actions following Maura's disappearance. The biggest takeaway is the claim that you could not leave a voicemail longer than 90 seconds in 2004. Which, if true, has major implications for that 3 minute phone call Bill made to Maura's phone before he went silent for 5 days.

One of my most loyal Irregulars just found the 2004 Sprint voicemail information. At the time, you could not leave a voicemail longer than two minutes on a basic plan, which is what Maura appears to have had. We know from other calls that Maura's voice greeting was not a full minute long (the longest you can have at the time). Which means the greeting and message could not have taken longer than 3 minutes. However, If the voice greeting and message combined lasted longer than two minutes, Sprint could have counted it as 3 minutes. It's possible this was a long voicemail.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Request for Interview - Maura's Last Hookup

A couple months ago, it was finally confirmed that a lot more happened at the party in Sara Alfieri's dorm room - two nights before Maura's disappearance - than was previously admitted. Fred Murray says his daughter "hooked up" with a "cousin" of Sara's that night. Sara claims she was sleeping during the party in her room and Kate Markopoulos, who was also there, has never been cooperative with police or reporters when asked about it.

It would be helpful to get their version of events for that evening.

I would love to speak with this man. And also Sara's roommate, Heather Hammond, who has never spoken publicly about the party.

If you have any information about the identity of this man, feel free to send an anonymous message via Globaleaks here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Maura Murray Records Now Available to the Public

My notes, interviews, and records related to my investigation into Maura Murray's disappearance are now available to the public for review - by appointment - at Kent State University library's Special Collections department.

They will not be digitized anytime soon.