Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mysterious Disappearance of Madalyn Murray O'Hair

A News Reporter Uncovers Clues

John MacCormack, a reporter with the San Antonio Express News, was assigned to cover the one-year anniversary of the O'Hair family disappearance. MacCormack began working with a private investigator to find out what really happened to the trio, but it turned out to be more than just a single-day story.

Jon O'Hair
Jon O'Hair

The result was a series of stories. MacCormack uncovered the 1995 tax return (it was his story that actually alerted the IRS) and discovered that Jon's Mercedes-Benz had been advertised for sale in the Express-News and then sold at a loss in front of a local bar. MacCormack tracked down the buyer and showed him Jon's picture but discovered that the seller was actually some other unidentified person.

MacCormack managed to obtain Jon's cell phone records and noted a flurry of activity during the month following the family's disappearance. One of the calls led him to a jeweler who had sold Jon $600,000 worth of gold coins. The coins had come in at intervals, and Jon had picked up the first installment of $500,000's worth, but hadn't shown up to retrieve the final $100,000. And after September, all cell phone activity stopped, and the number was disconnected.

Gold Coin
Gold Coin

MacCormack's investigation was time-consuming. Another year passed, and to commemorate the anniversary he was asked to be a guest on ABC's Nightline to talk about the mystery. It was an event that would break the case wide open, providing a twisted roadmap for the IRS, FBI and San Antonio police to follow.


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