Originally created 11/20/02

Police hunt owner of burned car



Police aren't certain who was in the trunk of Jack Murray's burning Mercedes, but they haven't located Mr. Murray and now say the Evans man is considered "missing and endangered."

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said Mr. Murray, 63, of the 1100 block of Oakton Trail in Evans, was not at his home Monday night when his car was found on fire across the Savannah River in Edgefield County. He had not returned home late Tuesday afternoon, and by then the sheriff's department had issued a "missing and endangered" lookout for him.

After police discovered that the Mercedes was registered to Mr. Murray, Columbia County deputies went to his home in the Villages at Rivershyre off Hardy-McManus Road. They surrounded the home with yellow crime scene tape and began interviewing family, friends and neighbors.

Late Monday, investigators obtained a search warrant for the home, Capt. Morris said.

"We did find some items of interest in the home," he said, refusing to elaborate.

Police are calling the two-story brick home a crime scene.

Capt. Morris said investigators were waiting to hear from South Carolina authorities on the results of an autopsy of the badly burned body found in the car's trunk.

Edgefield authorities said the autopsy results are expected today.

"We're hoping that will fill in quite a few blanks," Capt. Morris said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Murray's neighbors seemed skittish - afraid of what might have happened on their street.

One 16-year-old neighbor, who asked not to be named, said she remembers two men - one black, one white, both about 19 - hanging around the neighborhood on Halloween. The men - who had walked around with two young women and a baby - were parked in a Chrysler PT Cruiser in Mr. Murray's driveway.

And on Monday, before police arrived, the PT Cruiser and the men were back, the girl's father said.

The girl said Mr. Murray was a nice neighbor, always polite and kind.

"He was the sweetest old guy, too," she said. "He was the first person to that said, 'Hi' to me when I first moved in."

Reach Jason B. Smith and Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222 or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.