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AMERICAN MORNING

Mystery Disappearance

Aired February 17, 2004 - 07:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The disappearance of a Massachusetts nursing student has her family, her friends and police now searching for answers. Twenty-one-year-old Maura Murray was last seen a week ago, after her car crashed on a rural highway in northern New Hampshire. Despite a frantic search, Maura's trail seems to have vanished.
Joining us this morning from a motel in Wells River, Vermont, which has now become a home base for the searchers, Maura's father, Fred Murray, and her boyfriend, Army Lieutenant Bill Rausch.

Thank you for joining us, gentlemen, both of you. I appreciate it. I know this is such a strained and difficult story.

Lieutenant Rausch, I'd like to start with you. The details are bizarre. Maura disappeared on Monday under very strange circumstances. Why don't you describe what you know about what happened?

LT. BILL RAUSCH, U.S. ARMY, MISSING WOMAN'S BOYFRIEND: Well, as far as we know, we are not exactly sure what did happen. However, I did receive a phone call from Maura as well as an e-mail Monday afternoon that said that she wanted to talk with me and for me to call her back.

I received Tuesday morning last week right after the accident another voice mail, a chilling voice mail that was what I believed to be Maura whimpering and crying in the background.

O'BRIEN: Did she say anything in that message, anything specific? Or was it only what you can hear was crying?

RAUSCH: I could only hear breathing, and then towards the end of the voice mail I heard what was apparent to be crying and then a whimper, which I'm certain was Maura.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Murray, let's back up a little bit. Maura had taken some money out of the ATM, had e-mailed her professor saying that she was going to miss some classes because of a family situation, and gotten in her car and headed north. Does anyone have any idea where she was headed, where she was going?

FRED MURRAY, FATHER OF MISSING STUDENT: We think because of the general direction she was traveling that she was going to an area that she's familiar with, which would be up in the White Mountains where we used to camp and hike. But the whole thing came on so suddenly that I know the night before she had no such plans. I spoke to her, and she was due to talk to me Monday night, but I don't think she was able to.

O'BRIEN: Was it typical at all for her to throw stuff in a car and say, hey, you know, I'm going to get out of town for a couple of days and just, you know, make a snap decision like that overnight? Or would that be very unusual for her?

MURRAY: She had never done it before, and no one that knows her can explain it. She's a very dependable kid, and she follows through on what she says she's going to do. And, again, I don't think that she was able to in this case.

O'BRIEN: She called you on a voice mail, Lieutenant Rausch, after this accident, and a local person stopped to help her, and she kind of waved them off. They say maybe she had been drinking even, but waved them off and said, no, no, no, I'm fine, I'm fine. She had sort of plowed into a little bit of a snow bank. Give me a sense of what the locals have been able to tell you about what happened after that, the last person who saw her, because other people saw her around the car, isn't that right?

RAUSCH: Yes. In fact, according to the local authorities, as well as eyewitnesses, Maura was seen at the vehicle not more than a minute before the authorities arrived at the scene, which leads us to believe that she was either picked up by an individual immediately after eyewitnesses saw her, or she walked up the road and was picked up then. The police themselves conducted a very thorough search with the Fish and Game folks here in the area, and with a dog scent leading only a few hundred feet from the accident and abruptly stopping, which again suggests that someone did, in fact, pick her up.

O'BRIEN: So, with her professor saying that nursing students are notoriously reliable young people, what do you think has happened? Do you think that there has been foul play at all? Do you think, especially in light of this phone message that you have of crying and whimpering, do you have any theories on what might have happened to Maura?

RAUSCH: Well, we're uncertain obviously of exactly did happen. But as Fred said, this is completely out of character in regard to her not being able to contact us. She had planned to call Fred that evening, her father. She had planned on calling me, wanted me to return her phone call. And if she were able to do so, we are 100 percent certain that she would have done exactly that.

O'BRIEN: Well, we're showing her picture, and we're certainly hopeful that if anybody has seen her or anyone has any information about Maura Murray that they will get in touch with you immediately. Obviously lots of people are worried about the status of this young woman.

Thank you for talking with us this morning. We certainly we wish you the best of luck in your search.

RAUSCH: Thank you.

MURRAY: Thank you. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.




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