Jurors Couldn't Agree on Atheist's status
Wednesday, June 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
SAN ANTONIO (AP) â€” Jurors who convicted the only man ever charged in the disappearance of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair couldn't agree on whether she, her son and granddaughter are alive or dead.
The panel also was split on what happened during September 1995, when the three O'Hairs abruptly left Austin and ended up in San Antonio, the jury foreman said Tuesday.
``I would say that three jurors think they are dead and the other nine think they are alive somewhere in the world,'' Hector R. Rodriguez told the San Antonio Express-News.
The jurors convicted Gary Paul Karr last week in federal court in Austin on four charges involving extortion of money from the missing atheists in 1995. However, they acquitted Karr, 52, of charges of kidnapping conspiracy.
O'Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray and granddaughter Robin Murray O'Hair disappeared from San Antonio along with $500,000 in gold coins. Prosecutors presented a theory that the three were kidnapped, robbed and killed and their bodies dismembered. But no bodies were ever found.
Defense lawyers argued during the three-week trial that the three had fled to Romania or elsewhere.
While some jurors thought the O'Hairs were kidnapped from their home and later murdered, a few others believed the O'Hairs left Austin after being forced from power by another faction led by Ellen Johnson, the current president of American Atheists, Rodriguez said.
The dissidents believed the O'Hairs enlisted Karr, David Waters and Danny Fry to help them raise money to make their overseas getaway, and that something went wrong.
Waters, the O'Hairs' former office manager and the suspected mastermind behind the scheme, has maintained his innocence and has not been charged. A convicted murderer, he pleaded guilty to stealing $54,000 from O'Hair's organizations and is serving 60 years in prison on weapons charges.
Fry was found beheaded in 1995 shortly after the O'Hairs disappeared.
An outspoken atheist, O'Hair reveled in calling herself the most hated woman in America. She was involved in successful court battles in the 1960s to remove prayer and Bible-reading from the nation's public schools. She was 77 when she vanished.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 4. Karr faces life in prison under the so-called federal three-strikes law because of prior convictions.