The Starry Night Murder: Decades-long stories compiled
Convicted Portland murderer Larry Hurwitz burst back into the news on June 27.
More than 17 years after he confessed to killing Tim Moreau in Portland, Hurwitz was arrested during a traffic stop with four pounds of cocaine and more than $300,000 in cash in Huntington Beach, California.
Hurwitz is still on parole for the 1990 murder and had left Oregon without permission from his parole officer. A bail hearing is scheduled for Thursday, July 25.
Right after the killing occurred, it quickly 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 to finally emerge.
I have written about Hurwitz for more than 30 years, first as a reporter for Willamette Week, then as the publisher of my twice-monthly alternative 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 was published. The depositions generated incriminating information against Hurwitz, which I then 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.
The Portland Tribune is making my stories available in collected form for the first time.
Most of these stories originally were published as chapters of an ongoing serial about the then-unsolved case in PDXS in the late 1990s. They were not posted online then and have been unavailable again until now.
The accompanying preface was written after Chapter 27 was first printed but was not published before. It is based on interviews of the Moreaus during the investigation. The final chapter is a collection of my 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 and prosecuted Hurwitz over the years. Without their commitment and sacrifice, the case would never have been solved, regardless of what I wrote.
You can find a Portland Tribune story on Hurwitz's most recent arrest here.
- Jim Redden
Preface: The Tragic Mystery Begins
The phone rang in the comfortable, suburban New Orleans home of Mike and Penny Moreau. It was Jan. 29, 1990. Penny was standing in the living room, her thin figure silhouetted against the large front window. She was staring at the wet, barren park across the street, wishing that Tim, her 21-year-old son, would walk out from behind the trees, cross the street, push open the front door and tell her what had gone wrong out in Portland.
The phone rang again. "That must be Tim," Penny thought, hurrying across the room to pick up the receiver. Tim had called almost every week since he first left to attend Reed College nearly four years before. Mike and Penny always picked up both extensions, listening to their son's updates together.
At first Tim talked about his classes and the many hiking trips he took in the lush, green mountains that surrounded Oregon's largest city. Then, when he tired of school in his sophomore year, Tim kept calling to describe his growing interest in the local rock 'n' roll music scene. Mike and Penny were a little uneasy when he began talking about leaving school to find a music-related job in March 1989. Still, they were confident that he'd eventually resume his studies and earn a degree.
The Moreaus were supportive when Tim called to say he'd been hired as the publicity director at Starry Night, the city's largest rock concert hall. Tim was thrilled with the job, saying it gave him a chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with music industry insiders. He was especially impressed with the hall's owner, Larry Hurwitz, an older man who knew everything about booking the most popular touring acts. A few months later, Tim told his parents about throwing a surprise birthday party for his boss, a small thing that nevertheless pleased Hurwitz immensely.
But the tone of Tim's conversations had changed dramatically in recent months. He had grown disillusioned with Hurwitz, and had begun complaining about how much work he was doing and how little — $500 a month — he was being paid. Finally, on Friday, Jan. 19, Tim said he resented the fact that Hurwitz could afford fancy presents for his girlfriend, but wouldn't pay his employees livable wages. Tim told his parents he was going to ask his boss for a raise.
The next time Tim phoned was Sunday, Jan. 21. He sounded nervous, uneasy about what was happening at work. Tim told his parents that he had met with Hurwitz the night before, after a concert at Starry Night, and that his boss became very angry with him. Hurwitz had refused to give him a raise, but the two men agreed to meet and talk about it again in a day or two.
Then Tim said something ominous. Without disclosing any details, Tim said he had something on Hurwitz, something that he could take to the press or the police.
From across the country, Mike and Penny pressed their son about the issue, but Tim declined to go into detail, insisting he had everything under control. After a few moments, Tim asked if he could move back home if he needed to. Of course, Mike and Penny said yes.
