Part IV: Brianna Maitland Missing Person

This is the fourth post in my series on the Brianna Maitland missing person case. Maitland was last seen around 11:30 pm on March 19, 2004, after she had completed her shift at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery, Vermont. She left the restaurant in a 1985 Oldsmobile, which was later found abandoned on the property of an old vacant farm--about one mile from the restaurant. The vehicle appeared to have been involved in a traffic collision.

After last week’s detour to offer why officers may not have recognized the scene where Maitland’s car was recovered as anything more than a simple traffic collision, I’ll now return to discussing her disappearance.

Initially investigators classified Brianna’s disappearance as voluntary. She had evidently runaway before and police believed that some unsavory relationships had influenced her into fleeing Vermont. After intense lobbying by the family and an investigation that revealed little evidence for a voluntary disappearance (in contrast, the information found led away from believing that Brianna wanted to leave), the case was investigated as a missing person and open to all possibilities.

What concerned the family and others following the case was that Brianna was not the only young female to disappear in the area under similar circumstances. College student Maura Murray’s vehicle was found unattended and damaged on the side of a rural New Hampshire highway. This is Maura’s story:

Murray was involved in a one-car accident Route 112 in the Woodsville section of Haverhill in northern New Hampshire between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. on February 9, 2004. Her car, a black 1996 Saturn with Massachusetts license plates, failed to negotiate a sharp curve and ran off the road, striking a tree. Haverhill is five miles away from Wells River, Vermont and one mile away from Swift Water Village by the Connecticut River.

This was the second car Murray had wrecked in three days; she had previously damaged her father's vehicle in another accident.

A resident near the site of the February 9 crash called the police, even though Murray had asked him not to. She had vanished by the time authorities arrived at the scene about ten minutes later. Her car was left behind, severely damaged in the front end and not in a drivable condition.

The doors were locked and a few personal belongings, including Murray's cellular phone and credit and bank cards, were missing, but most of her possessions had been left inside. Murray has never been seen again.

There were no footprints in the snow around the car and no indications of a struggle, and tracker dogs lost her scent within 100 yards. Police believe she got a ride from the scene of the accident to parts unknown. The witness to the accident says she did not appear to be injured, but she may have been intoxicated.

Murray resided in Hanson, Massachusetts and was a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at the time she disappeared; the university police are assisting with her case. She was a nursing major and was a dean's list student, and was employed by a local art gallery in addition to having a job on campus. She had made arrangements to take a nursing job in Oklahoma after her graduation.

Four days before she disappeared, she left her job early at her supervisor's suggestion; she appeared to be extremely upset about something and was unable to work. It has not been discovered what was bothering her, but Murray's sister spoke to her on the phone that same evening and said their conversation was normal.

Murray emailed her professors the day of her disappearance and said there was a death in her family and she had to go away, but would be in touch upon her return in about a week. No one had actually died. After her disappearance, Murray's dormitory room was found packed up, as if she was planning on moving out altogether.

She withdrew $280 from her bank account the day she disappeared, but there has been no activity on her bank accounts or credit cards since then. She packed up all her belongings in her dormitory room into boxes, and left behind a personal note for her fiancé, an Army lieutenant named William Rausch who was stationed in Fort Still, Oklahoma.

Murray also emailed Rausch on the afternoon of her disappearance. In the email she asked to speak with him. The day after she was last seen, Murray called Rausch, but he only heard her breathing on the line. The call could not be traced. Investigators inspected Murray's computer after she vanished; they discovered she had been searching on the internet for information on hotels in the Burlington, Vermont area.

Based on this information, they checked Burlington hotels for any signs of Murray, but turned up no clues as to her whereabouts. Murray and her father went hiking together in the Burlington area in the fall of 2003, but she has no other connections to the city. She used to camp regularly in New Hampshire and knew the state well, but there are no known reasons why she would go to Haverhill.

Extensive searches of the woods around Haverhill have turned up no evidence as to her whereabouts.
Several blogs and articles have compared the Maitland and Murray cases, but the most comprehensive public-view examination was written by investigative report H.P. Albarelli Jr. in 2006.

I am an advocate of crime typologies. Just because cases are classified as auto thefts and neat analytical tools are run to look for correlations, and color maps are provided that show spatial links, does not mean much if the cases include different kinds of auto thefts--ranging from teen joyriding to offenders looking to strip a stolen car.

I think that similar reasoning can be made here with the Murray and Maitland cases—they appear to be two types of crimes despite both being classified as missing persons.

The most convincing reason for Maitland to stop at the vacant farmhouse the night she disappeared relate to seeing someone that she knew or recognized. She was close to home and less than a mile from work.

In contrast, Murray’s vehicle clearly left the roadway during the collision. Authorities reported that she was depressed and had been consuming alcohol. The accident scene was not near her home or college. Since no body was found and she was seen with the car at the time of the collision, it is probable to assume that she was offered a ride by a stranger—whereas the details of the Maitland case do not indicate the solitary involvement of a stranger.

Two sad missing person cases: yes. Ninety miles and just over a month apart: yes. Both involving apparent traffic collisions; yes. Both cars apparently abandoned: yes. Same or similar perpetrators—I just don’t see it that way.

Previous posts on the Brianna Maitland case are here: Post I, Post II, and Post III.


Oz Girl said...

Wow, they are both such fascinating cases. Like a mystery novel, you so want to find out the end, what happened to these girls. It is sad to think that we, and their families, may never know what happened to them.

I don't think I could bear the grief if one of my family members came up missing and we never found out what happened. :-(

J. J. in Phila said...

Good post.

I had vaguely remembered the Murray case, just the car missing in New England. When you mentioned the name, I checked. Yes, there were differences.

90 miles is also not a short distance. I use to live in a rural area, and unless I had some connection with that area, I wouldn't know the geography of an area 90 miles away.

Good post.

Expat From Hell said...

SD: Great post, and great story. Tragic, but real enough thanks to your comparisons and readabiliity. I think you're the new Mark Fuhrman. Without the work history!

Best regards from Texas.


Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the kind words yall.

For Expat: I am not sure if I am happier that you like the material or that I have been able to keep my checkered past hidden from public knowledge for this long
--insert long frightening laugh--...