Kelly Jolkowski - An All American Girl
On that fateful day in February 2004, Maura broke promises to two people she loved,
Billy, and her father, Fred.
In the last email sent to Billy, as noted in Part II, Maura is referring to messages that Billy
had left for her the day before. She had been away from the phone, so she did not get
those messages on that day.
Sharon explains the events surrounding the broken promises: “It has been 18 months,
and yet we still have no clue why Maura chose to take a week off of school, drive a car
that she knew was not mechanically sound and head to NH. We do know that she
attempted to call my son Billy the afternoon of her missing. Because she could not reach
him, she emailed him. She made no mention of the trip, (of course we think this would be
like her - she would not want him worried about her traveling alone in a car with
mechanical problems) There were two calls made on her cell phone before she left
UMass that confirm that she was attempting to find a room in the VT/NH area.
On Sunday, she also had promised to call her father the evening of her missing. We
believe that she had every intention to follow through on this promise because duplicate
copies of insurance forms were found in her car. The scheduled phone call with her
father was for him to assist her. She had to have either picked them up from the Hadley
MA police station (regarding an auto accident she had on Sat 2/7/04) or down loaded
them online. It is not unusual that she did not attempt to call Fred at work and tell him of
her plans. He is a nuclear medicine technician and can take neither personal calls at
work, nor cell phone calls. Maura's broken promises to her Dad and to Billy lead me to
believe that Maura has been harmed.”
That night, Maura’s car was found near a sharp curve on a rural road near Haverhill, NH.
There was some damage to the car and the air bags had been deployed. It was 12
degrees and snowing. According to reports, Maura spoke to at least one person and was
seen by other neighbors after the accident. There were other unconfirmed sightings
within a 4-5 mile range of the accident.
No one knew exactly where Maura was headed. She had made a call earlier that day to a
rental unit and directions to Vermont were found on her computer and in her car.
Maura’s father was not notified until the afternoon of the 10th that his car was found. The
family had to call the Haverhill Police to let them know that it was not Fred in the car, but
Maura. Where was she?
Police performed ground and air searches for Maura, but yet no records showed any
searches took place to the east of the car. Searches were not done until 2 days after
Maura’s disappearance. Family members, including Billy and Fred came and did their
own searches. No one was able to find any footprints in the 2 feet of snow that covered
the side of the road. Posters were everywhere, but Maura was still no where to be seen.
The police reported that Maura’s credit and ATM cards and her cell phone have not
been used. The last call went out at 4:37 p.m. on February 9, 2004 when she checked
her messages. The trail leading to Maura went dead.
All of us who live in the “not knowing” can look back and see what we would have done
differently had we known what to do, but how many people know what to do? Do you?
Sharon said: “I wish I had known about her plans and could have discussed them with
her. We have a family rule about calling each other and confirming destination arrival. If I
had known that she was taking a trip, then perhaps she would not be missing. I also
could have asked her to consider not going, and it is feasible that she may not have
gone. At the least, I am convinced that at my request she would have been willing to call
me when she arrived at her destination.
I wish I would have known of all of the resources available to the families of the missing. I
also wish all of us had been more adamant with Law Enforcement (LE) that their suicide
and runaway theories just did not fit. Because we knew they were really our only hope as
well as we all had much respect and admiration for LE as a whole, we made a conscious
choice to not be in an adversarial position with them. As a result of the media attention
that we were able to gather, we finally did receive some action on the part of LE in
Maura's case a week after she was missing. But, I am convinced that we should have
taken a much more pro-active course in dealing with her missing. We should have
contacted politicians in both NH and MA, as well as the national media and hired our own
private investigator. (We did have a PI advising us after about 2 weeks, but not one that
took an active role in the investigation.) There is no doubt that we lost valuable
information, as did LE, by depending on the tax dollars of NH to provide to us the
answers we did not have.”
I’m going to climb up on my soapbox for a moment here. There are many things that are
frustrating about Maura’s story. I sincerely hope that with time, training, and awareness,
things can turn out differently in so many cases.
