Maura Murray Missing – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery That Never Was…

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

This 1927 quote, attributed to Sherlock Holmes through the literary genius of author Conan Doyle, holds true in logic and reason today, in literature as in real life.

In the mysterious death of 21-year-old University of Massachusetts Amherst nursing student, Maura Murray, on the dark and cold winter’s night of February 9, 2004, amateur sleuths, online and off, have forgotten this investigative truism. It’s the same affliction that the JFK assassination suffers from: too many emotionally charged wannabes seeing smoke in a case where there is none, steadfastly ignoring the facts that can bring about a beyond-all-reasonable-doubt conclusion. Simply put, the victim and the perp (s) have been looking us straight in the eyes since that wintry night.

The Haverhill police, the Hampshire State police and the FBI know this was either an unforeseen death with a witness panicking or a murder. Maura was not a runaway nor did she die in the woods. And knowing this, they cannot divulge details to even Maura’s father without jeopardizing the case in the courts if and when anyone can be brought to justice.

The ending of Maura’s life is a sad one, most especially because she was under a certain amount of stress in those final months, and not having the best of luck in those final few days. Nevertheless, this was not a life any worse than any other young woman her age experienced who had school pressures, who made a couple bad choices and who had family and/or romantic woes. Just because you’re officially an adult at 21 doesn’t mean you’re psychologically set for adulthood. Her sister, Kathleen, had a drinking problem and Maura herself seemed to be choosing to drink when driving — a bad decision at any age. Also, her black Saturn car was in bad shape; yet without telling a soul where she was going, Maura chose to drive in the coffin blackness of a wintry night for four hours, eventually turning onto the unknown Highway 112, a stretch of unbanked single-lane highway interrupted only by the odd house or barn before you entered the desolate and unforgiving wilderness of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.

Maura’s short life came to a close at Dead End Lane, at the intersection of Poor Decisions Way and Bad Timing Road where she met up with a man and a fatal injury, and this ill-fated confluence ended her life. It’s as simple as that.

My hunch as to how the events unfolded starts with two questions;
Why do people accept Butch Atwood’s statements?
Why are people forgetting Sherlock’s Golden Rule?

·         Butch is the last person to have any interaction with the living Maura and the only person to have an interaction with her at that crash site. Not the Westman’s nor any other resident or driver near that crash site was seen interacting with Maura Murray. Fact.

·         Butch Atwood’s school bus, while he talked with Maura, would have blocked a clear view of her and her Saturn for a least a few minutes. Fact.

·         As Sherlock would agree, you must start and stop with the last person to have direct contact with the victim. That means you start and stop with Butch Atwood. Fact.

Then you ask yourself;
Who of the residents on that road moved away after this incident took place? The Atwood’s.
Who had the means and opportunity to interact with/harm Maura? Butch Atwood. He drove a large vehicle capable of hiding a body, and only he physically met with Maura on that road.
Where does the police sniffer dog lose Maura’s scent? Some 700 feet or so east of the crash. Where does that bring Maura? At or near Butch Atwood’s property, and his school bus.
Who does Haverhill police officer, Cecil Smith, allow to go search for Maura in the immediate moments after her disappearance? Butch Atwood.

Cecil did not keep Butch cordoned off with the rest of the witnesses but rather allowed him to head up to the mountain lakes area for 15 minutes or more all by himself. This could have been the very moment Butch drove Maura away from the crime scene, right under Officer Smith's nose.

Here’s what I think occurred between Butch and Maura — MY opinion;

  • Butch stopped alongside Maura’s car. He most likely opened the school bus door to talk through to Maura. I doubt he got out and walked to her car.
  • Butch could tell she was distraught by the accident.
  • Butch probably offered to call 911, and Maura rejected the idea, stating a firm no.
  • Maura probably lied and told Butch she had already telephoned the AAA but he would have called her on that, stating there was no available signal. Maura most likely fessed up to Butch that she couldn’t be caught by the police in a second accident. (Maura knew that if she were caught in a second car crash where alcohol was involved, there could have been serious consequences as per her schooling and future career.)
  • Butch offered to take her to use the land line at his house down the road. He would have pointed to it, telling Maura how close it was. She would see this as the only opportunity to get away from the scene and get help. She was likely inclined to trust a school bus driver, knowing such drivers would be criminally background checked.
  • So as Butch waited, Maura got out of the Saturn, opened the trunk and did what her dad told her to do to hide any car smoke and stuffed a dish rag into her exhaust pipe. She then grabbed her black backpack, locked the car doors and stepped into Butch’s bus, never to be seen alive again.

