Katie MacDougall, age 23, was about three months pregnant when she was allegedly murdered by her 24-year-old boyfriend, Louisiana native Taylor Hurst.Katie’s body was discovered by police in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 4, 2007. Katie’s mom was worried. She hadn’t heard from her daughter in a few days, and decided she would go to the apartment Katie and Taylor shared at 90 Elm Street that Sunday to see if everything was okay. As she arrived, she saw Taylor Hurst exiting the building. She tried to get his attention, but he drove away, at “a high rate of speed.” A police spokesman told the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette that “When officers got there, the place was in darkness — all locked up.” Once inside the apartment, officers found a “well-kept” space, personal touches here and there, family photos on the wall. They also found Katie MacDougall dead in the bathtub, face down, partially clothed, with apparent “blunt trauma” to portions of her upper body. A description of Katie’s car went out to local cops. Taylor Hurst was found soon enough. He was sitting in the parked Pontiac Grand Prix, sipping a Budweiser. Taylor was taken down to police headquarters. The Worcester PD reported that Taylor confessed to strangling Katie with his bare hands. This apparently happened on Friday, March 2. Taylor spent the next couple of days in the apartment with his dead fiancee. Taylor apparently found it difficult to use the restroom. Court papers indicated that police found a ‘nearly full’ 128-ounce bottle of urine in the residence. Investigators found a handwritten note, apparently from Taylor Hurst. Police reports stated that the note was “an apology.”
Joel Fisak, a neighbor, described Katie and Taylor as ‘quiet loners.’“We rarely saw them,” Fisak told the Telegram & Gazette, but he also indicated that there wasn’t much socializing in the apartment building as a whole. About the couple Fisak also said,”… I just found it strange that she was 23 and never had any friends over. Neither did he.” Joel Fisak did recall what he felt was odd behavior on the part of Taylor Hurst at one point. It was in the early a.m. one night in mid-February, and Taylor Hurst was pacing in front of the building, a cab idling in the street. Fisak told the Worcester paper that Hurst didn’t knock on the door to try and get Katie’s attention, didn’t make a cell phone call. Ultimately Katie opened the door, and asked her boyfriend where he’d been. Worcester police had no records of domestic calls to the residence in the past. No one knew of any history of violence between Katie and Taylor. Taylor Hurst is currently being held without bond. He won’t be back in court until March 30. Like so many other adults in her age group, Katie MacDougall had a MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/irisheyes22143. Photos found there showed an appealing auburn-haired young woman who resembled actress Laura Prepon, best known for her role as Donna Pinciotti the long-running sitcom, That ‘7os Show. Most of the photographs of Katie showcased a broad, winning smile and impish, knowing gaze. Taylor was in 3 of the 8 photos in her gallery. In images where they shared the frame, they made an appealing couple. Photos of Taylor after his arrest showed a scowling, blank-eyed young man, but in the pictures made with Katie, the couple looked well-matched. Attractive, but not in a conventional way. More than that, they looked happy. Under “About Me” on her MySpace profile, Katie simply wrote, “I am the coolest person you will ever meet! Enough said.” On a MySpace page, the section below “About Me” asks users who they’d “like to meet.” One of Katie’s responses was musician Dave Matthews, frontman for the eclectic and popular Dave Matthews Band. Katie MacDougall was serious about Dave Matthews’s music. A Web search done using Katie’s MySpace screen name, “Irisheyes22143,” yielded a user profile at www.antsmarching.org, a Dave Matthews Band (DMB) fan site. If Katie MacDougall was really a “loner” in any sense offline, she was chatty, funny, and a bit of an open book online. In the 305 posts Katie made at the user forum associated with the DMB fan site, she didn’t just discuss attending DMB concerts or past recordings. Using the seemingly appropriate moniker “NewEnglandCutie,” Katie MacDougall chatted about many things with other forum posters. Of course she posted the typical short responses to queries and statements left by other fans, the kind of chatter you can find ad nauseam on any message board. Her last post before her death was made on March 1, and it was a single sentence in response to an obscene joke by another poster — the overall thread was a bunch of kvetching about student loan woes. Katie and other message board denizens also discussed the Boston Red Sox. In a post left on a long thread about the Sox in April of 2006 Katie gave other female Sox fans advice about where to find womens’ restrooms at Fenway Park: “for all you girls….there is a HUGE ladies bathroom near yawkey way, if you go into the park by gate D….theres NEVER a line because theres sooo many stalls…” Other discussions in which Katie participated were quite silly — one asked posters what “DUMB” thing bothered them most, and Katie responded, “people who chew gum like cows….the popping and snapping irritates the hell outta me…” In another discussion about Red Sox games, Katie posted a message that seemed indicate that she and Taylor Hurst did not yet live together. On June 13, 2006, she wrote:
I went to the game on Sunday with my boyfriend (the one when papi hit that HR!!). My BF drove up here from Louisiana where he lives and where his ID is from. It was his 1st time at Fenway and he had no problem getting beer. The lady took his ID and just had some trouble finding where they put the DOB on it. Hes 23 and she didnt question him any further…
A post made in response to a query as to whether anyone from New York (and presumably north) was coming to Virginia for a Dave Matthews Band concert seemed to reveal at least one difference between Katie and Taylor. As “NewEnglandCutie,” Katie wrote the following on September 20, 2006:
I would go, but my boyfriend is driving 28hrs to come see me. He’s not going to want to get back in the car and drive 10hrs to Virginia. Plus he hates the fact that I love DMB. He gets real jealous of them…
There were times Katie MacDougall used her posts in the same way another person might use a weblog. Another forum member started a message thread simply titled, “Tell a Story.” On October 26, 2006, Katie told her story. Within the anecdote, she revealed something significant about her view of the relationship she had with Taylor Hurst:
My boyfriend lives in Louisiana, I live in MA (a story for another day). I decided to fly him up here in January so we could “celebrate” our 1st christmas together a little late. He kept telling me he got me a little present. We both said we didnt want to buy each other gifts (he flew me down there a few months earlier, and I flew him up so we decided we were even).We both love sushi, so after he landed we went to dinner at this swanky sushi/steak restaurant. I had my hair perfect. Its usually curly and frizzy and I had spent an hour making it beautifully straight (how he likes it). We get to the restaurant and were both gazing into each others eyes. The restaurant was dark and we had a single candle at our table. He was sitting across from me. We both ordered martinis and we start to chat. He pulls out a little wrapped box from his pocket and hands it to me, “I love you, Merry x-mas”. So I have this sort of confused/worried look on my face. I opened the box and it is the most beautiful ring. A big pink sapphaire surrounded by 10 diamonds, so sparkly. No he didnt ask me to marry him (thank god!!) I was soo amazed, was not the “little” gift I thought it would be. People took notice of the gift giving and started to stare and say “awwww”. So I leaned over the table for a romantic kiss. I gave him the most romatic kiss possible. I pulled away to see the fear in his eyes. Then I heard it, the crackling of my hair on fire!!! When I had leaned over for the kiss, my hair ignited in flames from the candle in the middle of the table. He just stared and pointed. I freaked out, stood up, started to pat my head viciously. 3 waitresses and a manager ran over, people at the tables got up and came over to me. All you could smell was burnt hair. There was burnt hair all over our table…stuck to our linen napkins and table cloth. Everyone could smell my hair. Luckily, my hair was OK, it just really lit up in flames. I was so mortified I told my bf I wanted to leave, but the waitress said that they would comp a drink each and we could choose an appitizer of our choice. After about 20 mins, people stopped staring and pointing, and the scent of burnt hair was almost gone. Everytime I show someone my ring, I have to bring up that story. Everytime I go to dinner with him, we always make sure that if theres a candle, we blow it out.
(Emphasis was added).Posts Katie made last November were more informative about her relationship with the man who is now alleged to have murdered her. Another user noted that Katie was in Massachusetts and her boyfriend in Louisiana. Her response came on November 3:
Taylor (my bf) was in the navy and became frineds with my best friends boyfriend, Dan. Taylor moved up to MA to live with Dan and get a new job. I met Taylor the 1st day he was here. 6 months later he decided to move back to Louisiana, and we;re doing the whole long distance thing. He’s moving back up here in Jan. YAY!
Further discussion followed, and Katie elaborated, including her feelings that day:
… I have a hard time trusting him. I know he has cheated on me, and I have cheated on him, but I love him and I know he loves me. Sex is sex right? Thats probably the hardest part about long distance, having someone, but being very alone. It fucks with your head.Like right now, I am mad at him. I talked to him yesterday around 5pm. I called him around 8:30 to remind him The Office was on. He didnt pick up. So I texted him, no response. He always calls to say goodnight and he usually calls to wake me up in the morning. But I havent heard anything since 5. So now I think he was with another girl because he cant even make a quick phone call. So now Im mad and upset. He knows it makes me mad when he ignores me, cuz its not like I can just go and see him…I depend on his phone calls!!!….ARRRRRg sorry I had to vent…
Another board user, “dmbgodagirl41,” commiserated, bringing this response from “NewEnglandCutie”:
I am a huge no cheating person. But yeah I got lonely and drunk a few times and cheated…I feel totally bad. I know hes done the same thing and I cant get mad because I know how hard it is to be away from someone and be so lonely. We have been doing the long distance thing for a year and a half. Oye…… I think I just need to remind myself that men and women think completely different. He just doesnt realize that most of the things he does pisses me off…
On January 18, 2007, Katie began a message thread of her own. It was titled, “Question about the military.” “NewEnglandCutie” wrote:
My boyfriend and I recently found out we are having a baby. He currently does not have a job, and does not know what to do with his life. I work as a temp at a big company and will not receive any paid maternity leave.He thinks he can join the military and they will take care of me, him and the baby. He thinks this is the best option, instead of working 2 $10/hr jobs. I told him its not that easy, and I would prefer to struggle to make ends meet together, than be alone raising a baby, while he’s off in the military. He said if we get married they will pay for housing and other living expenses. I think hes wrong. Anyone in a similar situation, or know anyone in the same situation? I am clueless about the military and everything that goes with it. He is going to talk to a recruiter this week, and I think they are going to be like salesman- telling him everything he wants to hear so he will sign up…
Katie MacDougall’s question elicited helpful responses, and some truly ugly commentary. One poster even brought up the issue of abortion. Katie stated she would not do that in one reply, then later wrote:
