Loss is strange. It affects us all in different ways and, often, in ways we don’t expect. For me, one of the most difficult things to deal with is the way that the memory of a person can change or fade as time goes on. Obviously, you can remember a person through pictures or videos but it’s the other memories, the ones that you close your eyes to recall, that can’t be preserved outside of your mind’s eye. Things like the way a person smelled, the true sound of their voice, a certain twinkle in a person’s eye, a funny quirk or habit. The intimate details that picture or video can’t capture, the things that are unique to the way that YOU remember someone. Those are the things that tend to slip away and I’ve found that a sense of guilt has often accompanied the fading memories. Especially when they’re associated with the people that are the MOST important to me…people like my mother or Maura.
Several years ago I had a dream that changed the way I view loss. I walked into the dining room at our home in Hanson and sitting at the table were Maura and our mother. I had experienced similar dreams prior, but there was something noticeably different about this. This dream was much more vivid and the little details that I thought had been lost, the source of my guilt, were very present. What shocked me the most were their voices. I could hear them, really HEAR them, exactly as I knew they should sound. They looked and moved exactly how I knew they should and, although there was nothing profound about what was happening, the clarity of what I was experiencing was overwhelming. I woke up that morning with tears on my face and pillow because, by the end of the dream, I was begging them to stay. I had become consciously aware that I was dreaming and I wasn’t ready to wake up or to let them go. The whole thing changed me because, once the initial shock wore off, the realization that Maura and our mother still exist somewhere deep in my memory gave me great comfort. It proved that they would never truly be lost.
I recently wrote a song about the dream because music and writing are two of the most powerful ways that I’ve used to cope with life’s adversities. My mother absolutely loved that I had a modicum of musical talent and Maura was one of my biggest supporters when I first picked up the guitar. While I haven’t finished the music, I wanted to share the lyrics as I think that my experience is very relatable and, while it’s deeply personal to me, to share some of who I am with this community. You’ve all given so much to our family so I wanted to give you a more personal view into me and some of what I do to cope with Maura’s loss.
‘Stay’ - written by Kurtis Murray
I walk into the room and you’re standing there
But I can see that something’s different
So I stop and stare
It’s So hauntingly familiar and it seems to me
I’ve found the memory I’ve been searching for
But, so often, fail to see
So I ask, Is this real?
Could this be real?
Not sure how I’m supposed to feel
When you talk, my heart is racing
I hear your voice, for once it’s full and clear
Not just a memory left to disappear
And your smile, so full and bright
No longer hazy and distorted
An image lost to memory’s fading light
So I ask, Is this real?
Could this be real?
The only thing I want becoming clear
Stay, Won’t you stay?
Oh God, please stay
I lose more of you now everyday
Why can’t you stay
I wish you’d stay
I Can’t bear to feel you fade away
I’m desperate now, I’m on my knees
I know that time is short, it’s just a dream
But in this moment you’re something more to me
Than just a distant fading memory
I’m lying here, I’m in my bed
A million memories running through my head
But the reminder that’s been given me
Is in my heart, my soul, my blood is…
Where you’ll stay
It has been two months since the discovery of human remains found on the side of Loon Mountain, New Hampshire - less than twenty-five miles from where my sister was reportedly last seen alive. The remains were found in the native soil and unearthed during construction of a new ski lift on Loon Mountain. On Monday I asked officials for an update and an estimated timeline. They told me it may take several months for examination and testing results. In speaking with one expert familiar with the initial assessment, there may be evidence to suggest the gender of the remains which gives us hope; however, we want to see definitive results which hopefully will come soon. As my family continues to wait, we are thankful for the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and supporters.
Several people have asked me whether I think the delay in the results is due to the grand opening of the new state of the art chairlift - the ‘Kanc 8’ - scheduled for the winter of 2021. The Loon Mountain website touts it as ‘North America’s most technologically advanced chairlift’ and has been providing regular progress updates since February 2021. While I do not know if or how this grand opening may be delaying the results of the bone fragment testing, I couldn’t help but notice that the public has received more updates on the chairlift than my family has received about my missing sister.
