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Death of an SMU Co-Ed

Before her body was discovered at a construction site a year ago, Meaghan Bosch had a bright future and a family in McKinney that adored her. Today the Texas Rangers are still trying to figure out what happened, and her family and friends will never be the same.

image of meaghan bosch
photography courtesy of the Bosch family

May 14, 2007

The construction site sat 9 miles south of Waco, a couple miles west of Interstate 35, in the small town of Hewitt. The workmen had been hitting it hard since sunrise. By 10 o’clock that Monday morning, with humidity high from weekend rains and the temperature climbing into the high 80s, they had sweat through their t-shirts. Taking a break, one of the workers headed toward the portable toilet at the edge of the lot. When he opened the door, he found something on the blue plastic floor covered with a blanket. Pulling it back, he saw a spill of long, wavy, highlighted hair. From what little he could see in the dark stall, she almost looked comfortable, the way she was curled up on the floor.

“Miss? Esta bien?”

He thought she was sleeping. He grabbed his supervisor, who pulled the blanket fully away. It was a barefoot girl, weighing barely more than 100 pounds, wearing a blue skirt and white top. The heat and humidity had done their work. The men realized she was dead.

Meaghan Bosch, the 21-year-old SMU student who had disappeared the previous Friday, had been found. But the mystery of how she came to such an ignoble end was just unfolding.

“Not Ready to Make Nice.” It’s been a long time since a song has moved me. It speaks to me on so many levels. … I’m mad at myself that I allowed myself to get lost in what others think. My New Year’s resolution is to wake up and go to bed as me. … I don’t know what I will be but I will keep trying. … I will be successful.
—December 2006 journal entry by Meaghan Bosch

In the last months of 2006, Meaghan Bosch was dealing with a lot. She had recently broken up with Matthew Kilgore, a fellow English major at SMU with whom she had a short but intense relationship. Depression plagued her, as did an on-again, off-again eating disorder. Meaghan was also struggling with her writing. The fear of rejection almost paralyzed her. Yet she seemed determined to push through. “I am a flawed writer,” she said in one of the journals she kept. “Nonetheless, I will keep writing.” Her efforts to find her writer’s voice mirrored her attempts to define herself since leaving high school. 

Growing up in McKinney was the happiest time in Meaghan’s life, and it showed in her dazzling smile. The suburban life gave her stability. Meaghan didn’t like change. Her father, Joe Bosch, had been forced to move frequently for work: Pittsburgh, Upstate New York, Kansas, Atlanta, and, finally, in 1995, to McKinney, Texas. Once the Bosch family set its roots, Meaghan blossomed. She was an easy kid to deal with: few complaints, neat to a fault, almost annoying in her perfectionism. She would obsess about her closet, plan her outfits weeks in advance, and politely scold adult guests for putting their feet on the furniture.

She was thoughtful. She made scrapbooks for friends, and her store-bought birthday cards always got the full-on art treatment. If you were unhappy and she knew you liked green M&Ms, she’d buy five 1-pound bags and sort out the green ones for you. She was responsible. Joe and Lynn Bosch had started their lives together with very little means, and they were determined to teach their daughter and two sons to appreciate what they had. When Joe’s hard work started to pay off, Meaghan didn’t let it go to her head. Friends who hadn’t been to her home had no idea of her father’s success. By high school, she worked 40 hours a week as a lifeguard in the summers, and she worked part time during the school year.

image of the bosch family
HOW SHE’LL BE REMEMBERED: Meaghan’s two constants in life were horseback riding and her family (above, circa 1995, when they moved to McKinney).
photography courtesy of the Bosch family

Sometimes she was just plain silly. During sleepovers, when the girls would give each other makeovers, she’d do things like paint a unibrow on her friend. She was the self-proclaimed queen of bad movies, nearly wearing out her DVDs of Dirty Dancing  or the Mariah Carey debacle Glitter just to torture her friends.

