Episode 10: A former West Point cadet vanishes without a trace
By BRIAN MCELHINEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 16, 2021
Former West Point cadet Maura Murray disappeared in a small New Hampshire town 17 years ago, and the case continues to stump investigators and the Murray family.
On this week’s Military Matters, co-host Jack Murphy speaks with Maura’s sister, Julie Murray, who was also a West Point cadet, about the disappearance, what police and the family know — and don’t know — and the sometimes frustrating comments that have circulated on social media.
Maura disappeared just days after Facebook launched, which has led the case to sometimes be referred to as the first major mystery of the social media age. Social media has helped keep the case in the spotlight for the last 17 years, but there are still very few answers. And the online attention has been a mixed bag for the Murray family.
“Maura's story and her case [have] so many gaps in [them] that you can fill in the gaps with whatever you want,” Julie said. “And you can make a really good story out of it and forget that we're talking about a real family, a real person that deserves just basic respect for my family. I'm not asking really anything other than just [a] minimum level of human decency. And some people can't do that.”
While Maura left West Point to study nursing at the University of Massachusetts, Julie stuck with the Army. When she got the news of her sister’s disappearance, she had just returned from South Korea and was about to deploy overseas again; fortunately, another lieutenant with a different platoon switched places with her.
Julie was able to piece together a rough timeline of events surrounding her sister’s disappearance. On Feb. 9, 2004, Maura emailed her professors to tell them there was a death in her family and that she needed to take a week off, although no one had actually died. She then made a series of phone calls, including to a condominium in Bartlett, N.H., that the Murray family had stayed at before; a ski area in Stowe, Vt.; and her boyfriend, who was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. She also nearly emptied her bank account, taking $280.
At 7:27 that night, a woman in the town of Woodsville, N.H., saw a car off the road facing in the wrong direction and called 911. Shortly after that call was made, a bus driver passing by the car stopped and allegedly had a conversation with Maura.
“He asked Maura, or whoever was in the car, ‘Do you need a ride?’” Julie said. “She said, ‘No, I’ve already called AAA.’ He knew that was a lie because there’s no cell phone service in that area still, even today. So he goes to his house, which is about 150, 200 meters down the street, parks his bus, goes in and calls 911 as well. He wasn’t able to get through for whatever reason. So they eventually called him back, and by the time the first police officer came to the scene, Maura was gone, just vanished.”
Julie encouraged people to visit the family’s website, mauramurraymissing.org, for the latest news bout the case.
“One of the things that I like to do is keep people focused on something,” Julie said. “This past week [May 4] would have been Maura's 39th birthday, so I wanted to do something special to bring people together. And I'm a big CrossFitter and I know Maura would have been a big CrossFitter too. So I made up a workout of the day, and we had people from all over the community jump in and do a two-mile run and 82 burpees. And … it was great. I mean, people came together for it and loved it. People trained for it. It was awesome. So things like that, I'm always trying to engage people in different ways to bring the focus back to Maura.”