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Woman Testifies in Atheist Case

May 17, 2000 GMT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The man suspected of masterminding the disappearance of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair left bloody sneakers in his girlfriend’s apartment and asked her to rent storage space to keep $500,000 in gold coins, the woman testified Wednesday.

Patti Jo Steffens, the former girlfriend of David Roland Waters, said that she suspected Waters was involved in violence but that she was too afraid to tell police.

Steffens’ testimony came in the trial of Gary Paul Karr, 52, one of Water’s alleged co-conspirators and the only person charged in the atheists’ 1995 disappearance.


Federal investigators believe Waters was the mastermind of a plot to kidnap, rob and kill O’Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray and granddaughter Robin Murray O’Hair in 1995. The three atheists disappeared from San Antonio with $500,000 in gold coins.

Investigators believe the O’Hairs were dismembered and buried in 55-gallon drums. But the bodies have never been found. And Karr’s lawyers say the O’Hairs could have left the country to flee problems with the IRS.

Waters had worked the O’Hairs, but got in trouble for stealing an office computer from their atheist organization.

Steffens testified that Waters became angry when O’Hair published a newsletter that was critical of him. She said that prior to the O’Hairs’ disappearance, Waters would discuss his fantasies about torturing O’Hair.

``He would sort of talk about how he would torture her, take pliers and pull her toes off,″ Steffens said.

Steffens also said Waters, Karr and another man, Danny Fry, all were staying at her apartment in August 1995 when the men unexpectedly left for about a month, occasionally making return trips to Austin.

The men’s trip matches the time frame prosecutors say the O’Hairs were held against their will in San Antonio.

During that time, Steffens said, she noticed handcuffs Waters kept were missing from their apartment.

Steffens said Waters had no job but sent her about $16,000 in cash through the mail and claimed the money came from gambling.

Upon the men’s return, she said, Fry appeared very upset. ``He looked really horror-stricken, like something was weighing on him. This guy was super bubbly. It just jolted me with the worst feeling,″ Steffens said.

Fry’s body was later found in Dallas County with his head and hands missing.

Steffens said she once found bloody sneakers in her apartment, which angered Waters. ``There were just chunks of blood, like somebody was standing in a puddle of blood,″ Steffens said.

Steffens said she also once unexpectedly found a shovel and a bow saw in the trunk of Waters’ Cadillac _ tools prosecutors believe were used to cut up the O’Hairs and bury them.