Like any normal kid, she got in trouble, too. She went to beer parties and occasionally smoked pot. She and a close friend would sometimes sneak a few pours out of her parents’ liquor cabinet, then run through the sprinklers on the golf course behind the house. They rolled people’s houses. When she and a friend were 14, they vowed not to enter high school without having kissed a boy. So they went to the movie theater and did just that to a couple of boys they met. Later, in high school, her cell phone never seemed to stop ringing. Boys she dated fell in love with her in the span of days, not weeks or months.

Whatever adolescent partying she indulged in from time to time, her grades remained impeccable. And if she was grounded more often than her friends, it was only because her parents were stricter than most.

When high school ended, Meaghan had no idea what she wanted to do. Health care seemed as good a place to start as any. While most of her friends chose between the north and south poles—University of Oklahoma or University of Texas—Meaghan’s budding independence asserted itself, and she charted her own course for the University of Arkansas, where she planned to study to be a pharmacist.

It just wasn’t right for her. Besides desperately missing her family, as well as the realization that biology and chemistry didn’t hold much interest for her, she never found her place in Fayetteville. She did meet Lauren Loeb, who became her best friend. Lauren was the kind of cool and confident girl that Meaghan had never been since she left high school. She could convince Meaghan to try just about anything, like the time they snuck onto the roof of a residence hall to sunbathe. That cost them each a 1,000-word essay.

In summer 2004, after her freshman year, Meaghan reassessed her life. She wanted to be closer to home. She was more interested in art history and English. That fall, she enrolled at Collin County Community College to pursue arts and literature studies. It’s not where she wanted to finish up, but she didn’t want to waste the fall and spring semesters.

It was a good solution for her transcript but lousy for her social life. The campus lacked the community she craved. Even though she was living at home, her friends from high school were all away. Sometime after New Year’s Eve, tired of the loneliness, she started seeing a guy four years older than she was, Will Shuler. Meaghan and Will had met that summer when she was working again as a lifeguard, but the relationship had sputtered. It was never a healthy relationship to start with, and this go-around it got worse. She was fragile, and he seemed to need someone to control.

Fall 2005
Meaghan enrolled at smu to study English. She wanted to be a writer, and it seemed a good place to learn the craft. But Will wasn’t happy about the move. Meaghan was a gorgeous girl about to be loosed on a college campus brimming with young, attractive, rich college boys. Meaghan and Will always presented a good public face, but behind closed doors, their relationship ran hot and cold. Ordinary arguments between the two sometimes descended into horrible shouting matches. And neither was innocent—she could be as combative as he was. Will yelled at her when she stocked his refrigerator when he was away on business. He didn’t want her hanging around campus if she wasn’t in class. Meaghan would  sneak around to see friends. She stole the occasional lunch with Brandon Tomes, a high school friend she had dated briefly and who attended SMU. He was a Kappa Alpha. She’d try to go to a mixer or English department function. But it’s difficult for a student entering as a junior to feel fully embraced by her classmates who’ve had two years together.

She lived in a 1960s-era off-campus condo on East University Boulevard near Skillman that her parents bought, since the commute from McKinney could be so brutal. Whatever her boyfriend problems, her relationship with family and her other friends didn’t suffer. If she didn’t talk to her parents every day, she saw them at least twice a week, especially on weekends.

Unknown to her family or friends, though, Meaghan’s self-esteem had sunk so low that she developed an eating disorder. Once, Will caught her forcing herself to throw up after a meal at his condo. He didn’t know how to handle it. “You’re disgusting! You’re sick!” he shouted at her as she wiped her lips with the back of her hand. He, too, had suffered bulimia, and he knew its ravages, but not how to help her face it. They each tried many times to break it off, wanted to, but for Meaghan the certainty of misery was sometimes better than the uncertainty of change. Despite the moments of anger that punctuated their relationship, they also had a love that was equally intense.

image of ryan webb
Ryan Webb (above) was the second to last person Meaghan talked to.

