David Roland Waters: What Happened to Him? How Did He Die?

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The episode of ‘Disappeared’ titled ‘The Most Hated Woman in America’ details the case of the infamous atheist Madalyn Murray-O’Hair, who went missing with her son and granddaughter, raising several questions about their disappearance. While some believed that they moved someplace else, others had a feeling that they were kidnapped and murdered. As the case developed, David Roland Waters got connected to the vanishing of the O’Hairs. It delves deep into the involvement of David and provides us with a detailed account of the entire case, especially through interviews with the people related to the victims and the investigation.

Fueled by Betrayal, David Roland Waters Committed Murder

Born in a broken home in Peoria, Illinois, on March 24, 1947, David Roland Waters was accompanied by his parents — George A. Waters and Ruth I. Cremeens Waters — and four brothers, including Jamie Allan Waters, while growing up. For many years of his life, he had been in and out of juvenile detention and foster care. Aged about 17, in 1964, David and three other youths got into a heated and drunken argument with another youth over a car, which resulted in them murdering him. This was the first of his many criminal offenses, for which he was convicted of murder and had to serve 12 years behind bars.

After having quite a few run-ins with the law, David met Madalyn Murray-O’Hair for the first time in 1993. At the time, she was a controversial figure, too; an activist with strong opinions about organized religion and someone who supported atheism and began movements for the separation of church and state. She ran an atheist organization — American Atheists Inc. — based in Austin for which she needed a typesetter, so she gave the job to David, giving him $ 7 an hour for being her typesetter. Soon, he went up through the ranks and ended up becoming the office manager. Things started to become complicated between David and the O’Hairs in 1994.

When Madalyn, Jon, and Robin went out of town for a couple of months, in March and April 1994, David was allegedly asked by the atheists to siphon $100,000 from the accounts by stashing $85,000 in the office safe and keeping $15,000 for himself as a fee for doing the job. This happened at the time Madalyn was allegedly trying to hide assets. When David began doing the job, he got nervous and decided to stop midway after making several withdrawals amounting to more than $54,000, out of which he took his $15,000 fee as instructed and stashed the remaining $39,000 in the office safe.

O’Hairs then ended up framing David for theft by secretly taking the money from the safe and accusing him of stealing the entire $54,000, as per David. Despite his claims that he had withdrawn the money upon Jon’s instructions, he was still convicted of stealing. The entire incident was talked about by David and a ghostwriter in an unpublished book he wrote about the atheists — O’Hairs. A year and a half after the incident, in late 1995, Madalyn, her son, and her granddaughter went missing along with over $600k, with many believing that they might have fled the country and moved to New Zealand in order to avoid legal problems due to the illegalities of their business. However, no evidence of that was ever found.

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In the same 200-page book, David promoted this theory about the O’Hairs. However, it didn’t take long for the media and the authorities to link David to the disappearance of the atheist family as well as of a Florida-based man named Danny Fry. Resultantly, he became the prime suspect in the case and was subject to an intense investigation. As the truth about the disappearance of the O’Hairs became clearer, the authorities arrested David and two co-conspirators — Gary Karr and Gerald “Chic” Osborne for the kidnapping and murder of the family. Regardless, since they couldn’t find the bodies, David could not be tried for murder, only abduction.

A couple of years after his arrest, he confessed his role in the kidnapping and killing of the O’Hair family. He even testified that the atheists gave him more than $500k in gold coins in a San Antonio motel in order to buy their freedom. But as per the claims of the investigators, the O’Hairs were killed regardless, after a short while. Apart from pleading guilty to the charges against him, David also came clean to the authorities about the location where he and the co-conspirators buried the dismembered remains of the abducted O’Hair family members and Danny Fry.

In addition, David led them to a Hill Country pasture located right outside Camp Wood, Texas, from where they were able to excavate the remains. While Gary Karr and Gerald “Chic” Osborne were sentenced for embezzlement, David received an additional 28 years on top of the 60-year imprisonment sentence. He was also ordered to pay back more than $543k to the United Secularists of America and to the estates of the victims. Since he was in prison, it is highly unlikely that these debts were paid.

David Roland Waters Died While Serving His Sentence

It turned out that David Roland Waters was suffering from lung cancer around the time he was sentenced and imprisoned. So, just sometime after beginning his sentence behind bars, David’s condition became serious and he was admitted to the Federal Medical Center in the town of Butner in North Carolina. At the age of 55, he succumbed to the deadly illness and took his final breath on January 27, 2003, at the North Carolina medical facility.

Read More: Mary Louise Day: What Happened to Her? How Did She Die?