Five years ago, my book about the disappearance of Maura Murray, True Crime Addict, was published. The book inspired a documentary for Oxygen, which the Murrays agreed to participate in on the condition that the producers try to “debunk” some of the theories brought out in the book, essentially making me a villain in the piece, a journalist the family could blame for distracting the focus from the goal of finding Maura. I agreed to be a part of it knowing this, because I thought it was important to get everything on the record. But the Murrays’ personal attacks in that show set the tone for the way I’m treated to this day by their most ardent fans.
Maura disappeared the week Facebook launched so it’s poetic that its Facebook the Murrays are using to radicalize their followers to this day. There are two main Facebook pages for Maura’s case. There’s the Official Group, which is moderated by Julie and Kurt Murray. And there’s the Public Figure page, which is moderated in part by Scott Wahl and Erinn Larkin. Each page has around 20,000 followers, the last I counted.
Ever since my book was published, both pages have allowed visitors to say the cruelest and most disparaging things about me – people calling me a heartless monster, suggesting I should be attacked, sued, investigated.
In the last year, I have seen the degree of hate increase exponentially, even as Julie and I began speaking amicably for the first time. Amanda Knox had stepped in as a moderator, in taped interviews for her podcast, which should be out soon. I warned both of them that this behavior was getting out of hand and hurting people. I thought it was only a matter of time before someone showed up on my doorstep.
I was told that Julie and Kurt had no time to moderate comments, or focus on the hate, because their focus was on finding Maura. When I asked them to remove Scott Wahl as mod on the page, after we learned he was the target of an FBI child porn raid, after Julie’s assistant admin told us that Wahl said he was putting tracking devices on a woman’s car, she refused to get involved. When I asked her to remove Erinn Larkin, after we learned how she helped plan a fake hoax in Maura’s case, that was used to keep crimes scene photos from the family, Julie refused to get involved.
And then, last week, someone climbed the stairs of my family’s vacation rental in the Outer Banks, to leave a threatening message ten feet from where my daughter was sleeping. My worst fears had happened. And even after that, instead of an apology, instead of asking their followers to tone it down, the Murrays allowed the hate to continue on their page. Here’s a small sampling:
When I asked about this, I was told the family has no time to moderate the page to filter out the hate. But that argument falls apart when you learn that Julie and Kurt regularly remove posts that call out the haters or are favorable toward me or anyone else in their crosshairs. I’ve been contacted by several people who were banned or removed from the page for speaking out against this behavior. One man was banned for simply showing me these posts. See below for a small sampling.
To add insult to injury, the man I had to seek a restraining order against in the Outer Banks, during my family’s vacation, is still a member of both groups and in good standing with the Murrays.
And it would be one thing if it was just me, the terrible journalist who wrote a book about Maura. But it’s not. The Murrays’ followers have also targeted Maggie Freleng, the journalist from the Oxygen documentary. A private investigator threatened her life and as recently as last week, someone sent her a photo of her decapitated head. Their behavior has also lost them support from US Marshal Art Roderick. And in a rare move, the nonprofit Let’s Bring Them Home, rescinded a $75,000 reward because of their behavior.
All we ever asked was for the Murrays to say directly, “Please do not attack these people or their families.” And they didn’t. And someone finally came to my doorstep. And even then, they refused.