Fall 2006
Finally, she and Will called it quits. For the most part. They would continue seeing each other occasionally, mostly in secret. She called her mother and told her about the new boy she was seeing, Matthew Kilgore, who was studying English but wanted to go to law school.

“You know, I’m going to focus on school and making friends,” she said.

Meaghan also started seeing a therapist, and, at her doctor’s recommendation, she started taking the antidepressant Zoloft.

She didn’t notice it, but in a way she was becoming a bit of a mimic. Between the social isolation and her relationship with Will, there had been a void where her sense of self should have been. The therapy and the Zoloft helped, but they weren’t a cure-all. She wanted to assert herself—resolved to—but after her yearlong dysfunctional relationship, she needed outside approval. One way to get it was simply to become what she saw in those who validated her. Matthew was quiet and bookish. His idea of a fun Saturday night was to spend it reading. That became Meaghan’s idea of a fun Saturday night.

The relationship didn’t last the semester, though, as Matthew graduated and moved to Houston. That feeling of rejection and a lack of self-worth continued to gnaw at her. She went back to Will, which worsened her moods. Still, Meaghan was determined to press on.

The one constant she had in her life from her earliest years was horseback riding. From the day she got her first horse, Sienna, riding was the one thing outside of family that never let her down. In middle school, she was allowed to substitute her riding for gym credit. During her freshman year in high school, Meaghan was up almost every day before sunrise to ride before class. She continued to ride through college, which is indirectly how she met one of the last two people she spoke to before she died: Ryan Webb. 

image of james mcdaniel
James McDaniel
photography by Rex Curry

November 2006
Like Meaghan, Emily Allen was an accomplished equestrian, and the two hung out together at jumping competitions and at SMU. Emily, whose father is president of Brinks Home Security in Irving, ran with a much wilder crowd than Meaghan was used to. Not that Meaghan was a saint. She’d tried a few of the harder drugs. But her dalliances were still tempered by a measure of control. She didn’t miss class often, and her grades never suffered. The occasional wild night never turned into a habit.

Emily introduced Meaghan to SMU’s Greek life. About 35 percent of the students there are part of the fraternity/sorority system, so most of the social life revolves around which house has your allegiance. Emily and her friends were close with a lot of the guys at the Phi Gamma Delta house—the Fijis. The Fijis they knew were hard partiers with deep pockets. A typical four-day weekend for some of these guys would be filled with drugs, gambling, and drinking.

As Meaghan’s friendship circle shifted, she began to look for a new boyfriend. One December afternoon, a friend approached Meaghan, who was hanging out by the library smoking a cigarette.

“Hey, you see that guy over there?” Meaghan asked, pointing to a slightly pudgy, heavy-browed kid with unruly dark hair.

“Yeah,” the friend said. “I think that’s Ryan Webb.”

“I think he wants to go out with me,” she said. “He’s kind of creepy.”

Still, there was something about him she liked. When school broke for Christmas holiday, Meaghan spent much of her time catching up with high school friends who were home from college. She went to the McKinney Tavern on Eldorado Parkway with one, Misty McDonald, who was home from Austin.

“You’re losing weight,” McDonald noted with concern.

Meaghan changed the subject.

January 2007
Ryan Webb had a taste for cocaine, and he had the resources to afford it. He lived in his own apartment at Mockingbird Station, and he offered Meaghan the kind of uncritical acceptance that she had never gotten from Will. And Ryan, whom she called “Webb,” was fun—not gregarious, but mature enough that he felt comfortable among his peers or adults.

Meaghan seemed giddy the first few months of 2007. New relationships will do that. The Zoloft helped, too. Her life revolved around Ryan. Just as she had with others, she adopted the habits of the person in her life who validated her. This time, the habit was cocaine.