As we continue to wait, Maura’s case is making international news. Two recent stories highlighted on Maura’s official website include a comprehensive story on Maura’s disappearance by journalist William Allen, based in Madrid, Spain and a story with excellent reporting by Jordyn Jagolinzer from Western Mass News who explains the forensic testing process the bone fragments are most likely currently undergoing.
We will continue to provide the public with updates as we speak with officials. Sign up here to receive updates and information about our ongoing efforts to find Maura and bring her home.
Last week law enforcement (LE) asked me to authenticate the content of an anonymous proton email account that was first claiming to be in contact with my sister Maura, then claiming to be my sister. The email was clearly a troll attempting to offer ‘proof’ of their claims by re-stating rumors and mis-information that were discussed at length on old Topix forums and internet sites. This is the second time in the past year that someone using a proton mail account has attempted to impersonate my sister. Both in that case and in this recent case, nothing contained in the emails gave me any indication whatsoever it was my sister. Much of the mis-information provided were cherry picked ideas presumably intended to corroborate the most sensationalized versions of what could have happened to Maura, based on pure speculation.
If you have followed the case or watched the Oxygen series, it will sound familiar. The conspiracy theory reads something like this: Maura was involved in a hit and run, and then with the aid of money from my father (and perhaps with help from her boyfriend), she escaped north to a small border town in Vermont, and has been living in hiding in Canada for 17 years. Also sprinkled into the plot line is the idea she was running from my abusive father, the visible antagonist of the fictionalized narrative built upon baseless claims. I want to share parts of what I provided to LE in response.
These sick claims about my father are disgusting, unfounded and vindictive. They are based on complete mischaracterizations of the words of my Aunt Janis and hearsay from my sister Kathleen, as told through her former abusive spouse (a “source” with clear ulterior motives). I’ve attached Kathleen and Janis’ responses to what has been published about them. Both are more than willing to speak to law enforcement and clarify these rumors and discrepancies.
For my part, I can say I have never in my life experienced any kind of abuse and am willing to take a polygraph or any other method to prove it. If I suspected my father of sexually abusing anyone, I would escort him to jail myself. But the reality is that these false claims are completely baseless, originating from a clickbait blogger capitalizing off my missing sister at the expense of my family.
LE was provided these statements by my sister Kathleen and Aunt Janis after these damaging, salacious rumors gained traction, and I’d also like to share parts of them here for context. I plan to post these statements on our website for people to review in full. My sister Kathleen stated the following in response to hearsay attributed to her being put in print:
‘I believe the insinuation is that my father, Fred Murray, abused his children. This is absolutely false and a
complete misrepresentation of anything I have ever said. I adamantly deny any scenario in which I claimed my father abused me or any of his children. To falsely attribute this disgusting accusation to me is reprehensible. It is a dark and twisted way to fabricate the truth shaping his narrative. [The] source for this false information is my ex- husband, whose biases and own alcohol and domestic/sexual abuse history should have been considered prior to using him as a source of such lies. l love my father dearly and have been affected deeply by the long-term implications and permanence of these disgusting insinuations.’ [Read her full statement here]
My Aunt Janis stated the following in her statement:
Reference a comment about a single tent – ‘This is simply not true. I was commenting on the fact I did not particularly enjoy camping but [he] twisted my words implying something sinister about a single tent. In fact, Fred always had a separate tent for the girls and I can’t remember a single time he only took one of his kids. If I thought for a second Fred was abusing his kids in any way, I would have reported it to police immediately. Further, I often allowed my own daughters to accompany Fred on camping trips. This complete mischaracterization of my words is just a small sample of the tactics used as retribution for Fred’s refusal to participate...’ [Read her full statement here]
I want content consumers to hear the truth from me. The use of trolls, anonymous sourcing, and manipulation of facts to frame a narrative designed to evoke an emotional response is irresponsible. ‘Reporting’ such lies while ignoring the effects on the real lives of people left behind in the wake of a tragedy is unethical. I speak at length about this on James McMahon's podcast 'Shame'.