If Butch “ran” into his house (although I don’t see him as the running kind unless the incident grew fatal and directly involved him), it was to tell his wife that Maura had collapsed and/or died in his school bus. The evidence that Butch’s wife may have known of this incident is in her odd response to authorities when asked where the driver, Maura, was. She said, “I don’t know where she is,” (paraphrased). That is very strange wording. A normal response would have been to say that the driver was at the crash site. This is the first inclination that the wife knew something had gone wrong. If Butch had left Maura at the Saturn, as he stated, he wouldn’t think to say anything else to his wife, so she wouldn’t have stated anything else. Either the wife knew and lied or she didn’t know and Butch told her to say what she said. The Atwood’s weren’t prepared to admit Maura had collapsed and died in Butch’s school bus by nefarious or wholly innocent means.

Butch did not “work on paperwork” in his bus. The time lapse between him meeting Maura and his wife talking to authorities was spent with Maura’s body and/or informing his wife.

Before entering the house, an interaction occurred on the bus between Maura and Butch. Maura undoubtedly lay on the floor of the bus unconscious, or dead, the entire time the police, Witness A and the ambulance were at the scene where one EMT noticed the dish cloth hanging from the exhaust pipe.

Butch called 911 with his wife in order to act as an innocent bystander. Butch was anything but. Maura may have died of injuries sustained in that accident and Butch panicked, choosing instead to hide the body than report the death, or there had been a struggle between Butch and Maura which caused her death.

The exact reason for Maura’s death will never be known. Her remains if ever discovered, and 15 years long deteriorated, will never show a definitive cause of death, and Butch Atwood — the only witness to Maura’s demise — is dead.

Butch knew he couldn’t explain away the situation. He was afraid of being accused of murder. In the wee hours of that night once the authorities had left the scene, Butch disposed of Maura’s body somewhere close by, in a very deep place, somewhere where Butch knew she would never be found, like an abandoned shaft or an old well. Then Butch and his wife moved to Florida and thereafter he died, taking the knowledge of Maura’s location to his grave.

Butch’s wife may or may not know anything of these events; although, it’s my feeling that she either knew from the get-go or Butch eventually told her what had happened or she knew nothing and Butch enlisted someone else’s help with Maura’s disposal that night. This is why the authorities are keeping mum on what they know. It’s obvious they believe someone involved is still alive and that person, with discovery of new evidence, could still face charges.

There was no conspiracy or cover-up by the police but they may not have taken Maura’s disappearance seriously enough in the initial days, so scene preservation was less than stellar. And any search and rescue would have been fruitless regardless of time and resources, considering where Butch hid Maura’s remains. No sniffer dog, no FLIR camera and no amount of ground crew would have located Maura. The police know a crime was committed, but without further evidence, their hands are tied and their voices must remain mute if there’s ever hope of justice for Maura.

Online and offline sleuths ignore Sherlock’s wisdom at their peril. It’s the wisdom the Haverhill police follow to this day, no doubt with an approving nod from the New Hampshire State police and the FBI. The last person to see a victim alive is usually the perpetrator. And unless you can conclusively rule out that person, or another perpetrator is collared, your investigation must remain on track.

  • Maura did not walk away from the car and jog down the highway to be picked up by a passing motorist.
  • Maura did not walk into the woods and die of hypothermia. Bones would have been found. All you have to do is be a student of the Ted Bundy murders and know how long bones can remain in a forested location, to know that.
  • Maura did not go up to the UMASS cabin by herself or with anyone else.
  •  Maura did not run away to Canada. Maura, sadly is not alive, anywhere.
  • Maura was not with another person on that trip. Faith Westman got it wrong when she said someone was smoking in the Saturn. The distance from the Westman’s house to Maura’s car, seen at night through picture window and car window glass, wouldn’t allow for sighting lit cigarette ash. The red light glow was either/or;
·                         a dashboard warning light lit due to the accident;
·                         a notification light on Maura’s cell phone;
·                         a reflection in Faith’s window;
·                         a reflection on Maura’s car window;
·                         Faith’s imagination. Witness accounts in a time of crisis are known to be unreliable.

If Sherlock Holmes were around today, he would wholeheartedly agree that the buck stops at Butch’s school bus door. Viewing Butch’s short YouTube video statement presents nervousness and obfuscation in the man. He doesn’t make eye contact and his expression hints that he knows more than he is saying.

Sherlock and I know Maura Murray never left that scene. She has been lying in a deep dark place, fairly close by, all these 15 years. And with Butch’s passing, unless fate intervenes, Maura will remain where she lies today, undiscovered, and the-mystery-that-never-was will live to breathe another day with the offline and online amateur sleuths who blithely ignore Sherlock’s reasoning and powers of deduction.

The rest of the so-called leads, you ask. What about them?
They are all red herrings. Every. Single. One.
Do yourself a favour and stop swimming in the Websleuths and Reddit red herring sea. 
You will end up drowning. 
There is no fresh air there and there is no mystery here.

This sad tale, this ending of a young woman’s vibrant life, starts and stops with this photo. 


 A school bus, that if metal could talk, would tell you a tale worthy of Sherlock and Doyle and solved by those fact-loving sleuths just as quick.