WOLFEBORO — Family and friends of William Murray said on Monday that the “Billy” they remember was a kind and gentle man, someone who worked hard and took good care of those around him, until a problem with pain management robbed him of his spirit.
The body of William Murray, 52, most recently of Meredith, was found by police in Pine Hill Cemetery on the morning of Monday, July 27. The office of the attorney general is treating the death as suspicious.
Michele Murray said she had known Murray for most of her life. The two met when she was 15 years old. In subsequent years, they started dating, got married, and had a son, Jake.
“He was the best dad ever, you can’t get any better, really,” Michele said. “That, to me, was the most important.”
She said he looked like “a big, burly guy,” but that “anybody who knew him knew he was just the most lovable guy.” He was a natural guitar player who would play whenever he got together with family or friends, and even taught some of his nieces and nephews, who adored him, she said, how to play.
Murray became like a big brother to Nicole MacArthur, Michele’s younger sister. They shared a love of music, she said, adding that he seemed to know when someone needed a kind word – or someone to listen.
“When I was 18 I remember having a tough time at that age and not really knowing who to turn to,” MacArthur said. Murray saw the struggle in her eyes, and invited her to join him in the parking lot. “We sat in his big boat of a car, and he brought out some vodka lemonade, and we just hung out in the front seat and he played Alice Cooper and we chilled and he talked me through it. He wanted to be so helpful.”
Several years later, Murray was coaching youth baseball when he made an impression on Jim Mackey, whose son was the team’s catcher. It was the kind of baseball where the coach lobs slow, under-handed tosses in to developing hitters, but Murray found a way to make things feel more interesting, and taught the catcher signs for fastball, curveball or change.
“My son, the catcher, would give a signal, Bill would wave some signals off, my son would give another signal for a certain type of pitch,” Mackey said. It was a small thing, as would be an easy compliment to struggling player – but Mackey learned that sometimes those small things carried surprising weight. “He made my son feel special as the catcher. Bill made all the players feel important.”
Terri Morris lives in Laconia today, but grew up with Murray in the same neighborhodd in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. She said he was a “special soul.”
“He made me feel like a million bucks, every time I saw him,” Morris said.
She said he favorite memory of Murray was one day when he rode up to Laconia on his motorcycle, along with his son, Jake, who was on his bike.
“They asked me if I wanted to go for lunch. That lunch turned into an all-day affair,” Morris said. She hopped on the back of Jake’s bike, and off they rode. She said that Murray was “in his element,” leading them on a tour of the back roads that led from Laconia, through Moultonborough and up to Conway, where they finally stopped for lunch. “It was a special day I will always carry in my heart,” she said.
Lisa Fagan was another of Murray’s friends since teenage years. She said he was a “sweetheart,” a generous man.
“I bought a house in Woburn a few years back, and he and Michele came to visit,” Fagan said. She said she gave them the tour of the property, including a few things she wanted to get done. Murray took notice. “The next morning, he was at my house ready to trim my trees.”
That was the way he was, Fagan said. “I loved Billy.”
Murray’s sister, Harley Murray, settled in Maine and said she has a wealth of good memories of her brother, who would make the ride up to visit her. The two would explore old logging roads, or sit and talk as he played guitar.
In June of 2018, Harley got married. By that point she was used to not hearing from her brother for long stretches of time, she said, but he made the nuptials.
“Billy rode his motorcycle all the way up to China, Maine, to come see me that day. We had not been in touch for a while and I was surprised and so happy to see him. He and his son, Jake, were the only ones from my family out of state that came that day. It meant a lot that even if he had his struggles, he still made a huge effort to show up for me that day. It meant the world to me,” Harley said.
Michele and William separated in 2015. She said he suffered from back pain, which he managed with prescription drugs. That was, until his doctor finally refused to renew his prescription.
“From there, he fell into chronic pain, and he needed to find other ways to squash that pain. In the past few years he found bad ways to squash that pain,” Michele said, “from there, he drifted into a different side of Billy.”
MacArthur, Murray’s sister-in-law, said she saw that she was losing her big-brother-in-law. “He just went off and started living somewhere else, hanging out with people I didn’t know… he became like an empty shell in a way,” she said.
In recent years, Murray found himself in legal trouble. He was arrested and charged with driving after revocation in Gilford, and was facing a hearing in Massachusetts on three charges involving property crimes. Michele said he had recently moved to Meredith to live with a girlfriend.
Michele couldn’t say if Murray’s need to self-medicate played a role in those charges, but said, “I do blame the demise of my marriage on that, 100-percent. I don’t know how you go from being someone that everyone adores, including me, he was a great husband for so long, and then one day, he just wasn’t.”
Fagan saw that the drug use robbed something of her old friend.
“He was distant,” Fagan said. “You could see some pain going on behind his eyes. He was just a really good person that unfortunately went down the road of trying to manage his pain by himself. It was sad to hear what he was going through.” She said some friends tried to intervene, but, “Billy took care of himself, like he took care of everyone else.”
Harley Murray said she remembers her brother as genuine and caring, the kind of person she wanted to be around when times were good, and someone she needed when times weren’t: “He was wise, understanding and always made you feel at ease and never judged. I know that I will never find anyone that can fill the void left when he died, and will remember him for all the wonderful things that he was, the truest person you could ever hope to meet.”
It had been after one of those long stretches without contact when, on July 12, Murray called his sister Harley, she said, “and I had missed his call. He left me a voicemail and for some reason I had saved it. I am so glad I did, so I can call it and still hear his voice.”
Wolfeboro Police and the Office of the Attorney General are continuing to investigate Murray’s death. Anyone with information is asked to call Sergeant Kelly Healy of the NH State Police at (603) 628-8477 or 603-MCU-TIPS or Detective Shane Emerson of the Wolfeboro Police Department at (603) 569-1444.