I’m thankful that LE gave me, someone who actually knew Maura (perhaps better than anyone), a chance to view the content of these emails, invalidate them, and flag their senders as trolls and obstructionists before more mis-information was spread online. I am also thankful they share my desire to avoid clickbait fodder reaffirming false narratives, which has only served to re-traumatize my family and slow our efforts to find Maura.
In a meeting with law enforcement (LE), I was shown the user name and redacted instant messages from an unknown person who was in contact with Maura in the days leading up to her disappearance. LE asked if I recognized the instant messenger user name, but I did not. However, I did some basic internet searches and was able to identify them. I reached out in hopes they may remember something, anything. Well, I finally received a reply back.
This person and Maura were West Point classmates and became friends, keeping in contact when she transferred to UMass. This individual was also perhaps the last person to communicate with Maura before she disappeared (although LE did not confirm).
I was very disappointed to learn that neither LE nor anyone else had ever reached out to them. A thousand questions ran through my mind, but mostly, why didn’t LE talk to one of Maura’s last known contacts? I was able to find them using my very limited resources - Google and alumni network mainly. They were willing to answer questions and truly wanted to help, but unfortunately they just couldn’t remember the context of their conversations some 17 years later. One thing they did clear up was the identity of a person in a photo with Maura that I have been trying to identify for years. The person confirmed it was them. I asked if they still had their computer/hard drive from back then, but they had gotten rid of it several years ago. My heart sank as I realized my hopes were shattered yet again.
I can’t help but wonder if LE would have contacted this person sooner - or contacted them at all - if we would be any closer to answers.
Unlike LE, we do not consider Maura’s disappearance a cold case. Many people have expressed an interest in learning more about our efforts to find Maura, so I plan to share more updates in future. I also want to thank those members of the community that have reached out to express their support and empathy in recent weeks, and who have strived to maintain the focus on Maura. We are grateful to those who share our genuine desire to find answers and help us bring Maura home.
Over the past year, despite the pandemic, our family has continued to move forward searching for Maura and we'd like to update everyone on recent developments to include an exciting new partnership.
Our family is consulting with Dr. Maurice Godwin, PhD, a renowned forensic profiler specializing in investigative psychology, crime scene analysis, missing persons, and geographic profiling of abductors and serial murders. He is an expert in his field; has appeared on national TV and news segments, authored several books, and runs his own forensic consultancy group out of North Carolina.
Dr. Godwin met with my father last month in New Hampshire to review the area on Route 112 where Maura’s car was found. They spent a couple days visiting areas of interest and discussing details of her disappearance. Dr. Godwin is a true professional and we are grateful to have someone of his caliber on the case. Some of you may be familiar with his work on the DC sniper and Tara Grindstead case. He prides himself on finding evidence that others have missed, something that we so desperately need. Thank you Dr. Godwin!
Over the past few years our family has obtained several samples from multiple areas of interest for testing. With mixed emotions we can report that the majority of the samples were either too degraded to provide definitive results or could not be connected to Maura at this time. Two of the samples were sent to labs in California and Florida for headspace analysis and an advanced technique called LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectroscopy). We are hopeful those tests will produce some results. For a grieving family desperate for answers this was disappointing; however, after some reflection we realized we can now shift focus elsewhere.
Additionally, during the spring we worked with an independent cadaver dog, who searched an area of interest from a tip provided by a local. The cadaver dog did not alert at this location. Nonetheless, the search continues and we remain hopeful.
A note on the trolling: We are aware of the trolling surrounding Maura’s case. We believe it is the work of a sadistic coward who has been trolling the case for a very long time. His behavior calls into question the sourcing behind much of the information reported as fact in Maura’s case. We are actively working with the authorities to put an end to this cruelty. Julie speaks to Amanda Knox about this topic, specifically Ethics in True Crime Journalism, in Season 2 of her podcast Labyrinths, and we will post the episode on the media page on the official website once it is released.