When I was at the National Conference earlier this year in Philadelphia, I had the
opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions about what is important in a missing
person’s case. My number one answer was and still is what happens in the beginning is
the key. That can make or break a case. Assumptions that the person voluntarily left
when there is no solid evidence of that fact cause lost time and leads. Handling cases
more proactively will require additional training and manpower, but when we are talking
about lives lost, there is no price too high.
Resources for families of the missing should always be provided. As a minimum, child
cases should be referred to NCMEC and adult cases to the Center for Missing Adults.
Many of the child cases get that basic reference, (but not all) and it isn’t often (based
upon information provided by the families we serve) that families of missing adult’s cases
are given alternatives so they can ensure they are doing everything possible to find their
missing loved one.
Changes in the way things are currently handled will take time, but are not impossible to
have put into place.
The worries and anxieties begin to build for her family as the search for Maura continues
Sunday, October 02, 2005
10/02/05 The All-American Girl Part IV
What happens immediately after a disappearance can forever alter a life, or lives, when
you count all the people who care—the people left behind.
In Maura’s case, a mere 2 minutes made the difference. She could not have been more
than 2 minutes away when police arrived at the accident scene, but yet, they did not
check nearby, looking for the car’s occupant. I’m sure this 2 minutes will haunt Maura’s
family until such time as the truth about her fate is revealed, and perhaps forever,
depending upon the outcome.
Interested readers can find nearly every news story written about Maura’s disappeance
since the beginning on the Project Jason forum.
In these news stories, you will read about the additional frustrations the family has had to
deal with, plus their efforts to obtain more information in order to find Maura. The
Murrays also lost an opportunity to have Maura featured on America’s Most Wanted.
According to John Walsh, the Haverhill authorities would not provide them with a police
report so that they could feature Maura on their show. (A Missing Person’s Police Report
is a public record.) This happened a short time after Maura was missing.
This year, Fred Murray was told he would receive cooperation with LE (law enforcement)
from the NH Attorney General. That cooperation never came to pass.
Despite all of the roadblocks and the misperceptions, Fred Murray would not be stopped
in his quest to find his daughter. Nearly every weekend, he makes the drive back to NH
from MA and searches for her.
Fred’s Cousin, Norma, describes these searches: "We have powerful images-- indelible
memories not to be forgotten, born out of a sadness we never imagined we would see.
When you watch as Fred and his searchers, searching in storm drains, in old abandoned
wells, and through bone filled green trash bags, only to discover they're animal bones.
Relief shows when they are not his Maura, but observing this you find the trauma reeling
you back to the original shock you felt when you learned that she had vanished.When
you watch them rummaging through debris and rubbish, sometimes knee deep in filthy
water looking for Maura try as you might, you just can't totally disassociate yourself from
the fact that Fred is searching for his Child. You just can't make the pain leave. You are
left with trying to dull the pain enough to make it through the day and this goes on day
after day, after day Other times you are left shaking your head in disbelief with what has
to be dealt with. You have to wonder if some people's brains have atrophied.
Fred's criticized for being too critical, too forthright, too angry, too aggressive Fred's
anger is justified. He lives this everyday. Tell me, what should his presentation be? Just
what is the politically correct protocol to follow when your child has vanished without a
trace? Explain this to me, after seeing Fred running to check under a fly infested tarp to
see if the enclosed remains are those of his daughter, finding instead a decomposing
animal with a stench that will probably never leave him this is his daughter we are talking
about. Explain it to me after "walking a mile in his moccasins."
It's quite understandable to me that Fred would go where angels fear to tread to find
Maura. If ever I have gained the ultimate in respect for a man, it's for Fred. Someone
remarked to me one day that "Fred isn't 6 foot tall but he's much more than 7'4" in
stature!" It's the truth.”
Fred and Sharon were on the same Montel Williams Show as my husband and I. I clearly
remember being in the room where one waits for their turn to go onstage, and watching
Maura’s segment of the show. There was footage of Fred as he did his weekend
searches, looking under and inside anything that could hold a body. I don’t think there
was anything on that entire show that affected me like those scenes. I couldn’t imagine
the awful feeling he must get every time he looks under an old tarp or a pile of rubbish,
but yet he kept looking, week after week, month after month, and now more than a year
later. Norma said it all about Fred. Love compels you to do things you didn’t think you
were capable of doing.
