Estimated read time: 5 minutes

This article has been re-published with permission from The Gazette in Cedar Rapids.

Copyright 2007, The Gazette

Christopher Murray said he killed Mary McBride after the two had sex along the recreation trail in northeast Cedar Rapids but that he hadn’t planned on killing the Marion woman.

“Oh, yeah, I did it,” said Murray. “It was not premeditated. . . . It wasn’t planned. It just happened.” Murray, 32, talked to The Gazette on Tuesday afternoon at the Linn County Jail, where he’s being held on a first-degree murder charge filed in connection with the June 18 death of McBride, 41, of 235 11th St., Marion.

Murray said he told police he’d planned the murder because he wanted to protect his fiancee since she knew about the murder. If he’d planned McBride’s murder, he said, he would have moved her body.

His intent is important, given that premeditation is a factor in successful prosecution of a first-degree murder charge.Murray also knows it was his fiancee who turned him in to police.

Marion Police Chief Harry Daugherty, after being told of The Gazette’s interview with Murray, said that what Murray said was news to him. “We believe he planned this murder,” Daugherty said, adding that investigators have determined the motive, which he declined to reveal. “Apparently, he’s still admitting to the killing, but a different motive than what we got,” Daugherty said. “The bottom line is: He killed her. He admits that,” he said. “You don’t have the right to do that.”

During the interview, Murray said: He and McBride met while working at the Lebeda Mattress factory in Marion. And though he was was scared, confused engaged to and living with Christy Strait in northwest Cedar Rapids, he said he’d been having an affair with McBride for about a month.

On June 18, Murray said, he picked up McBride around 11 p.m., planning to go to the Riverside casino where he’d been earlier that evening. They then stopped at the Cedar River recreation trail east of Interstate 380 and south of 42nd Street NE.

“I wanted to have sex with her,” said Murray, adding that both of them were stoned. “I had sex with her where she was found.” 

Murray said he then told McBride he wanted to change plans for the evening. “I wanted to go home, I gotta get back to Christy,” he said. “She (McBride) just went off, threatening to tell Christy.

I grabbed her, `Calm the f— down.’ I just snapped. I grabbed her . . . and tried to shut her up.”

Court records show Murray strangled McBride with a belt and then pounded her head against railroad tracks. Murray said he left and went home and told his fiancee what had happened and that she told him to go clean up the scene.

“She did help me cover it up,” he said.

Fiancee denies help

Strait, a 28-year-old mother of two, denied telling Murray to clean up the scene but said he took her out to the trail and pointed to where he said he’d left a woman’s body.

He told her repeatedly – without remorse, she said – that he’d killed a woman named Mary near the trail.

The night of the killing, he brought home the woman’s bra, purse and crushed cell phone to show her. He threw away the items, she said. Still, she said, she didn’t know whether to believe Murray’s story. It all seemed far-fetched, and she was afraid to press him.

“You really didn’t question him a lot, or he’d flip out,” she said. “He’s a pretty intimidating guy.” Strait said she helped Murray establish an alibi before the body was found and that she told investigators – who were checking on Murray – that he’d been at home the night McBride disappeared.

Strait said she and Murray had lived together almost two months. She said she thought Murray and McBride, whom she knew only as “Mary,” were just friends. Three days after the murder, though, she called Cedar Rapids police and left an anonymous tip to search near the trail for a body. When nothing came of it, she doubted Murray’s story even more. She said she was scared and confused. She didn’t want to report the possible crime again, and she didn’t dare try to get to the bottom of it with him. 

Murray has mental problems, she said, and she thought he might have been lying to intimidate her. Still, she noticed Mary McBride of Marion was reported as missing June 22.

The likelihood that Murray was telling the truth – that he really had murdered a woman – became impossible to ignore.

“It was just eating at me,” she said. “You’ve got to find out if it was true or not.” On July 4, just after 4 a.m., she left the apartment she shared with Murray, drove to her mother’s house and called Marion police. She went with them to the trail and helped search for McBride’s body.

On a second pass through the woods, they found the body. Murray told The Gazette that the day after the killing he’d gone back to the trail and pushed McBride’s body “back into the bushes.”

Letters and visits

In letters to Strait, Murray said he plans to plead guilty to save her from having to testify against him. They’ve exchanged letters, and she has visited him in jail.

“I didn’t feel sorry for him,” she said, adding he still doesn’t seem to feel remorse. “I feel so bad for her and her family,” she said of the victim. She said Murray does not appear to be angry with her, even though he knows she turned him in.

Murray was convicted of murdering a 27-year-old man in Florida in 1996. He served seven years in prison for that murder before being released in May 2003 in Florida, where his family lives. Murray said Tuesday he strangled Robert Levy with a belt because Levy was “dying of AIDS” and wanted help in committing suicide. He also said he was not a member of the Gangster Disciples gang, as the Florida Department of Corrections charged. Murray’s next court date – an arraignment where he can enter a plea – is scheduled Aug. 2.

Adam Belz of The Gazette contributed to this article.