Rachel Hurley went boating in Jupiter Inlet in Florida with a few of her friends on Saturday, March 17, 1990. It was around 2:45 pm when the 14-year-old realized if she was going to meet her mother at 3:00 pm like she promised, she needed to get off the boat immediately. The owner of the boat dropped off Rachel and two of her friends, Maddy and Erin, at the boat dock in Dubois Park. It was less than a mile from there to Carlin Park, where Rachel was meeting her mom. She knew that she was going to have to run to get there on time, and urged Erin and Maddy to hurry.
Rachel’s friends joined her on the way to Carlin Park, but they needed to use the bathroom first. They said they would be back in a minute, but Rachel didn’t want to wait. She was already stressed out about being late, and she didn’t want to make things worse by running late. Her words to Erin and Maddy were that she would talk to them later. Then she ran off toward Carlin Park. Her friends just shrugged because they knew it wouldn’t work to try to get the stubborn teen to do something she didn’t want to do. They could only watch as she ran off with her hairbrush in her hand.
The bus didn’t pick Erin and Maddy up until 3:30, so they took their time in the bathroom trying to smooth out their windblown hair. The teens didn’t bother to ask their parents if they could go boating that day because they knew their parents would say no. But as they looked at themselves in the mirror, they wondered if their looks would be enough to let their parents know they weren’t allowed to go. As soon as they thought they looked clean enough, they left the bathroom and went in the same direction Rachel had gone.
They were only a few minutes behind Rachel, but they couldn’t find her as they walked to Carlin Park. They got there early and were able to relax while they waited for their ride to pick them up. They saw Rachel’s mother while they were waiting. She waved Maddy and Erin over and asked if Rachel was with them. The two teens were confused and told her that Rachel had left before them and should have already arrived at Carlin Park.
Andrea Hurley’s first reaction was a little irritation. She told her daughter that she would pick her up at 3:00 because the girl had to sell tickets for a pancake breakfast with her middle school softball team. The night before, Rachel went to a sleepover with Erin and Maddy. But before she left, her mother reminded her that she needed to sell tickets, and Rachel promised she would be there on time. It looked like she had left again with friends.
Andrea began to think that she might have driven to the wrong place; maybe Rachel had told her that she would be in one of the other parks in the area. It was not like Rachel to be late for any kind of team meeting or event because she loved softball so much.
Soon after, Maddy and Erin’s ride showed up, and the girls went home. Rachel had said she was going to meet up with her mother, so they were surprised when she didn’t. But Rachel was a popular teenager, so it was likely that she had met up with some other friends on her way to Carlin Park. They thought Rachel had gone across the beach the same way they did that afternoon, but she might have cut short her trip through a forest and met someone she knew there.
The friends of Rachel got a call from Andrea soon after they got home. She was getting worried because she couldn’t find Rachel and wanted to know if they remembered what Rachel had worn that afternoon. It was proven that Rachel was wearing gray shorts and a pink and green bikini top. Before she went to meet her mother, she put on a white t-shirt.
Rachel’s friends went back to the beach to help look for her because they knew something was very wrong. After their first search didn’t turn up her, they went back to Carlin Park and used the payphones there to call all of their friends. That afternoon, no one had heard from Rachel. Quickly, word got around that Rachel seemed to be missing, and soon, a group of her friends came to help with the search, along with their parents.
By 5 p.m., Andrea Hurley knew Rachel probably hadn’t ditched her friends on a whim. She was a responsible teen, and she was always on time. She was late for everything. She called the police and told them she couldn’t find her daughter because she was getting more and more scared. Right away, they came to help, and soon there were close to 100 deputies, horses, dogs, boats, and helicopters searching.
Rachel’s friends wanted to keep looking for her after the police were called, but their parents told them to wait at the nearby Civic Center while the adults kept looking. The teens didn’t find out their parents had done this until much later because they were afraid they were looking for a body at the time. The idea that Rachel might have been hurt had not even crossed her friends’ minds.
The wind was strong, and by late afternoon, the beach wasn’t very busy. Rachel was not going to be on the beach, that much was clear. While she stayed with her boyfriend and closest friends near the Civic Center, a large group of adults and other teens began searching through the wooded areas near the beach. At 8:15 pm, a terrible discovery was made by one of the search groups. Rachel’s body was found in the woods north of Carlin Park. Her clothes were found nearby where she was lying face up on the ground.
Based on the autopsy, Rachel had been raped, hit, and then either strangled or suffocated to de*ath. Defense wounds were all over her body, showing that she had fought hard to stay alive.
Detectives knew there had been a mur*der, but not much else. On Sunday, they searched the woods and beach area for clues that could help them figure out who the suspect was, but they didn’t find any.
