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The long silence of Matthew Murray's parents

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Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see any comments from Ronald or Loretta Murray in the one-year anniversary stories about the church shootings in Arvada and Colorado Springs. But then, the Murrays haven't been eager to talk publicly about the multiple tragedies spawned by their deeply disturbed son Matthew, who killed four young people on December 9, 2007, before taking his own life.

That's understandable. The Murrays were clearly blindsided by their son's shooting spree and were said to be "lost in grief" in the wake of the killings. In their only serious "interview," an appearance on James Dobson's radio show last March, neurosurgeon Ronald Murray blamed the rampage on his son's "depth of bitterness" about his fundamentalist upbringing, a bitterness that apparently had eluded him.

But as noted in previous blog entries -- "Matthew Murray's nightmare of Christianity" and "Matthew Murray, Ted Haggard and double lives" -- the killer's online postings raise a host of questions about that upbringing. His accounts of his parents' treatment of him and the kind of abuse he supposedly suffered from the ministries they supported, including Ted Haggard's New Life Church, may be greatly distorted, but until his parents weigh in on the specifics, it's almost impossible to sort out fact from fiction.

Not that any of Murray's claims, even if true, would provide justification for the Columbine-style senselessness of the attacks. But a better understanding of the killer's home life could be of some value in detecting warning signs of future would-be mass murderers, as some have argued in the long-running battle over who should be the keepers of Columbine's remaining secrets.

The Murrays' Dobson appearance failed to address any truly troubling questions, such as how their son was able to assemble an arsenal under his parents' roof without their knowledge. It didn't even explain how Ronald Murray could have had "no idea" his son owned any weapons yet happened to notice an odd package of rifle ammo that was delivered to the house a week before the shootings ("More Pieces of the Matthew Murray Puzzle").

It's appropriate, of course, for the parents of a walking time bomb like Murray to keep a low profile while the victims' families mourn their dead, and no one should minimize the suffering of people in their awful situation. But at what point, if ever, do a killer's parents have an obligation to speak publicly about what they know and what they have learned that could help prevent other useless deaths? - Alan Prendergast

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