Bodies of O'Hair, kin are sought in Texas

FBI digs in remote areas after 2 men are arrested

April 03, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Federal agents searched two remote sites in Texas yesterday, stepping up the search for the body of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the atheist leader who disappeared in 1995 with her son, her granddaughter and $500,000 in gold coins, government officials here said.

After digging throughout the day, searchers had failed to find any trace of O'Hair, whose Supreme Court case in 1963 led to a ban on organized prayer in the public schools.

But the officials said agents of the FBI and local authorities in Texas were hopeful that they were finally close to a solution for the perplexing 4-year-old case.

The growing activity in the case appears to have sprung from the arrest last week of two men, one of them a former employee of O'Hair's organization, American Atheists Inc.

The officials here said only that the digging had occurred at two sites outside San Antonio. But the Associated Press reported from San Antonio that the search was being undertaken on a ranch about 100 miles west of the city, near the town of Camp Wood.

The two men arrested last week are David R. Waters, the former employee of American Atheists, seized when agents found a large quantity of ammunition in a search of his apartment in Austin, Texas; and Gary P. Karr, arrested when two loaded handguns were found in his apartment in Novi, Mich.

Waters and Karr served sentences at the same minimum-security penitentiary in Vienna, Ill., for an eight-month period in the 1980s and have been charged under a federal law barring felons from possessing ammunition or firearms.

Waters, who once managed an office for O'Hair in Austin, pleaded guilty in 1994 to charges of stealing $54,000 from her organization. The $500,000 that disappeared along with O'Hair was withdrawn from an account belonging to the atheist group.

Karr spent more than two decades in prison after a series of crimes in 1974. He left prison in May 1995, four months before O'Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray and her granddaughter, Robin Murray-O'Hair, disappeared in San Antonio.

Pub Date: 4/03/99

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