The Starry Night Murder: Rock and roll dreams lead to death
Convicted Portland murderer Larry Hurwitz burst back into the news on June 27, 2019.
More than 17 years after he confessed to killing Tim Moreau, Hurwitz was arrested during a traffic stop with four pounds of cocaine and more than $300,000 in cash in Huntington Beach, California. Hurwitz was still on parole for the 1990 murder and had left Oregon without permission.
The 1990 killing became Portland's most notorious unsolved murder mystery. Portland police immediately suspected Hurwitz, the owner of the Starry Night rock and roll club, of killing his music promoter. But Hurwitz hid Moreau's body so well it has still never been found. Without the body, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office was unable to charge Hurwitz with the crime for 10 years. And even then, it took a remarkable series of unexpected events for the truth finally emerge.
I have now written about Hurwitz off and on for more than 30 years, first as a reporter for Willamette Week, then as the publisher of my paper PDXS, and finally as a reporter for the Portland Tribune. Hurtwitz sued me and Willamette Week for $5 million for libel after my first story tying him to the murder. The depositions generated incriminating information against Hurwitz I reported in PDXS, some of which helped lead to his arrest on federal income tax evasion charges, which contributed to his arrest and conviction for killing Moreau.
Most of the following stories were originally published as chapters of an ongoing serial about the case in PDXS in the late 1990s. They were not posted online at the time and have been unavailable again until now. The preface was written after Chapter 27 was first printed but was never published before. The final chapters are the stories about the case published in the Portland Tribune.
The real credit for solving the murder goes to Tim's parents, Mike and Penny Moreau, whose persistent work kept their son's disappearance in the minds of the local, state and federal law enforcement officials who investigated Hurwitz over the years.
You can read a previously unpublished summary of the case here.
You can find a timeline of the case here.
You can read about an unpublished autobiography of Hurwitz discovered by the Moreau family here.
Preface: Introducing the Moreau family, detailing the first meeting between Mike and Penny Moreau with then-Willamette Week reporter Jim Redden after their son Tim disappears. (click here to read preface)
Chapter 1: A brief history of suspicious activities by Starry Night rock club owner Larry Hurwitz, culminating with the discovery of counterfeit tickets at his club and the disappearance of his publicity director, Tim Moreau. As detailed by the police, Tim disappeared after meeting with Hurwitz at the club shortly after the counterfeits were discovered. Starry Night employee George Castagnola was also at the club during the meeting. (read chapter 1)
Chapter 2 An earlier kidnapping attempt orchestrated by Hurwitz is revealed, the Moreau's confront Hurwitz after Tim disappears, the Moreau's explain why they are suspicious of Hurwitz to Redden, the Portland Police Bureau begins a homicide investigation into Tim's disappearance. (read chapter 2)
Chapter 3 The details of the counterfeit ticket scheme and Hurwitz's longtime efforts to illegally overcrowd his club are explained. (read chapter 3)
Chapter 4 The tangled history of the relationship between Hurwitz and Harvey Freeman, Hurwitz's ex-father-in-law, who is also a former Vietnam Special Forces soldier, Hollywood private investigator, certified lie detector expert, guru, commune founder and Starry night ticket-taker. (read chapter 4)
Chapter 5 The shady histories of Starry Night club and the Day for Night restaurant, which was secretly owned by Hurwitz, where the counterfeit tickets were sold. (read chapter 5)
Chapter 6 The many stories about Hurwitz that Redden heard while reporting his first story on Tim's disappearance, mostly concerning his money-making schemes and mistreatment of people. (read chapter 6)
Chapter 7 Redden's first interview of Hurwitz about Tim's disappearance, during which he responds to the various allegations against him and attacks the Moreau's. (read chapter 7)
Chapter 8 Willamette Week publishes "Missing and Presumed Dead," the first story to report that the police believe Tim has been murdered and Hurwitz is involved. Hurwitz and Freeman immediately threaten to sue for libel but settle for the publication of a small clarification on the source of the counterfeit ticket stock. Redden leaves Willamette Week a short time later to start the PDXS alternative newspaper. Hurwitz sells Starry Night and closes Day for Night. One year after the publication of the story, Hurwitz and Freeman sued Willamette Week and Redden for libel, seeking $5 million in damages. (read chapter 8)
