Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I Knocked on Doors

Over the last few days, I paid visits to several friends and family members of Maura Murray: Julie Murray, Sara Alfieri, Liz Drewniak, Katie Jones, and Tim Carpenter.

I have tried to contact each of these individuals over the last few years for comment. None of them replied. Not even with a "no thanks" email. As a responsible journalist, I had to assume that it was possible they had never received my requests (and, at least in Tim's case, this was true--and he had a lot he wanted to say). Most people don't realize Facebook filters messages from non-friends. Emails can end up in Spam filters. Phone messages can be erased by husbands/wives.

I could have written my book without comment from them, but given the nature of the story I felt it was the responsible thing to really be sure they had the opportunity to speak their mind. Now that they've had that opportunity, I have no further need to contact them. If they wish to say anything further, they know how to reach me.

Never in a million years did I imagine this missing-person's case I started investigating in 2009 would end up being so strange. Or that I would pick the one missing-person's case where the family actively lobbies to keep the book from publication. I have never heard of a missing-person's case where the father of a missing girl would not want to open his doors to any reporter trying to find his daughter, even those who ask the hard questions.

It's sad, all the way around. Hopefully the book can lead to some closure.

A Question

It's a long drive back to Ohio and there's a lot of time to think in the car. I got to thinking about Fred's statement to police, which was released through public records request (click for bigger version).

He talks about that weekend he came up to see Maura before she disappeared, the night she wrecked his car in Hadley on the way to his hotel at two in the morning. She got a ride in the tow truck to the Quality Inn where he was staying after the accident.

Fred says he didn't know about the accident until the next morning. That:

She was in bed when I woke up around 10 a.m.

My question: How did Maura get inside his room?

If Fred is telling the truth in his statement to police, how did she get in?

If we're to believe his version of events, she must have had a room key card, right?

If so, why?

To sleep in the hotel room? Her dorm room was just downstairs from the party. Why drive all the way to the hotel to sleep?

To return her father's car keys? But her car was back on campus. She couldn't have gotten back without a ride. Where was her ride?

And there's the fact that someone used his phone to make 3 calls around 5 in the morning.

Nothing about that early Sunday morning makes sense. And the next day Maura is missing.

Fred Speaks... But Not to Me

Lengthy article in today's Concord Monitor. It's a good starting point for anyone unfamiliar with the details of the case, a good well-rounded timeline of events.

The reporter was also given access to Fred, Julie, and Kathleen, though all questions about the past were off the table.

And this blog is mentioned near the end.

Renner writes on the blog that he’s made many attempts to interview Fred for the book but has been stonewalled, and he questions Fred’s motivations for not talking to him.

Fred said he doesn’t like to discuss the book but has refused to participate in the project because he doesn’t trust the angles Renner might take, and because he doesn’t think Renner will “dig up anything I haven’t.”

Toggling between the Facebook group and Renner’s blog, it’s as if two camps have formed: the former for sympathy and the latter for pointing fingers.

The key to finding Maura, of course, is to understand her past and this family's past. It's insane to insist her past (such as the credit card fraud, her cheating, her relationship with Fred) did not figure in to her decisions the day of her disappearance. They want the cops to figure out the solution without presenting the problem. It's like solving for "x" without looking at the other side of the equation.

It's good to see that Kathleen is okay, though. I've been looking for her in Swanton, VT, where former neighbors say she disappeared shortly after her boyfriend was sent to jail.

A message to Kathleen: Tim told me some scary things. I would like to hear your side before I write about them. Please contact me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tim Carpenter Speaks... At Length

Tim Carpenter is the former husband of Kathleen Murray, Maura's older sister. I spoke to him at length today and he had some very interesting things to say about the early days of Maura's disappearance. He was on the ground in New Hampshire, beside Fred during the searches.

"He was weird about it. Me. If it was my daughter, I'd a been outside at the crack of dawn, starting the searches every day. Him, he'd get up maybe ten a.m. and I'd say, 'we better get started.' Then he'd stop about five and bring everyone to the restaurant and start drinking and it would be a party."

