Names: Madalyn Murray O’Hair age 76, John Murray age 40, & Robin Murray O’Hair age 30
Last seen: August 27, 1995
Location: Austin, Texas
Status: Found deceased in 2001
Disappeared: Season 1 Episode 9: “The Most Hated Woman in America”
76 year old Madalyn Murray O’Hair was last seen in Austin, Texas on August 27, 1995. She disappeared along with her son Jon Murray and granddaughter Robin Murray O’Hair.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair was born on April 13, 1919, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to parents Lena Christina and John Irwin Mays.
At age four, Madalyn was baptized into her father’s Presbyterian church. In 1936, Madalyn graduated from Rossford High School in Rossford, Ohio.
In 1941, Madalyn married her first husband, John Henry Roths, a steelworker. In the wake of World War II, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and he was in the United States Marine Corps.
In 1945, Madalyn began a romantic relationship with William J. Murray, Jr., a married officer, while they were stationed in Italy. She gave birth to her first son, William J. Murray with him.
Madalyn divorced Roths and took Murray’s name, but never married him. As a Roman Catholic, the officer refused to leave his wife.
In 1949, Madalyn graduated from South Texas College of Law with a law degree. In 1954 she gave birth to a second son, Jon Garth Murray, with boyfriend Michael Fiorillo.
Between 1957 and 1960, Madalyn began attending socialist group meetings. She attempted to defect to the Soviet Union on two occasions but was denied entry.
In 1959, Madalyn enrolled her son William at Woodbourne Junior High which held mandatory classroom prayers and Bible readings. In 1960, Madalyn proceeded to file a lawsuit against the Baltimore Public School System to remove prayer from schools.
In 1963, Madalyn founded American Atheists, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the civil liberties of atheists and advocating separation of church and state.
On June 17, 1963, the US Supreme Court upheld her position in Abington School Dist. v. E. Schempp and Murray v. Curlettand. The landmark ruling declared that school sponsored Bible reading in U.S. public schools was unconstitutional. Her involvement in the legal fight made her a national figure.
After the decision, Madalyn and her family moved to Hawaii and Mexico before settling in Austin, Texas in 1965. She married her second husband, Richard O’Hair, a former U.S. Marine and FBI informant.
In 1980, Madalyn disavowed her oldest son when he converted to Christianity at Gateway Baptist Church in Dallas. He later published a memoir about his spiritual journey from a drug using alcoholic to becoming a Baptist minister.
At the time of her disappearance, Madalyn worked at American Atheists with her second son Jon Murray and granddaughter, Robin Murray O’Hair. Robin was the daughter of William Murray, whom Madalyn adopted after he became estranged from the family.
The trio lived in Madalyn’s large home, which was also the American Atheists General Headquarters office, at 3702 Greystone Drive in Austin, Texas.
On August 27, 1995, Madalyn, Jon, and Robin were seen at their home at 3702 Greystone Drive in Austin, Texas.
The next day, an employee found a note on the locked door that read: “The Murray-O’Hair family has been called out of town on an emergency basis. We do not know how long we will be gone at the time of the writing of this memo.”
A few days after their disappearance, American Atheists’ employees continued to receive phone calls from Robin and Jon. They wouldn’t say what they were doing, but assured them that they would be home eventually. Their voices reportedly sounded strained and disturbed.
By September 28, 1995, all communication between the Murray-O’Hairs and members of the organization stopped.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Jon Murray, and Robin Murray O’Hair never returned home and have not been heard from since.
On September 24, 1996, Madalyn’s oldest son, William Murray, filed a missing persons report with the Austin Police Department.
Police found no signs of violence or forced entry in their Austin home, and unwashed breakfast dishes were sitting on the table. Madalyn’s diabetes and heart disease medications were on the kitchen table, and the family’s two Cocker Spaniels were left behind unattended.
On September 4, 1995, an ad appeared in a San Antonio newspaper to sell Jon Murray’s vehicle, a 1988 Mercedes 300, which included his cell phone number. A local real estate salesman who answered to the ad was later questioned by police, and said the seller didn’t fit Jon Murray’s description.
On September 22, 1995, Jon ordered $600,000 worth of gold coins from Cory’s Fine Jewelry and Rare Coins, a San Antonio jeweler. The coins were paid for from the atheists organization’s bank accounts in New Jersey, with funds that originated from an offshore bank in New Zealand.
On September 29, 1995, Jon met with a gold dealer at a San Antonio bank and took delivery of $500,000 worth of gold coins. The rest of his order had yet to arrive from the supplier.
On October 2, 1995, the final $100,000 worth of coins arrived, but Jon never collected it and stopped answering his cell phone.