After the call ended, Mike and Penny began to worry about their son. They didn't like Tim's talk of going to the press or the police. Their concerns grew over the next few days when he didn't call and tell them how the meeting had gone. The Moreaus called the small apartment Tim rented in Northwest Portland, repeatedly leaving messages on his record-a-phone. He didn't call back. This wasn't like him, Mike and Penny thought. Their concern turned to fear over the following week as Penny found herself staring for hours at the park which Tim had crossed so many times over the years, his red hair waving as he ran toward the house. By the time the phone rang on Jan. 29, Penny was almost frantic.
"Hello, Tim?" she said anxiously, praying that she would hear his voice.
"No, this is Mike." It was her husband, calling from his office at Tulane University, where he taught courses on social work.
"I have some disturbing news. Tim's landlady just called me here at work. She said she hasn't seen Tim since Jan. 23. She's so worried that something happened to him that she filed a missing person report with the police."
Penny gasped. All of the fear that had been building over the past week welled up inside her. The room began spinning around her and went dark as she sank into the chair beside the phone. Mike assured her he'd come right home and they'd decide what to do.
Mike and Penny reviewed Tim's last few calls again and again. They knew he had been concerned about meeting with Hurwitz, but didn't know why. His hand shaking with fear, Mike called Starry Night in Portland. It was answered by a recording that listed several upcoming shows. After the tone, Mike identified himself and asked for Hurwitz to call them back, saying he wanted to know if anyone had seen his son recently.
Three long, agonizing days passed before Hurwitz called back. Mike and Penny were both home when he called, and they each picked up a receiver to hear what he had to say. Hurwitz spoke slowly. His low voice had a strange, mesmerizing quality. Despite his manner, what Hurwitz said was alarming.
"I'm sorry I didn't return your call sooner," Hurwitz said, "but I've been dealing with a crisis here, a crisis that Tim is responsible for.
"Nearly 200 counterfeit tickets were found at a John Lee Hooker concert on Jan. 20," he told them. "It was a big mess and I had to refund almost $3,000. I lost more than $2,000 on the show, and Tim's responsible."
"That can't be true," Mike interrupted. ''Tim wouldn't do anything like that."
"Tim admitted he did it," Hurwitz continued, calmly. "We had a meeting about it. I gave him $2,900 to buy tickets for resale before the show. He kept the money and printed up a bunch of counterfeit tickets. At first he denied it, but he finally admitted it after I told him it couldn't be anyone else. He broke down and cried and turned gray. Then he told me he still had most of the money back at his apartment, and he offered to lead me there in his car. But he ran a red light and lost me just after leaving the club. He timed it just right and got away and I haven't seen him since. I'm still out $2,900."
"I don't know what to say," Mike said, thinking that Hurwitz was suggesting he and Penny should pay him back. "I can't believe Tim would do that."
"Believe it," Hurwitz said. "He told me. I've got to go now. Please call me if you hear from him."
Mike promised they would call and Hurwitz hung up. The Moreaus sat in their living room, reviewing the disturbing call over and over again. They were suspicious, but also confused.
Although Hurwitz sounded convincing, Mike and Penny couldn't believe their son was involved in anything illegal. Still, even if he'd done something wrong, why didn't he call? They had always worked through their problems in the past. They agreed they hoped Hurwitz's story was true. That would mean Tim was merely hiding somewhere, embarrassed about what he had done. All would be forgiven if he would just call.
Mike and Penny jumped when the phone rang the next day.
Their hopes turned to horror when the caller identified himself as Steve Baumgarte, a detective in the homicide division of the Portland Police Bureau.
"I've been asked to look into your son's disappearance because of the possibility of foul play," Baumgarte told Tim's parents. "Can you come to Portland and help us with our investigation?"
You can read the complete series at pamplinmedia.com/starry-night-murder
Jim Redden is a veteran news reporter. Before being hired by the Portland Tribune, he worked for Willamette Week and wrote for his own paper, PDXS. He covered the murder of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis by Ward Weaver for the Tribune. And his reporting for all three papers contributed to the eventual freedom of Frank Gable, who served three decades in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murdering state corrections director Michael Francke. Gable was released from prison earlier this year. Redden covers city government, TriMet, Metro and general news for the Tribune.
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