"I remember him pointing up to the mountain and saying, 'She walked up there. We'll find her at the top. Drunk and naked.' Why naked?"

Tim also collected the packed-up boxes from Maura's dorm. Fred was waiting at the dorm with the boxes and they loaded them into the back of Tim's truck. Some of the material, like Maura's computer, were eventually collected by investigators. The rest eventually ended up in the trash compactor at the dump where Tim works, after he lost his house a few years back.

He also says Maura was about to be punished by West Point for stealing make-up when she left and enrolled at Amherst.

Saco, Maine??

A couple months ago, the novel I wrote, The Man from Primrose Lane, was optioned for a movie. The sale allowed me to be able to afford to hire a lawyer and private investigator to help me with some research into Maura's case. The PI put together files on all the major subjects related to Maura's disappearance, which is why we're finally getting some statements from them.

He also put together a file on Maura, herself. And something interesting popped up. It appears that someone may have used her name and/or social security number in Saco, Maine in October of 2004.

Does anyone know of a connection there?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sara Alfieri Speaks... Very Briefly

Sara Alfieri has gone to ground as they say, living practically off the grid with a couple in Greater Boston.

Sara, as you recall, was at that late-night party with Maura Murray and Kate Markopoulos, the weekend before Maura disappeared, the same night she got in the accident in Hadley, Mass. Sara was once interviewed by a magazine and seemed to imply she had more info but didn't want to get Maura in trouble. There's been much speculation as to what she meant by this and so I visited her today to see if she could clear it up.

The conversation was over, though, as soon as I introduced myself. This young woman was scared. Not by me. I look like Fox Mulder's little brother for God's sake. But by being found. She is hiding and I have no idea why. "How did you find me?" she asked.

When asked directly about what happened the night of the party and who else was there, all she said was "I can't talk about that," and closed the door.

I'd give just about anything to know what happened that night. I really think the seeds for Maura's disappearance were planted that evening.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Julie Murray Speaks... Briefly

I really do feel like a scumbag journalist sometimes. I get it. Nobody likes a knock on the door from an unexpected reporter. But if I'm knocking on your door, or showing up at your apartment, it's because I've had no luck contacting you via Facebook, phone, and email. Still, it sucks all around. For me. For them.

Today I finally met Maura's older sister, Julie, who lives in Virginia. The conversation was brief as the man she was with would not let her talk. He was an attorney, too, so, yeah.

"I can tell you, finding my sister is still the number one priority," she said. "That's number one. Nothing else matters, none of that other stuff matters."

I could tell she is still very broken up about her sister's disappearance to this day and she takes issue with some of the things I've written about her father.

"Is he a hardass? Yes. Did he drive us hard? Yes. Is he the best father a girl could have? Yes."

She says I've gotten some information wrong but would not name specifics.

She let me ask just one question: what was Fred Murray doing in Amherst the weekend before Maura's disappearance.

"I can tell you exactly why he was there," she began. Then the man she was with (possibly husband, though we were never introduced) told her not to answer or say anything more.

"I told the police," Julie said. "But I don't think I could tell you. It's an open investigation."

As always, with all the secrecy and run-around, I'm just left with more questions.

BREAKING: Kathleen has troubled past in St. Albans

Some time ago I spoke to a detective familiar with Maura's disappearance who suggested that Kathleen, Maura's older sister, had spent some time in prison. I was unable to confirm this until today. It does appear that Kathleen spent some time behind bars in the state of Vermont, though I'm still tracking down the nature of the crime.

The arrest notes an address in St. Albans, Vermont.

I have been unable to reach Kathleen (who is also registered under the name Katherline) for comment.

In a strange twist, St. Albans happens to be the town where Brianna Maitland worked as a waitress before she disappeared a month after Maura.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Expect some new posts later this month and into April.

I'm finally caught up with other obligations and have a list of interviews set up to complete my research for the book on Maura's disappearance.

I'm also planning to create an interactive map of the important locations in the next few weeks.

If you have any stories about Maura you'd like to share in the book, please contact me soon.