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  O'Hair Suspect Admits to 'Violence'

By Jim Vertuno
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Jan. 29, 2001; 7:50 p.m. EST

AUSTIN, Texas –– The chief suspect in the 1995 disappearance of atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her family said he committed "physical violence" against them before leading investigators to their dismembered bodies, according to court documents unsealed Monday.

David Waters, who had been indicted on five charges of kidnapping and extortion, pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and extortion. He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing March 30.

Waters, 53, already is serving 60 years for stealing $54,000 from O'Hair's atheist organization while he was her office manager.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerald Carruth said the plea deal was an easy resolution to the case and he didn't expect Waters to live long enough to get out of prison.

Waters' attorney, Bill Gates, declined to comment.

Investigators believe O'Hair, 77, her son Jon Garth Murray, 40, and granddaughter Robin Murray O'Hair, 30, were killed, dismembered and buried on a 5,000-acre ranch west of San Antonio.

At the time of her disappearance, O'Hair called herself the most hated woman in America. She was involved in successful court battles in the 1960s to ban prayer and Bible-reading in public schools.

The O'Hairs were later seen in San Antonio but dropped from sight along with about $500,000 in gold coins from one of her atheist organizations. O'Hair's disappearance wasn't reported for a year until her estranged son told Austin police she was missing.

Some wondered whether O'Hair had run off with money from United Secularists of America or whether she had drifted away to die somewhere where Christians wouldn't pray over her.

But over the past several years, authorities have pieced together an alleged plot by several people to kidnap, rob and kill the O'Hairs.

Specific details were not in the records unsealed Monday, but Waters admitted he did "commit physical violence" to the O'Hairs. Over the weekend, he led investigators to what is believed to be the family's remains, including a metal artificial hip and three skulls.

O'Hair had a hip replacement operation several years before her disappearance.

"The bones indicate three sets of human remains," said Roderick Beverly, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Antonio office. "All appeared to have their legs cut off."

Beverly stopped short of confirming the identity of the bodies, but said officials believe the search is over. He said the chance that the remains were those of the O'Hairs were "better than even."

It could take weeks to identify the remains through DNA tests and dental records. Investigators also will try to match the serial number on the metal hip to O'Hair's medical records.

Investigators also found a skull and hands buried separately. The body of Danny Fry, one of the suspects in the alleged plot, was found near Dallas in 1995 with the head and hands severed.

Last August, Gary Paul Karr, 52, a former jailmate of Waters, was sentenced to life in prison for extorting money from the O'Hairs.

Gerald Osborne, 50, was convicted this month of using a false Social Security number to rent the storage unit in Austin where authorities believe the O'Hairs were dismembered.

O'Hair's son William, 54, who was the subject of one of her lawsuits, is now a Christian evangelist. He said he feels sorry for his mother.

"She never really had the joy of living. She spent her entire life battling," said Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C.

"I don't think there was anything she didn't battle," he said.


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© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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