We talked about adoption, but we both have large families and we are blessed with their support and love, and we can do a great job being parents.My mom have every reason in the book to have an abortion [or] put me up for adoption, but she didnt (sic) because my grandparents and extended family were supportful and I love her more than anything in the world. I know I can be the same mom to my child…
The messages ended up mostly positive, and Katie simply signed off saying, in essence, that she and Taylor had a lot of thinking to do. Her responses to new discussions began to include references to her pregnancy. On January 25, she wrote, “Taco Bell is God’s gift to [a] pregnant woman.”On February 2, a DMB forum member using the screen name “wnderwoman” began a dialogue asking others if they themselves had ever “cheated,” apparently meaning in a relationship. “NewEnglandCutie” answered the question the same day:
My boyfriend and I both cheated on each other. We were doing the long distance thing for a year, and were only with each other for about 6 months before he went back home. So we werent really sure what was going to happen to our relationship.When he came back, we moved in with each other. Some fights occured and everything came out on the table. I told him everything that happened with me and he told me everything he did. We both realized after we cheated, we only wanted each other- no one else made us feel the same way. Now we are happier with each other, odly. And plan on getting married soon. He is the love of my life. Do I regret it? I absolutly do, but we were both alone for sooo long. Both of our friends were trying to set us up with people, and everyone told me to keep my eyes open. Everyone told us we were too young to be alone and be in such a stressful relationship, and we both on occasion agreed with everyone. We love each other more than anything, and everyone now says how we are meant to be with each other forever.
Near the end of February, Katie posted a message that made it seem as though she’d long ago forgotten the girl who once thanked God that her boyfriend was not asking her to marry him.Another poster was critical of Cape Cod, and Katie replied, “I have to disagree with you there. I LOVE the cape. My fave place ever! I am getting married here http://www.linnell.com/.” Katie MacDougall sounded perfectly happy with living in Worcester in a few forum messages written near the end of 2006, but now that she was pregnant, her feelings were different — “Worcester sucks ass. I am sick of the homeless people. I am sick of the crack whores and their skank asses at Price Chopper. Fun for college kids, but once I have this baby I’m soooo out of here! We are probably gonna move to Mississippi!” Later the same day, Katie expanded on her mention of Mississippi:
My fiance’s parents own 1500 + acres in MS, and we will probably build a house on a far part of their land. He wants to eventually take over their business (raising cow’s for beef) so it would make alot of sense. Plus we will be able to live in a sweet ass house compared to a shit hole apt here in MA. I’m ready to live away from civilization!
Her last substantial post at AntsMarching.org, and Katie MacDougall was thinking about raising her child on farm land in Mississippi.That was Monday, February 26. The end of Friday that same week saw Katie dead in the bathtub in that “shit hole apt.” There are two sides to every story, and any online presence left by Taylor Hurst was either more well-obscured than Katie’s or quite possibly erased by him. While Katie had once told others at the DMB forum that she had no Internet connection at home, Taylor still had more than 48 hours to find a computer and delete anything he might have left online. Yet a young man strangling the woman who was allegedly carrying his baby and leaving her face-down in the bathtub in the apartment they shared has no real defense, short of insanity. And that defense rarely works. Had Taylor shown signs of instability before? If he had, it wasn’t apparent in anything written by Katie. Some old hands at reporting crime news have stated that straightforward stories of domestic horror like the murder of Katie MacDougall are not widely read. There is a jaded point-of-view at work among some mainstream journalists that says such a story doesn’t interest readers beyond the sphere of the city where the crime occurred. Perhaps that is true. But the Web is changing that, sometimes. Here, the story was not that Katie MacDougall had a MySpace page. In her age group, it is sometimes more surprising if the young adult doesn’t appear to have a profile. Bored at work, with time to indulge herself on the Web, Katie found a community at the Dave Matthews Band fan forum. There she could unwind. She could joke, or just commune with others who might be as bored as she was. Those who were friendly to Katie knew her as New Englad Katie, the cutie, and eventually, she opened up to them — about her life, her relationship, her flaws and the flaws in others. She even weathered ugly insults and criticism from trolls (one of them appeared to target Katie specifically), and kept on posting. It’s a story told every day, all day on the Web, and most of the time it’s really all tales told by poor players who strut and fret behind the masques of cheeky, silly, or even mysterious made-up names and then they are heard from no more. When a real life is attached to one of those names, reading through the words they left behind, the shreds of stories they told becomes eerie, and moving. Since Katie MacDougall shared some of what was going on in her life before it ended Friday, March 2, it is as close as we can come to talking to her, to an interview, and getting to know the victim. In short form crime stories, such as you find in weblogs or newspapers, that is still far too rare. This entry may be updated, if needed. Mainstream media articles used as sources for this entry: “Woman found strangled,” The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, March 6, 2007. “Boyfriend seen fleeing slaying site,” The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, March 8, 2007. All other research independently done.