There were interviews with all of Rachel’s friends and people who were on the beach when she was k*illed. One of the teens who was at Carlin Park that day said he saw an unknown man come out of the woods not far from where Rachel’s body was later found. The man wasn’t wearing a shirt and his chest looked like it had been scratched. The man had dark blonde hair and a beard. He was about 6 feet 2 inches tall. He wore jeans and work boots and looked like he was in his 30s. He was thin and weighed about 150 pounds.
The police gave the public a description of the man and asked them to help them find him. They warned him that he wasn’t a suspect but was wanted to be questioned because he might be able to help them find the ki*ller. The man’s identity was never found, which is a shame.
Both the police and the people who lived in the area knew that there were homeless people living in the wooded areas around Carlin Park. Many people thought that one of these people might have taken Rachel and k*illed her. People who knew the area never went too far from the beach, even though the beach areas were often crowded, especially on weekends and holidays. Rachel and her friends had been told not to go into the woods by herself, so they didn’t believe she would have gone there on her own. It’s possible that she was ready to take a chance if she thought it would make things go faster. She had been worried about being late.
Detectives weren’t sure if Rachel had been attacked by a homeless person, but they wanted to talk to the homeless people who lived in the woods because they thought they might have seen something that would help with the investigation. People who lived in the woods seemed scared that they might be blamed for the crime, so they left the wooded areas. When the police searched the area, all they found was trash and some clothes that had been left behind.
People who were homeless in the area often gathered in an empty cement radar station that was located along the north edge of Carlin Park when it rained. It rained late Saturday night after Rachel’s body was found, and police wondered if her k*iller had gone to the old radar station to stay dry. They looked all over it and the area around it for clues, but they couldn’t find anything that was connected to Rachel’s death.
They looked for more clues and ended up searching over eight miles of beaches and woods for anything that might have something to do with the mur*der. The homeless people eventually made their way back into Carlin Woods, where detectives talked to more than 50 of them to look for possible witnesses. No one said they saw anything fishy around the time of the m*urder.
While detectives continued their search, Rachel’s family and friends got ready to say goodbye to the popular teen for good. She loved Guns N’ Roses music and the movie “Top Gun” so much that she decided she wanted to be a fighter pilot when she grew up. She was also known for being the best second baseman in the county when she played softball.
More than 3,000 people, mostly from Jupiter, Florida, came to her viewing. Many of Rachel’s friends found that they could no longer roam the beaches like they used to after she died. The whole community was shocked. People were scared that a kil*ler was out there, so they wanted to keep their kids inside.
Rachel’s funeral was held the morning after her viewing, and about 1,000 people came. A lot of the people who came were her classmates, and they cried the whole time. On the edges of the crowd, police gathered to record the funeral and burial on video. They watched the videos over and over again, hoping that the k*iller would show up. They were looking for anyone who seemed fishy.
Detectives told everyone that they had set up a trust fund to start collecting money for a reward in the case. In the end, they offered $15,000 for information that led to the arrest and conviction of the person who ki*lled Rachel, but they only got a few tips.
Detectives thought it was possible that the mu*rderer was a transient who had since left the area. People in Jupiter were furious at the thought that someone could have come into their community and done something so violent. Soon, “no trespassing” signs were put up all along the edges of the wooded area that surrounds Carlin Park. The goal of clearing out the undergrowth was to make it easier to see into the wooded areas. People in the town also asked the leaders to tear down the abandoned radar station and have police patrol the area to stop homeless people from gathering there.
Detectives worked hard to find a suspect, but they didn’t get many tips and couldn’t come up with any solid leads. The investigation stopped quickly, and the case went cold. As technology improved and DNA testing became available, samples taken from Rachel’s body during her autopsy were sent back to be analyzed, and a DNA profile of the suspect was made. There was no match in any of the available DNA databases. Based on the results of DNA tests, detectives have been able to rule out 127 men as possible suspects.
Police think it’s very likely that the suspect has never done anything else wrong because his DNA has not been added to any current criminal databases. They believe it’s possible that the ki*ller didn’t mean to k*ill Rachel; it was probably an over-the-top sexual assault that ended in death. Because of this, they think he might feel bad about what he did and have told at least one person over the years that he did it.
The FBI looked at all the case files related to Rachel’s mur*der and were able to figure out what kind of person did it. They think he is a white man who was probably in his 20s when the crime happened. He most likely didn’t have a job when he k*illed Rachel, but he probably came from a wealthy family.
Detectives are still sure that this case can be solved, and they want anyone who knows anything to come forward and tell the police. A $15,000 reward is being offered to anyone who can give detectives the information they need to find Rachel’s ki*ller and give her family and friends some peace of mind. His name was Daniel Hurley, and he died suddenly on February 23, 2019, while coaching his grandson’s lacrosse team. He never found out who ki*lled his daughter, but Rachel’s mother, sister, and many friends are still alive and hoping that the ki*ller will be caught.
Detective William Springer with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 561–688–4013 or by calling 1-800-458–8477. Is there anything you know about Rachel’s de*ath? Crime Stoppers is giving $15,000 to anyone who can help solve this case.