14-year-old Rachel Hurley from Jupiter, Florida was raped and murdered in 1990. Her case remains unsolved.
About the Rachel Hurley Case
On St. Patrick’s Day 1990, Rachel Hurley, 14, spent the day hanging out with friends – total of 5 girls, 2 boys – on a boat near Dubois Park in Jupiter, Florida. Rachel was with two of her friends that day – Erin and Maddy. It was around 2:45 p.m. when the group exited the boat. Rachel had to go meet her mom at 3:00 p.m. near the Civic Center at nearby Carlin Park, about a mile away. She knew she would be late so she was in a hurry to go. Maddy had to use the bathroom. Erin tried getting Rachel to wait for them so all three could walk to Carlin Park together. But Rachel insisted she had to leave right away, and took off for Carlin Park alone.
Rachel never made it to Carlin Park.
Rachel’s mom reported her missing at 4:00 p.m. when her daughter failed to show up at their meeting spot. A search began by friends and family and later that evening, Rachel’s partially clothed and beaten body was found in the woods near a path in Carlin Park. She had been raped and strangled.
The FBI released a psychological profile of the killer – a young white male from the upper middle class, charismatic, who was probably out of work and not particularly well-grounded.
Rachel Hurley’s killer was never caught. It is possible her killer was a transient. Several transients were in the area at the time of the murder.
The first suspect to emerge in Rachel’s murder was Billy Fagan, who was 17 years old at the time. He fit the F.B.I. profile to a T.
Fagan was adopted into an upper middle class family by William Fagan II. He was very charming, and liked to spend money on his friends. While he was generally liked by his friends, Fagan had a dark side to him and often resorted to violence when he drank too much or became angry.
In May 1990, two months after Rachel’s death, county detectives arrested Fagan on 31 felony sex charges involving 13 girls and one boy. None of these charges was connected to Rachel`s murder and prosecutors dropped the charges the following September. In addition, Fagan had a good alibi for the day of Rachel’s murder, although it is unclear what his alibi was.
A year after Rachel’s murder, Fagan raped a girl at a party and was arrested. It is unclear what came from the charges. In another case, Fagan was charged with sexual battery and sentenced to prison in 2005. He was released three years later and is currently registered as a sex offender.
On the 15th anniversary of Rachel Hurley’s murder, police spoke with the owner of a bloody shirt found in a garbage can near Rachel’s body. They tracked the man down in prison and took a DNA sample. It matched the blood on the shirt.
The man’s name was Douglas J. Gross and he was in prison on various charges at the time. Gross never admitted to killing Rachel. However, an inmate of his told police that Gross admitted killing Rachel with help from a friend. That friend, police say, was Franky Washburn. However, Franky agreed to DNA testing and denied even knowing Gross.
Police did not see the inmate as a credible witness. Gross’ DNA did not match DNA found on Jennifer’s body. Without physical evidence or witnesses, police never arrested Gross.
In 2003, a woman named Tami Rowell told police detectives that a man named Paul Simon (not the singer) raped her when she was 16, about three years after Rachel’s murder. She said Simon would have smothered her had her friend not come along. Simon is currently incarcerated for rape. He was 17 years old in 1990.
127 men were tested and ruled out, including the men mentioned above, in Rachel’s murder. Her killer remains free.
Rachel Hurley’s family and friends still seek justice for the sweet girl whose life was violently taken away.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I stumbled upon this case by pure accident. I was researching another murder involving a victim with the last name of Hurley when I found Rachel’s case. I have never heard of this one and it really tugged at my heart. I was 20 years old in 1990, wild and rebellious, and made poor choices all the damn time. I’m still here. Rachel was 14, bossy, well-liked, all-around good kid and student, sweet and kind. She’s no longer here. She never got her driver’s license or graduated high school because some asshole freak took all of that away from her and her family and friends. It really pisses me off, to be honest. At the very least, that asshole needs to own up to what he did.
The fact that DNA has not matched to anyone to date tells me the killer may not have committed another crime (or he didn’t get caught) or he passed away. It’s just strange that there has been no match in 28 years.
If you go by the FBI profile, then I’m thinking her killer might be someone she knew. Police tested DNA of 127 men and all were ruled out. Did they test any kids from Rachel’s school? Boyfriend?
It really surprises me that nobody saw Rachel while she was walking. Erin said the beach was deserted because the weather was bad. The mean temperature that day was in the 70s, and it was very windy. I can’t imagine a beach being deserted due to wind. St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday when most people are not working, so there had to be people on the beach. Media reports say the beach was packed. If the latter is true, then how were there no sightings of Rachel? How far did Rachel make it before her killer grabbed her?
An old Boca Raton newpsaper article dated 5 days after Rachel’s murder stated that police were looking for a white male in his 30s with blond hair and a beard, weighing 150 pounds and standing 6′ tall. He may have been a transient who lived near the park, but they were not certain. So, was this man seen near where Rachel was found? Erin has stated that the sighting of a man coming from the woods (this might be him) is false. So, I’m not sure where this man came from and how he was related to Rachel’s murder. I just thought it might be worth mentioning.
It is unknown what route Rachel took to get to Carlin Park. She either went along the beach or she took the road, cutting through the woods to get to the park. Reports that say she cut through the woods are not exactly accurate. Erin did not see which direction Rachel went. It would have made sense to walk along the beach but maybe it was quicker to cut through.
So, was this a crime of opportunity or did Rachel know her killer?
Investigators believe her death may have been an accidental death during the rape, suggesting the killer accidentally smothered her with his body. But if he raped her, would he really want to leave behind a witness? What if she threatened to go to police?
In one report, I read something about a bite mark on one of Rachel’s breasts so whenever they have a good suspect, they can see if their teeth matches the bite marks. I am not sure this is true, though. Police have released very little information in the 28 years since Rachel’s murder so nothing is jeopardized if this case ever makes it to a trial. I understand that, but after almost 3 decades they need to give a little more so the public can help.
As far as the bloody shirt found with Gross’ DNA on it, what are the chances of a bloody shirt found near Rachel’s body NOT being a part of the murder? And if that shirt wasn’t part of Rachel’s murder, then why was the shirt bloody to begin with? Did they test any of the blood on the shirt to see if it matched with Rachel’s DNA? Why did it take police 15 years to find and question Gross?
I found Rachel’s family and friends on Facebook, and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that she is not in their pictures as she should be. I imagine her to look a lot like her sister does today.