New Hampshire State Police recently added the case of Maura Murray, a UMass Amherst student who went missing after she crashed her car on a snow-covered New Hampshire road in 2004, to an FBI violent crimes database that authorities and her family hope will lead to more information about her disappearance.
The Murray family received a call from the New Hampshire attorney general’s office last week with news of the filing.
“When I do get a call from a New Hampshire number, I stop everything that I am doing and my heart starts racing,” said Murray’s sister, Julie, in an interview with the Globe on Tuesday.
Officials told the family that State Police submitted the case to the FBI’s Violent Crime Apprehension Program, a nationwide database that gathers and analyzes violent crimes, including missing persons cases, according to Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office.
The database allows “police departments to better coordinate communication and investigative efforts on potentially linked crimes,” she said in an e-mail.
The Murrays were not made aware of any new developments in the case and officials did not say what prompted them to add Murray’s file to the database nearly 18 years after her disappearance. But the family still views the filing as a small win in a years-long fight for answers and justice.
“The name of the program itself indicates that they finally consider Maura’s disappearance as a result of foul play,” said Julie Murray. “Now, that’s interesting and important for my family, because the state of New Hampshire has never classified Maura’s case as criminal, right? It’s always just been an open missing person case.”
In the years following the 21-year-old’s disappearance, her father, Fred, publicly criticized the police investigation for treating the disappearance as a missing persons case and not a criminal matter, and called on the FBI to join the investigation.
The FBI has maintained the ViCAP database since 1985, with over 5,000 law enforcement agencies contributing more than 85,000 cases to the system in that time, Setera said.
A New Hampshire State Police spokesperson referred questions to the attorney general’s office.
Murray, a Hanson, Mass., native, was last seen after her car got stuck in a snowbank on the side of Wild Ammonoosuc Road in Woodsville, a village in Haverhill, N.H., near the Vermont border on Feb. 9, 2004. An investigation into her disappearance by New Hampshire authorities has been open ever since.
In April 2019, New Hampshire State Troopers and FBI agents searched the basement of a home on Wild Ammonoosuc Road near the scene of the crash but found no evidence. That search came after cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar, financed by private citizens, detected what her family believed were human remains beneath the home. Investigators said they found only a small piece of pottery and old piping after digging several feet beneath the basement floor.
In September, human bone fragments were found in the area of Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H., leading some to speculate that they were Murray’s remains, but New Hampshire senior assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin said they were not connected to her case. State Police at the time said the bone fragments came from someone who died prior to 1942, based on radiocarbon dating.
Strelzin said there have been no recent developments in Murray’s case.
Murray, a nursing student at UMass Amherst at the time of her disappearance, was last seen when a passerby stopped and offered to help her after she had crashed her 1996 Saturn on a sharp turn on the rural road in Woodsville. Murray waved him off and said she had called AAA. The man, who lived nearby, drove away and called police to report the crash.
When a police cruiser pulled up to the location about 10 minutes later, Murray was gone.
Her father has said that he had dinner with his daughter in Amherst on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2004, two days before she disappeared. Hours later, about 3:30 a.m., Murray was driving her father’s new Toyota when she struck some guardrails in Hadley, causing $10,000 worth of damage. By Monday, Feb. 9, 2004, Murray had used her computer to look up directions to the Berkshires and Burlington, Vt.
Murray withdrew $280 from her bank account and sent an e-mail to a professor telling them that she would miss some upcoming classes because of a death in her family and that she was needed back home in Hanson. No such death had occurred. Murray went on to stop at a liquor store, and wine was found in her car after she went missing. The car was locked when police found it stuck in the snowbank near a stand of pine trees about 7 p.m.
The case unfolded in the infancy of social media and prompted widespread speculation and sleuthing in online forums and message boards. In 2017, Murray’s disappearance was featured in a documentary series on the Oxygen network, which described the case as the “first crime mystery of the social media age,” having occurred only five days after the launch of Facebook.
“This is a nightmare to deal with and we’ve received a tremendous amount of support,” said Julie Murray on Tuesday. “But we’ve also had deal with people in the true crime community who have distorted, monetized and capitalized on our family’s tragedy all in the name of entertainment. That has made these horrible circumstances only worse.”
Information from previous Globe stories was used in this report.