During September of 1995 authorities found out that over 200 phone calls were made from Jon’s cell phone to various financial institutions, jewelers, overseas long-distance services, and travel agencies.
In October 1996, Robin’s vehicle, a 1985 Porsche 944, was found abandoned at the Austin airport.
Danny Raymond Fry
On October 2, 1995, a male body, with the head and hands missing, was found in a wooded area near the banks of the Trinity River in Dallas. With no face, fingerprints, clothing or ID, the man remained unidentified for three years.
In June 1998, authorities received a tip from a San Antonio reporter, saying that a small time “con man” named Danny Fry might be linked to the disappearances of the O’Hairs and Murray.
Authorities eventually found a possible connection between Fry and the unidentified body, and in January of 1999 DNA tests positively identified the body as belonging to Danny Fry.
In the summer of 1995, Fry had traveled to Austin, Texas, to visit his friend David Roland Waters. In September 1995, he started phoning his family from San Antonio, at the same time the O’Hairs and Murray disappeared.
Gary Paul Karr
In March 1995, Karr had just been released from prison after serving 21 years for two armed robberies and the violent kidnapping of a judge’s daughter.
In July 1995, Gary Paul Karr moved to David Roland Waters’ apartment in Texas. He and Waters had been jail mates in an Illinois prison in the 80’s.
On March 24, 1999, Gary Paul Karr was arrested on weapons charges. Investigators found two loaded handguns in his apartment, which was illegal for a convicted felon.
In December 1999, Gary Paul Karr was charged with kidnapping, extortion, and robbery in the disappearance of Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her two relatives.
Authorities believe that Waters, along with his two accomplices Gary Paul Karr and Danny Fry, kidnapped Madalyn, Jon, and Robin and held them in San Antonio, Texas.
For over a month, they extorted $610,000 from them before killing the three and disposing of their bodies. A few days later, Fry was also murdered by Karr and Waters.
Suspect guilty of extortion sentenced to life in jail
On June 3, 2000, Gary Paul Karr was found guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion, traveling interstate to commit violent acts, money laundering, and interstate transportation of stolen property.
In August 2000, Gary Paul Karr was sentenced to life in prison. He was acquitted of conspiring to kidnap in the disappearance case of Madalyn, Jon, and Robin because their bodies had yet to be located.
David Roland Waters
In 1965, Waters served eight years in an Illinois prison on a murder conviction. During his time in prison, he met Danny Fry and Gary Paul Karr.
Between 1993 and 1995, Waters worked as an office manager for Madalyn’s American Atheists organization. He was fired in the spring of 1995 when it was discovered that he stolen $54,400 from the organization.
On March 24, 1999, investigators executed a search warrant on Waters’ apartment and car. Waters was arrested on weapons charges when police uncovered a cache of 119 rounds of ammunition, which was a violation of his parole.
Suspect leads authorities to missing family on a southwest Texas ranch
On January 27, 2001, Waters confessed to his role in the kidnapping and murder of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Jon Murray, and Robin O’Hair. He agreed to lead authorities to their grave site on a southwest Texas ranch as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors.
On March 15, 2001, three sets of skeletal remains discovered in a remote ranch ninety miles west of San Antonio, in Camp Wood, Texas, were identified as Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Jon Murray, and Robin Murray O’Hair
The remains had been dismembered before they were buried. Madalyn and Robin’s cause of death could not be determined, but Jon’s body showed signs of blunt force trauma to the skull that might have led to his death.
David Rolland Waters pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap, robbery, and murder in the disappearance of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Jon Murray, and Robin O’Hair.
On March 30, 2001, David Rolland Waters was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of the plea bargain. He was also ordered to pay back a total of $543,665 to the United Secularists of America and to the estates of the Murray-O’Hairs.
On January 27, 2003, Waters died of lung cancer at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.
Resources & Further Information
News & Media Links
A Hint in Texas About the Fate of the Missing Atheist Leader Madalyn O’Hair – New York Times 03/99
Suspect in Slaying of Atheists Pleads Guilty to Weapons Charges – New York Times 05/99
The Atheists’ Cold Case Gets Warmer – Washington Post 08/99
Among the Faithless, a Faith Badly Broken – Washington Post 08/99
Indictment in the Disappearance Of Atheist O’Hair and Her Kin – New York Times 12/99
Man Guilty of Extortion in O’Hair Case – New York Times 06/00
Texas Ranch Searched for Body of Missing Atheist – New York Times 01/01
Bodies Identified as Those of Missing Atheist and Kin – New York Times 03/01
Remains of Missing Atheist ID’d – ABC News 01/06