Meaghan and Ryan saw each other almost every day as the new semester began. They’d stay up late watching movies on weeknights and party on weekends. She was still going to class, but schoolwork became less important to her. As did her therapy sessions. The Zoloft she was taking was increasingly replaced by cocaine. She stopped calling her parents daily, stopped going to class regularly, stopped being honest with her family and friends.

Lynn and Joe Bosch knew something was wrong with Meaghan, but they weren’t sure what. They found out she was still talking to her old boyfriend, Will, and, knowing the emotional and verbal abuse the two inflicted on each other, they decided that was the cause of her changing ways and dark moods.

After spring break, Meaghan stopped attending class and her therapy sessions.

“Meaghan, are you taking your medication?” her mother asked.

“No. I’ll make an appointment with the doctor to get some,” Meaghan said. She also promised to see her therapist. But she did neither.

Her parents didn’t realize this, though, and they continued to give her money for therapy sessions. They had no idea that everything they gave their daughter was filling the pockets of a man who had a townhome located just a few hundred yards from Ryan Webb’s apartment. His name was James McDaniel.

Ryan was the second to last person to whom Meaghan spoke. James McDaniel was the last.

He was known as “Black James” in the underground Dallas poker circles, as a way to distinguish him from several other players named James. Black James, 47, was burly, bald, and as charming as he was sharp. He lived on the periphery of SMU, but he was at the center of the school’s party scene. He ran a poker game out of his place on Winton Street that attracted local bigwigs: athletes, sportscasters, and the like, all of whom fancied themselves good poker players. But real players avoided the game, because they knew it was as crooked as James’ rap sheet was long. He was on parole for the 1978 murder of a former Dallas police officer.

The Fijis and other frats held games at Winton Street, and James was a regular source for anyone on campus needing cocaine, heroin, painkillers, or other pleasures that could be packaged and sold. He kept a supply of them in the back of the townhome in a closet, along with a shotgun. The bulk of his wares he kept at his home in Pleasant Grove.

March and April 2007
Meaghan had asked an old friend to meet her for lunch after spring break. Her vibrant smile and healthy glow were gone.

“You look—you look terrible, Meaghan,” her friend said.

“I’ve been up all weekend,” Meaghan said, wiping her red, runny nose. She only picked at her lunch.

Like her contacts with friends and family, Meaghan’s journal entries grew more random and infrequent. It had never been a proper diary­—no dates, no single book—just something she started keeping for herself at the end of 2006, after her breakup with Matthew Kilgore. Entries ranged from academic and critical to personal confessions about her struggles with self-confidence. Optimism often gave way to despondency that reflected her depression. She stopped answering her cell phone. She rarely talked to her parents. When she did promise to see them, she often didn’t show up.

Meanwhile, she became closer to James, whom she really liked. He told her she could be a hostess at one of his game nights. When he mentioned he was going out of town for a few days, she offered to walk his dog.

But her cocaine use was getting out of control. Now her friends knew something was very wrong. She seemed tired, depressed, hollow. One asked her point-blank: “Are you happy, Meaghan?”
She gave no answer.

Friday, May 4, 2007
Lynn Bosch arrived at Meaghan’s condo early in the morning. The plan was to tear out the decades-old backsplash and countertops and replace them. She brought some of Meaghan’s older clothes that had either been altered or dry-cleaned. Truth was, Lynn wanted to spend time with Meaghan to figure out what was going on.

Meaghan looked sallow when she opened the door. Her makeup was smeared.

“You look horrible,” Lynn said.

“Thanks,” Meaghan replied sarcastically. “That’s nice.”

They went to her bedroom so Meaghan could try on the clothes. Her mother couldn’t hide what she was feeling.

“What?” Meaghan said. “Stop looking at me that way. Stop judging me.”

“I’m not judging you, Meaghan, but you don’t look very good. You’re too skinny, and you look like you’ve been up all night.”

“Mom, I’m fine. Nothing’s going to happen to me. What could happen to me?”