I will share a comment from Norma about the family’s dealings with LE. As Sharon
already said, we respect their positions and need their assistance. Most of the families
we work with cannot afford their own PI, so they must depend on our LE to help. I will
make clear that there are agencies which do a wonderful job in aiding families of the
missing, and there are those that do not. I will also make clear that in the case of those
which do not do a good job, they may be hindered by lack of manpower, training, and
personal and learned prejudices about missing persons. (“Runaway Bride”, anyone?)
As taxpayers, and citizens in need of their assistance, we must continue to work together
to resolve these issues. I believe the federal government acknowledges that missing
persons are at an epidemic level, and help is needed. As I stated in the last entry, this is
a work in progress. A task force has been formed to help.
In the meantime, I present the stories of the missing, from the perspective of the family.
Norma states: “As to help a few words from LE other than noncommittal statements may
help and could possibly go a long way in some comforting of the Murray and Rausch
families. We do understand LE cannot divulge everything about any investigation, but at
the same time we are aware they could choose to share some information with the family.
Choosing to hold a press release every now and again as to some of what has
transpired in Maura's investigation would have shown some sensitivity to this family's
plight. Fred is not the only member of the Murray family and LE can do this without
jeopardizing the investigation. Why is this great divide? Do we not all share the same
goal? So much that's been said and done about Maura seems so counter productive.We
are all well aware that different states handle cases differently. What we don't
understand is the lack of accepting much needed help. We will never understand this
protocol. At the risk of sounding redundant it his daughter he is searching for there is no
place for protocol here.”
Sharon adds: “I am most frustrated because the NH LE in Maura's case will not
cooperate with Fred. They definitely erred in the beginning stage of the investigation. I
certainly do not think that their initial errors were intentional because I know that we all
make mistakes. However, I did expect them to put their mistakes behind them (even if
they did not acknowledge them). And I don't think anyone expected anything other than
for the NH LE to just go forward and do their best. However, they have not only opted to
not cooperate with Fred, they also will not cooperate with the media.”
The Murray’s have been somewhat successful in getting media attention, although the
local media seems to have been silenced. We who live this know that we must make
continued efforts to make known the story of our missing loved one. As Montel put it:
“Someone, somewhere, knows something!”
“I recall when Maura went missing that her case was featured to be on one of the
morning news shows.” Sharon said. “It was bumped because an airplane turned around
in mid-flight and it was assumed that perhaps there was fear of a terrorist. There were
other items of interest that were going in the world that took precedence over a local
girl's missing. Then if the missing is featured long enough that the U.S. is enamored with
her case, the media respond to the rise in ratings and all of the emails, etc.
When Maura went missing, it was a very busy news time. We actually were able to get
more attention a few weeks and even months later......of course, being in NH where cell
phones do not work, the internet was limited to the library and the only motel had a total
of 2 telephone lines was not a big help to us.
Maura has been featured on "Greta VanSustern", "CNN Morning News", the Boston area
television channels, including a special "What Happened to Maura Murray" on Boston's
Channel 5 "Chronicle", the local radio and television stations in VT and NH as well as
"Seventeen Magazine","The Montel Show" and one of my local television stations. Maura
was also recently featured on well known blogger Steve Huff’s "Dark Side "true crime
As I have researched missing person cases, I see that I have been more successful with
getting attention for Maura's case than the families of most missing person's. However,
from my perspective, it is not nearly enough. We needed more media coverage,
especially during the first days of her missing when everyone's memories and
perspectives were not clouded by the passing of time. I hope to continue to get more
attention for Maura.”
Sharon goes on to state another reason for additional coverage: “The media should pay
attention to all missing person's cases. However, in Maura's case, the media should
investigate the manner in which Maura's case has been handled. I fear that the neglect
by NH LE in Maura's case endangers the lives of other women living or traveling in NH.
It is my strong opinion that the media needs to do some investigative reporting to shed
some light on her case not only in the hopes of solving the mystery of "What Happened
to Maura Murray", but also to motivate the state of NH in adopting missing person
protocols to protect all citizens, especially the weak and vulnerable.”
The Murray and the Rausch family’s efforts to find Maura have been tremendous, but
they still yield no true results. How does a family go on in the face of the not knowing?