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Atheist O'Hair Was Murdered, IRS Says

Crime: She and two relatives were killed in a plot to steal $600,000, affidavit claims. Four suspects are named, but no arrests have been made.

May 28, 1999| From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — For the first time since Madalyn Murray O'Hair vanished in 1995, investigators said the nation's foremost atheist and two of her relatives were killed. They also said the crime was orchestrated by her former office manager in a plot to steal $600,000.

The accusations came in a 36-page affidavit filed in court by the IRS before a hearing for 52-year-old David R. Waters.

At Thursday's hearing, Waters, a convicted murderer on probation for skimming $54,000 from the O'Hair family's atheist organizations, pleaded guilty to two gun possession charges unrelated to the O'Hair case. He could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Waters has not been charged in the disappearance of O'Hair, her son and her granddaughter.

O'Hair, who helped bring about the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning organized prayer in public schools, vanished nearly four years ago with her son Jon Garth Murray and her granddaughter Robin Murray, whom O'Hair had adopted, and $500,000 in gold coins.

At the time, authorities wondered whether the three were victims of foul play or had merely run off with their organization's money.

Others suggested that O'Hair, who was 77 and ailing, had gone off to die quietly so Christians wouldn't pray over her.

The affidavit said IRS agents had concluded that the family was killed, based on several pieces of circumstantial evidence and reports from confidential sources.

The sources told the government that Waters had expressed fantasies about killing O'Hair and "spoke about seeing Madalyn suffer and snipping off her toes."

The affidavit alleged that Waters schemed to steal at least $600,000 from the United Secularists of America, an organization headed by O'Hair. Waters worked for her in 1993 and 1994.

Authorities suspect that the family's remains were stored in barrels and buried on a ranch near San Antonio, but two recent FBI searches failed to find barrels or bodies.

Also named in the affidavit is Waters' former cellmate, Gary Karr, who is imprisoned in Detroit and has admitted involvement in Texas homicides that closely match the O'Hair case, according to the FBI.

The affidavit also names Danny Fry in the alleged plot. Fry's headless, handless body was dumped in Texas two days after the three vanished. The IRS said Waters was responsible for Fry's killing.

A fourth man is also named, but his role was unclear.

"What it looks like to me is a script for Oliver Stone's next movie," said Waters' attorney, Patrick Ganne.

"They don't have any direct evidence to link him. It's all speculation."

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