Lynn noticed that her once-meticulous daughter was living in a mess. Meaghan pulled the blankets to make the bed, and a rolled-up $20 bill flew out. Meaghan grabbed it and put it in her pocket. Her mother pretended she hadn’t noticed, but Lynn knew she had to speak to her husband about what to do with their daughter. Meantime, the two spent the day working on the backsplash and tile.

At home, Lynn and Joe decided two things: they needed to talk to Meaghan’s therapist, and they wanted to wait until finals were over before they confronted Meaghan, worrying an intervention could derail the semester. They knew, however, that she was most likely doing cocaine. They just didn’t know how much.

Lynn e-mailed Meaghan’s therapist, who wrote back: “I’m gonna talk to Meaghan. After I talk to Meaghan, I’ll have her decide if she wants to meet with us.”

Saturday to Monday, May 5 to 7, 2007
Meaghan met her ex-boyfriend Will for dinner at a pizza dive off Interstate 635. She admitted to Will she had a cocaine problem. They talked about whether they should get back together, but Will was already seeing someone else as well. Meaghan weighed it, but she said she didn’t know how to break it off with Ryan. Will asked her if he could help, especially given the coke problem. He’d lost two friends to cocaine overdoses and couldn’t handle people using it around him. He told her he still loved her, and she said the same. It was the last time they’d see each other. That night, Meaghan took solace in lines of cocaine. When Ryan found out the next day about the dinner, they had an argument. Meaghan felt scared, angry, and lonely. She called her old friend at UA in Fayetteville, Lauren Loeb. Meaghan unloaded on her, practically sounding incoherent. Lauren ignored her own impending final exams, and simply said, “I’m coming.” She immediately began the five-and-a-half-hour drive to Dallas.

Meaghan and Lauren spent Monday together. Meaghan wouldn’t open up, so they watched movies in her condo. Meaghan slept a lot. As far as Lauren could tell, Meaghan wasn’t using.

On Tuesday, they finally talked about how bad Meaghan’s cocaine habit had become. She told Lauren she wanted to quit, but she was scared. Scared of how mad her parents would be. Scared of how that would affect her relationship with Ryan. Scared of change, even for the good. But eventually Lauren got Meaghan to promise that she would talk to her therapist and tell her parents about her drug problem.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007
lauren hugged meaghan before she began her long drive back to Fayetteville. She believed Meaghan was going to be okay. They’d spent Tuesday together, and Meaghan had seen her mother that afternoon. The only worrisome episode had occurred when she’d gotten a call from James. She admitted to Lauren that the call was from her dealer but wouldn’t tell her why she’d become visibly upset. By day’s end, though, Meaghan seemed on the right path.

Thursday, May 10, 2007
meaghan met with james and another woman at the On the Border on Knox Street around 3 pm. At some point, she text-messaged Lauren: “Is it weird I’m at a restaurant with James?”

Lauren, in a dressing room trying on clothes in Fayetteville, texted back: “Yes! Go home!”

Instead, she went home with James. Around 5 pm, a few people stopped by the Winton Street townhome. Meaghan had plans to meet Ryan that night at 6:30 at his apartment for a last night out before he drove back to his home in Chicago on Friday. She had plenty of time. After all, Ryan’s apartment was within walking distance of James’ townhome. At some point, she stopped at an ATM and withdrew a few dollars. Her bank balance was $45.

Meaghan called Lauren around 5:30. She didn’t say much, but Lauren could tell she was still with James and that she didn’t want her dealer to hear the phone call. Meaghan told Lauren she was okay.

She called Ryan and told him she’d be over by 7.

Around 6, she sent a text message to her ex, Will. It wasn’t a plea for help. It was simply to get a rise out of him: “At a big black guys house with guns.”