Chapter 9 Preliminary motions are filed in the libel suit. Willamette Week and Redden seek all of Hurwitz's and Starry Night's financial records. Hurwitz admits he did not file personal or business taxes between 1987 and 1990, then files all four years lit once and provides copies of the returns to Willamette Week and Redden. They appear false and include no receipts for claimed deductions. (read chapter 9)
Chapter I0 The depositions begin. Redden is deposed first. Hurwitz's attorney seems more concerned with learning the names of the off-the-record sources for the story than anything else. (read chapter 10)
Chapter 11 Hurwitz is deposed and incriminates himself on several issues, including admitting his tax returns are false, that he intentionally overcrowded Starry Night on many occasions, and that he orchestrated the previous kidnapping attempt. (read chapter 11)
Chapter 12 Freeman, Castagnola and a number of other former Starry Night employees are deposed. They contradict each other on key points of the events leading up to Tim's disappearance. (read chapter 12)
Chapter 13 The judge throws out the lawsuit, clearing the way for Redden to write about the case again. (read chapter 13)
Chapter 14 Acting on a tip, the police search Starry Night and dredge the Willamette River through Portland for evidence in Tim's disappearance. Moreau's make one of many trips to Portland, but nothing is found. Redden publishes "The Truth About Larry Hurwitz," the first of many stories about Hurwitz in PDXS. It includes details of his false income tax filings. Hurwitz files for and receives bankruptcy protection, despite not reporting the recent sale of Starry Night for $650,000. (read chapter 14)
Chapter 15 Hurwitz leaves Portland, first moving to Seattle where he works in the restaurant and nightclub business and then to Vietnam, where he becomes as a major rock promoter, organizing an officially-sanctioned reconciliation concert with the musician Sting in Ho Chi Min City. (NOTE: From this chapter on, all chapters are reported as events unfolded.) (read chapter 15)
Chapter 16 The IRS indicts Hurwitz for not paying $422,123 in taxes between 1987 and 1990. Hurwitz refuses to return from Vietnam, which has no extradition treaty with the US. (read chapter 16)
Chapter 17 The US State Department cancels Hurwitz's passport. He is deported from Vietnam and arrested by US Marshalls and returned to Portland to face the IRS charges. He pleads not guilty at the arraignment and is denied bail as a flight risk. (read chapter 17)
Chapter 18 Hurwitz pleads guilty to tax evasion. Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Norm Frink tells reporters he expects to soon present new evidence in Tim's disappearance to the grand jury. (read chapter 18)
Chapter 19 Hurwitz is sentenced to one year in prison on the tax evasion charges but released under supervision to get his affairs in order. (read chapter 19)
Chapter 20 Hurwitz mysteriously disappears for three days, is arrested when he returns to town, then reports to federal prison to begin serving his tax evasion sentence. (read chapter 20)
Chapter 21 The murder investigation picks up steam. Former Starry Night employee Katherine "Kat" Hand implicates Hurwitz and Freeman in Tim's death. Castagnola is arrested. (read chapter 21)
Chapter 22 Castagnola strikes a deal, pleading guilty in Tim's death and agreeing to testify against Hurwitz in exchange for a I0 year sentence. Hurwitz is indicted on five counts of murder. (read chapter 22)
Chapter 23 Hurwitz is arraigned for Tim's murder, pleads not guilty. (read chapter 23)
Chapter 24 Hurwitz is denied bail, judge releases 500 pages of evidence in the case, including Castagnola's confession that details the premeditated plot to kill Tim devised by Hurwitz and the grisly details of his death. Also detailed is every step the police followed to put the case against Hurwitz together. (read chapter 24)
Chapter 25 Hurwitz's role in the unsolved bombing of Save-Mor Grub, a hangout for junkies and drug dealers between Starry Night and Day for Night that was destroyed by a powerful explosion. (read chapter 25)
Chapter 26 Hurwitz gets one last chance to escape on a technicality when jailhouse informants say Castagnola boasted of killing Tim and pinning the rap on him. The opportunity collapses when the witnesses fail to show for a hearing requested by Hurwitz's lawyer. (read chapter 26)
Chapter 27 The case ends when Hurwitz pleads "no contest" to Tim's death and is sentenced to 12 years in prison, minus the year he served on the tax charges. The Moreau family confronts Hurwitz during the emotional "victim impact statement" phase of the hearing. Time since murder: 10 years, 8 months. (read chapter 27)
Chapter 28 Hurwitz finally admits he murdered Tim in a civil suit filed by the Moreau family. Originally published in the Portland Tribune. (click here to read epilogue)
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