AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- In 2004, the disappearance of UMass Amherst student Maura Murray haunted Hampshire County. To this day, her story continues to send shockwaves throughout the nation as her case remains unsolved.
Now, 17 years later, Maura has never been found. In an exclusive interview, Western Mass News spoke with Maura's sister Julie as her family still searches for answers.
Maura Murray was a nursing student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. On February 9, 2004, she emailed her professors and told them there had been a death in her family and she would be off-campus for a week, but after that day, she was never seen again.
“There was no death in the family,” her sister Julie Murray said.
The 21-year-old disappeared after a car accident in Haverhill, New Hampshire on Route 112.
“This family does not have closure,” said Rep. Debra Desimone (R-New Hampshire). “They don't know where she is, they don't know if she's still alive.”
Desimone has been working with the family in recent months to keep a permanent marker on that roadway to remember Maura.
Julie Murray told Western Mass News before the accident, her records show she called a condominium owner in Bartlett, New Hampshire, a place their family vacationed.
“Maura was familiar with the complex,” the sister said.
But Maura never made it there. We asked Julie if Maura told anyone where she was going.
“No, that's what's so mysterious,” she said.
Her sister said this wasn't typical behavior for Maura. School was a top priority, and her car, a 1996 Saturn, was so beat up she rarely drove it.
“For her to take that huge risk of not only driving it, but driving it from UMass to New Hampshire was huge,” Julie said.
At 3:15, she withdrew $280 at an off-campus ATM, nearly all the money in her account.
She then stopped at a nearby liquor store in Amherst before departing UMass.
“There was a receipt from a local liquor store in the Amherst area, and that's how we know she bought $40 worth of alcohol on February 9 because the receipt tells us that,” she said.
After her departure around 4:30, she began her drive north.
“There was no activity on her cell phone past 4:37,” Julie said.
According to those phone records, that's when Maura called the New Hampshire condo owner. Her sister said the owner remembered the call but did not rent her condo out to Maura.
It appears to Julie that Maura didn't have anything booked.
“She didn't really have the means to stay anywhere long more than one or two nights,” she said.
Between the time she left and crossed the New Hampshire border, Maura stopped to get gas.
“The car was pretty much full, so we know she got gas close to where the car was found,” Julie said.
Then at 7:27, a 911 call came in from a neighbor reporting an accident. At 7:42, a second came in from another neighbor, a bus driver.
“He actually stopped his bus right by the car and spoke to what we believe was Maura,” Julie said.
He asked Maura if she needed help, but Maura declined saying she called AAA.
“He knew that wasn't true, because there's no cell phone service,” she said.
He reported that the driver, Maura, was shaken up, but appeared uninjured.
“Within the span of those seven to 10 minutes before the cops came at 7:46, she's just gone,” she said.
When police arrived, the car was locked, the scene was searched, and Maura was nowhere in sight.
“We believe Maura was heading east and the first officer on the scene never went east,” Julie said.
Most of her belongings were gone.
“Her bookbag and some of the alcohol was gone, her cell phone, the keys, her wallet,” Julie said.
“Since her disappearance, no one has ever been able to find her,” Desimone said.
But why would she leave and walk on her own in the dead of winter? Where would Maura go?
“We know both airbags deployed, we know both windows were cracked, we know the front bumper was pushed in,” Julie said.
Photos of the driver's side of the windshield led Lulie to believe Maura may have had a head injury.
“She could've had a concussion, and it's cold, and it's dark, and she's in an unfamiliar area,” she said.
Deep down she believed her sister was picked up after the bus driver spoke with Maura.
“Maybe she came, she said she called and then she realized, ‘Oh wait, I don't have cell phone service, let me catch the next ride,’” Julie said.
And that next ride may have been the last.
“Not a single piece of evidence has ever surfaced,” Julie said. “Not a single person, not one has come forward in 16 years.”
Western Mass News spoke with Jeff Strelzin, an associate attorney general at the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, who said this is still an open investigation.
“We have not been able to determine what happened to Maura,” he said. “So this is an ongoing investigation to try and determine what happened to her and whether or not her disappearance was the result of any criminal conduct."
So where is Maura? What happened to her? Her family wants these answers.
If you know anything about what happened to Maura, you can submit a tip to the Cold Case Unit as well as Maura's family.