Bradley Hullum, who lived next door to James, stopped in a little later. James introduced him to “Meg,” who was hanging out in the front bedroom. Bradley thought Meg looked pretty high. James asked Bradley if he wanted some cocaine or heroin. Bradley commented on how strange Meaghan looked. James shrugged, saying Meaghan will “be up and down all night long.” Bradley knew that to be terminology for cycling on cocaine and downers such as oxycodone.

Ryan, meanwhile, had called Meaghan several times and gotten no answer. Concerned, he called Lauren in Fayetteville and left a number of messages, asking if she knew where Meaghan was. He was worried, but not enough to put off his drinking plans.

Lauren returned to her apartment at about 2 am and saw the messages. She figured they were from Meaghan, using Ryan’s phone. Lauren had been drinking—post-exam release—when Ryan finally reached her and said he couldn’t find Meaghan. Lauren told him that she might be at her dealer’s house and that he needed to go get her.

“Go to James’,” she said. “That’s where she is. Go get her!”

“I can’t drive,” he said. “I’m too wasted.”

Ryan lived 600 feet from James. But he had also previously told friends he was terrified of the man.

Friday, May 11, 2007
About 9 am, Ryan went to Meaghan’s condo to feed her cat. That’s what he’d later tell police. Meaghan’s truck was parked outside with the keys in it. Ryan then left for the long drive to Chicago. He didn’t call Meaghan’s parents or the police.

Around noon, Bradley Hullum came by James’ again. James asked Bradley to take a look at Meaghan, to see if she looked all right. Bradley saw her in the front bedroom, on the bed, unconscious. Her breathing was labored, and mucus ran from her nose and mouth. They tried to wake her but couldn’t. Bradley realized what was happening, and he got scared.

That afternoon, Lauren contacted Meaghan’s brother, saying she didn’t have Lynn and Joe Bosch’s home number. She told him that Meaghan was missing, and he called his parents.

Within hours, the Bosch family alerted Dallas Police’s missing persons department. They posted flyers promising a $10,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.

That afternoon, on her father’s 49th birthday, Meaghan Bosch died.

May 2007
Sometime between that Friday morning and the pre-dawn hours of Monday, someone gathered Meaghan’s body and drove it 98 miles south on Interstate 35. Just a few miles past Waco, the driver turned west on Sun Valley Drive for about a mile and a half, then right on Lisa Drive, then left on Connie Drive to the construction site. Meaghan’s body was carried to the portable toilet and left there. Three diamond earrings and her rings went untouched. Her purse, shoes, and cell phone were taken.

On May 17, Dallas Police and Texas Rangers served warrants on James McDaniel’s two residences. They found drugs, a few guns, and videotapes of him having sex with women who appeared to be unconscious. None of the women on the tapes was Meaghan. James was now wanted for parole violation, weapons possession charges, and questioning in his role in Meaghan’s disappearance. In running his background, investigators discovered a previously unfiled charge. In December 2005, a woman had told Dallas Police that she’d been drugged and raped. DNA evidence matched James’. Investigators filed that charge against him, too.

Two weeks to the day after Meaghan was last seen alive, James was arrested in the Auburndale Avenue apartment of another 21-year-old female SMU student, Blair Benjamin. When detectives asked for her consent to search her apartment, she let them in. James was on the floor by the sofa, suffering an apparent overdose. He recovered at the hospital and immediately asked for a lawyer. He denied that he saw Meaghan after their late-afternoon lunch.

It’s been almost one year since Meaghan Bosch died. Every character in this sad story remains frustrated in the wake of her murder investigation. Texas Ranger Sergeant Terry Welch of Company B in Garland is the lead investigator on the Bosch case. The 27-year veteran has been trying to connect the dots that could lead to a murder charge in Meaghan’s case. Aside from the 2005 sexual assault case, investigators have tracked down other women who McDaniel had sex with while they were unconscious, and Welch has the videotapes. Welch thinks he can establish a pattern, but he admits it’s a big leap for a jury to make when the charge is murder.

