On Saturday, I received a message from a man named Michael, who claimed to have bumped into Maura Murray an hour prior to her disappearance, in Woodsville, in the company of two other women. He said he was passing through the area to meet up with his friend, whose birthday was that day.
I reached out to him via email and set up a call. We spoke later that day. His voice struck me as unusual but I chalked it up to some kind of speech impediment. He again explained his encounter and asked me to publish it.
I did not publish because I wanted to verify his story as well as I could. The name he gave me checked out – it was a real person at UMass in 2004. He also gave me the name and birthday of his friend – also a real person at UMass in 2004, whose birthday really was February 9. So far so good.
He had given me his phone number and said he’d be willing to speak to police. All this gave him more credibility. But when I had a PI look into the phone number, it suggested the number was a “Bandwidth” number. Apparently these are phone numbers you can get online to make it look like you’re calling from a certain location other than where you are actually calling from.
This disturbed me, as journalist Maggie Freleng received harassing texts from a Bandwidth number last week.
Additionally, I was unable to find any real social media presence for this person and was unable to reach his friend to verify this birthday party. By yesterday afternoon, I began to seriously suspect this was a well-orchestrated hoax.
Late last night, someone purporting to be the man I spoke to on the phone tried to post an apology on Reddit which spewed the same info he wanted me to publish in the first place. Luckily, the mods did the responsible thing and quickly took these down.
This person went to great lengths to conceal their identity and to try to get a false story onto my website. Their motives remain unclear. The New Hampshire police allegedly spoke to this individual yesterday but if they were able to determine the source, they have not released that person’s name or connection to the case. Due to the similarities between this and other recent behavior, I believe the person who orchestrated this ruse is a name familiar to Maura’s friends and family. Hopefully the police can piece it together.