Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rock n Roll Homicide Part Four

Facing the Music

A few days before Christmas 1997 Larry Hurwitz returned to Portland in custody. He was charged with four counts of tax evasion. He appeared in U.S Circuit Court in Portland on December 23. Mike and Penny Moreau, Tim’s parents came from New Orleans for the hearing.

The Moreaus were desperate for any news of their son. They not only opposed the death penalty they had urged the Multnomah County Prosecutor, Norm Frink, to offer Hurwitz immunity if he would lead them to Tim’s body. Frink offered Hurwitz a plea bargain on murder charges, but all he would say is, “I have nothing to say.”

Just a year before Larry Hurwitz had been at the top, promoting a major concert for Sting in Vietnam. Now he felt the tightness of his situation and was in a surly mood. On seeing the Moreaus when he entered the court, Hurwitz was seen to utter something that no one heard. The Moreaus later said they felt he was trying to intimidate them.

Hurwitz plead innocent to the tax charges and was released on bail until his trial. Detective Steve Baumgarte, who had been investigating Moreau’s murder for nearly eight years was encouraged that Hurwitz was in court. He said every time there was publicity on the murder new information came out. So far his evidence hadn’t been good enough for the Grand Jury to indict Hurwitz.

The noose was tightening around Larry Hurwitz, though. As the Federal Prosecutor revealed evidence that Hurwitz had not only hidden over $400,000 in income, he had used an elaborate scheme involving cash purchases of rare metals to cover up his crime. There was also evidence that he had tampered with a Grand Jury witness to keep from being indicted.

In April Hurwitz plead guilty to one count of tax evasion and agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, penalties and fines. He thought he would get no more than 10 months in jail, but the judge tacked on an extra two months because of Hurwitz’s deviousness.

“We haven't given up hope yet. There's a certain degree of satisfaction that someone has forced Mr. Hurwitz to plead guilty to something,” said Mike Moreau. In July Hurwitz was sentenced to a year in jail with three years of supervised probation to follow. He was ordered to report to the Federal Correction Facility at Sheridan, OR in September.

Did Larry Hurwitz make a plan to skip bail and flee the country? Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. At one point the government believed it enough to have Federal Marshals detain him. The pressure became so great that Hurwitz asked the court to allow him to report to prison early. He began serving a year in Federal custody in August 1998.

“We know there's (sic) more people out there that know about the murder case, but they were afraid of him,” Mike Moreau said from his home in New Orleans. “We just hope and pray someone who knows what happened to Tim will come forward now because it's safe.” Moreau was right about people being afraid of Larry. Among his colleagues in the music business Hurwitz was known as “Scary Larry.”

And the information did come out. Late in October, 1998 George Castagnola, a local stage hand who had worked at Starry Night in 1990, was indicted for the aggravated murder of Tim Moreau. Facing a possible death sentence, Castagnola plead guilty and agreed to cooperate in the case against Hurwitz.

Castagnola said that when the counterfeit ticket scam came out, Hurwitz asked Moreau to take the blame. Moreau demanded money to keep Hurwitz’s part in the scam secret. On January 21 Castagnola and Hurwitz met and agreed to kill Moreau. They drove out the Columbia Gorge and dug a grave for Moreau on the Washington side.

Two days later, in a hallway at Starry Night, Hurwitz wrapped a wire garrote around Moreau’s throat and Castagnola wrapped his face in duct tape. They buried Moreau that night.

Castagnola tried to lead Police to Moreau’s body, but was not able to find the location of the grave. In August 1999 Castagnola was sentenced to 10 years. “I'm happy to get it over with,” he told Circuit Judge Joseph F. Ceniceros. “I'm happy to get into the prison system and have this behind my back.”

Mike and Penny Moreau were not surprised by Castagnola’s lack of remorse. “After you consider the brutal nature of the murder and how premeditated it was, we weren't expecting an apology because of what we know about him and how he did it,” Mike said outside the courtroom. “Regardless of whether it was sincere or not, he is going to be in jail for 10 years.”

By that time Larry Hurwitz was facing 5 counts of aggravated murder and was facing a death sentence himself. Hurwitz agreed to cooperate. He plead no contest to murder charges, still denying his guilt, and made a “good faith effort” to help Police locate Moreau’s body in Skamania County. Hurwitz was not able to locate the grave, but he tried hard enough to get only 12 years for murder.

Mike and Penny Moreau were not ready to quit yet. In 2001 they brought suit for wrongful death in their son’s case. Hurwitz, still refusing to take responsibility for his crime, was forced to pay $3 million to the Moreau’s and stipulate that a civil jury would have found him guilty in Moreau’s death.

This was as close as the Moreau’s could get to Hurwitz admitting his guilt. The financial penalty was aimed at getting at Hurwitz’s alleged secret assets and to “ensure that he will have consequences for the rest of his life.”

Mike and Penny Moreau don’t have their son’s remains. But as Penny said, "We've been out to the area where they say Tim is. It's beautiful. Tim came to Portland because he loved the woods. I could accept it if he were to remain there.”

Rock n Roll Homicide Part One: Starry Night
Rock n Roll Homicide Part Two: Missing Presumed Dead
Rock n Roll Homicide Parth Three: Travels With Larry


Blogger connro said...

a very intresting artical, the end statement by Penny was a beautiful testament for the love of her son. I worked at the Starry Night in 1985 for about 6 months, just after getting out of the Army, and to this day am concerned about two of my Army buddies that also worked there.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Raymond Voigt said...

I remember standing with some friends across the street from the club in the early 1980s. There was a beautiful woman sitting in the front passenger seat of a Cadillac convertible. We saw two men talking on the sidewalk, then one sat in the drivers seat while the other walked up into the club. The man from the club walked swiftly by the car and tossed a plastic bag full of white powder into the rear seat of the car which then drove off. Yeah. Starry Night was dirty.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Natalie K. said...

"Moreau demanded money to keep Hurwitz’s part in the scam secret. On January 21 Castagnola and Hurwitz met and agreed to kill Hurwitz."

I think you meant to say they agreed to kill Moreau, not Hurwitz. Just thought I'd point out such a significant error in the narrative. Good article though and I've enjoyed reading the comments of those who had personal dealings with Hurwitz

6:49 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...

Thanks Natalie. That is what I meant.

7:03 PM  

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