Welch is frustrated because, almost a year later, he’s still waiting for DNA tests to determine whether McDaniel had intercourse with Meaghan, although there will be no way to determine whether or not it was consensual. He desperately wants to know what happened during that time period between Friday morning and the Monday morning when she was found.

James McDaniel will most likely never get out of prison. He faces drug charges, and in mid-February he was indicted on federal weapons charges. An administrative hearing was scheduled for late March to decide whether his parole for the 1978 murder will be revoked. But none of that is much comfort to Meaghan’s family, looking to find a measure of justice.

“You know,” Ranger Welch says, “I’d just about cut a deal with this guy if he’d just tell me what happened.”

Welch is also frustrated about a leak from somewhere high up in the Dallas Police Department that he thinks led to McDaniel finding out the Rangers were planning to execute a search warrant on his homes hours before they did, giving him time to hide evidence.

“That’s the kind of thing that can get officers killed,” he says. “The Dallas Police really f—ed up. They have serious corruption problems and serious leak problems.”

More than anything in this case, he wants closure for the Bosch family. It’s hard sometimes to deal with them because they want something he may not be able to give them. “Meaghan may not have been an innocent,” he says. “She went to his place on her own. But this guy is an animal. He’s a professional predator. He’s a sociopath. She was just out of her league.”

Lisa Fox is James McDaniel’s attorney on the 2005 sexual assault charge. She’s a former prosecutor and judge turned defense attorney. Her client hasn’t been charged in connection with Meaghan’s death. Between family concerns in Kansas City and a near full docket of other cases, she has only met with her client a few times, but she believes he’s innocent. She says it’s a case of political pressure to have a scapegoat for the death of some rich, white suburban SMU student.

“And who better to hang it around than a big, scary black guy on parole for murder?” Fox says. She knows James McDaniel doesn’t stand a chance of getting out of prison, but she wants to fight for him.

Ryan Webb refuses to talk to anyone publicly about the incident. At Meaghan’s memorial in May 2007, he arrived unshaven. He seemed put off that more people weren’t consoling him. The music in the background was the Dixie Chicks song “Not Ready to Make Nice,” the one Meaghan mentioned in her journal.

“I’m the boyfriend,” Ryan told Meaghan’s cousin.

“Yeah, well, I’m her friend for the past 21 years,” she said under her breath. Later she said, “I wanted to push him in the pool.”

But no one is more frustrated than the Bosch family. It’s been a year, and the pain hasn’t lessened. Her death is on their minds every day. They’re angry because James McDaniel sits in jail, uncharged. They’re frustrated with the way the media portrayed their daughter as a princess who was handed life on a silver platter and traded it for a mirror of coke lines. Most of all, they’re shattered because their daughter is gone.

 Lynn keeps her composure best she can, but when she talks about her daughter, the tears come easily. “We try to remember her the way she was, the good times,” Lynn says. “But we’ll never be the same.” Joe struggles and tries to stay stoic, but even his blue eyes well up when he speaks of the Meaghan they knew. Grief counseling only goes so far. They cope because they have to. They know that there’s nothing, in the end, they could have done, but that knowledge is cold comfort. They’re so frustrated that they find themselves trying to put together some theory, some pattern, or find some clue that can answer for them why their daughter died.

Lynn pays to keep Meaghan’s cell phone active. She figures someone knows something about her final days. Maybe a friend of Meaghan’s who is scared, someone who might someday call.

At 12:01 am on January 19, 2008, a friend of Meaghan’s called that cell phone and left a message. The caller’s speech was a bit slurred. She said: “I love you, baby. I miss you. I wish you could hear my voice. I wish you could hear this message. I know you’re not. But I just wanted to tell you that I love you. You’re on my mind every day. I wanted to say I’ll see you again in another life. I love you.”

Trey Garrison is a senior contributing editor to D Magazine. Write to [email protected].