An hour and a half after former Maryland government official Roy McGrath failed to show for the start of his federal fraud trial in Baltimore, sheriff’s deputies knocked on the door of his Florida home.
“He’s in Maryland,” McGrath’s wife, Laura Bruner, told them. “He left this morning at like 5 or 6. I was sleeping, and he got a ride to the airport.”
The deputies’ visit to McGrath’s house on the morning of March 13 was captured on a body-worn camera and released Monday to The Banner. Bruner tells them that her husband reconsidered flying the night before.
“He decided to fly out this morning,” she said. “He was like, ‘Why am I going to stress myself out and be there another night?’”
The casual encounter lasts about two minutes. Bruner expresses concern that she hasn’t heard from her husband, but there’s no indication that she’s aware he skipped court. The video corroborates statements later from McGrath’s attorney that those closest to the former aide to Gov. Larry Hogan knew nothing of his intention to go on the run.
“I woke up around 8, I think, and I messaged him and he hasn’t responded,” Bruner told the deputies.
McGrath evaded FBI agents and U.S. Marshals for three weeks until authorities confronted him in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee. He died in what authorities are calling an “agent-involved shooting.”
The FBI investigation continues and agents have offered no explanation for McGrath’s whereabouts during those weeks. Still, clues are surfacing to suggest that his decision to skip out on his trial and take off was not impulsive and a secret that he hid from his attorney and, apparently, his wife.
“I don’t know what flight he was on,” she told deputies that morning. “He didn’t share that with me.”
In fact, McGrath didn’t buy a plane ticket at all, or make a reservation to fly out on March 13, according to an FBI search warrant unsealed last week. He was due in federal court in Baltimore that morning to stand trial on charges of fraud, theft and falsifying records.
McGrath resigned as Hogan’s chief of staff amid controversy over a payout of more than $233,000 that he negotiated when he transferred to the governor’s office from the state’s environmental service. An investigation found McGrath carried out a scheme to enrich himself personally by defrauding the government, according to prosecutors.
His attorney, Joseph Murtha, has said he had no indication that McGrath intended to skip trial. In the body-camera video, Bruner said her husband spent hours preparing for court on the day before he disappeared.
His trial was to begin at 9 a.m. With McGrath still missing around 10:30, authorities in Maryland requested Florida sheriff’s deputies to perform a welfare check on his home in Naples, Florida.
“I don’t think he was supposed to be up there until noon or 11 or something like that,” his wife told them.
Questions continue to surround McGrath’s disappearance, the circumstances around his death, and two e-books that were published online while he was missing and purport to share his account of the alleged crimes.
With McGrath missing, a self-published e-book titled “Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath” went on sale online. The unknown author, who gave the name “Ryan C. Cooper,” claimed the book was based on McGrath’s own manuscript and their interviews from previous months. The book jumped to No. 4 among Amazon’s 100 bestsellers in “Political Commentary & Opinion.”
A sequel published one week later recounted McGrath’s time at the Maryland Environmental Service. There’s been much speculation about the identity of the author, who had promised a third book.
The author has shown no activity online and not responded to phone calls or emails since last month.