"Missing O'Hair" Story Spreads:

The Curious Role of Bill Murray
by Conrad Goeringer

October 4, 1996

News coverage of the disappearance of American Atheist founder Madalyn Murray O'Hair, her son, and her adopted granddaughter, Robin, continued to percolate through the national media yesterday and today. CNN and the Los Angeles Times were among news sources which re-hashed details in the case, a fact that some observers attribute to the one-year anniversay of the mysterious disappearance.

Early reports noted that William Murray, estranged son of Madalyn O'Hair who is now a Christian proselytizer, had filed a "Request to Locate" with the Austin, Texas Police Department. In addition, the 1985 Porsche automobile belonging to Robin Murray O'Hair was located in a long-term parking lot at the Austin airport, and taken to a police impound yard for inspection. According to CNN, a spokesman for the police departments said "There is no indication of foul play." He also noted that if the family is located and asks police not to disclose their whereabouts, officials will reportedly close their investigation. Officer Mike Burgess noted "It is not against the law in Texas to be missing."

The new role of William Murray in this case has prompted speculation. As a youth, he was a co-plaintiff with his mother in the famous U.S. Supreme Court case MURRAY v. CURLETT (1963) which helped to abolish prayer and bible verse recitation in public schools. For a number of years, he had a varying relationship with his mother and the American Atheists organization; he eventually announced his conversion to Christianity and went on the stump for various religious groups including Jerry Falwell's old Moral Majority group. Murray currently heads a Washington D.C.-based political action committee called "Government Is Not God." 

According to CNN, "Murray said he filed the missing persons report to end a 'withering fire' of media interest, particularly from tabloid newspapers. 'I am hoping the police ... can bring about some kind of closure'."

But at American Atheists offices in Austin, manager Spike Tyson is skeptical. He told AANEWS this afternoon that "Bill Murray is looking for money for his organization, and hasn't had contact with his family for years." Tyson noted that for several years, when national conventions of American Atheists were held in different cities throughout the country, Murray often purchased abusive ads in local papers, and even picketed the events. "He's [William Murray] trying to maneuver himself into a position where he looks like some kind of good guy."

Tyson also reported that yesterday was a "mad house" of media inquiries, including calls from foreign countries. He added that reporters presented him with no new information in the case.

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