WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Maureen O’Boyle has told thousands of stories in her almost 40 years of broadcasting. Before she got her first television news job at WITN-TV in Washington, NC, before reporting and anchoring at WECT-TV in Wilmington, before becoming the face of the nationally syndicated newsmagazines A Current Affair and Extra, and before landing her current position at WBTV-TV in her hometown of Charlotte, a young Maureen O’Boyle told stories around the dinner table. With nine brothers and sisters, Maureen says she needed to do something to get attention.
“I just wanted to be heard,” she says with a laugh. “When you’re the eighth of ten children. “Either you speak the loudest, or you tell the best stories, you tell the stories with an accent of any variety possible. That became my thing.”
It was an experience a teenage Maureen had with her mother Joan that set her life’s course in motion. They appeared on a Charlotte-area PBS station for a show called “A Woman’s World”, which featured women in their 40s and how they worked to help their teenage daughters achieve their dreams. When asked about her plans for the future, fourteen-year-old Maureen said she wanted to be a business woman and travel the world, which was a much different vision than her mother had at the same age. The life-changing words came after the show had ended.
“The producer (of the show) pulled me aside as she said ‘I don’t know what you planned on doing in the business world, but it has to be related to television’,” Maureen remembers. “She said, ‘You have to go into television, you’re just a natural communicator’. I got in the car and told my Mom and she said ‘Wow, that’s a huge compliment’. I said ‘I really don’t know how to process this’. It took me a while.”
But the seed was planted. After graduating from West Charlotte High School, Maureen attended East Carolina University intent on studying journalism. She did shifts on the college radio station, and at 11:15 of the podcast, Maureen talks about the circumstances that led to her first television news job at WITN-TV in Washington, North Carolina at the age of 18.
The aspiring journalist landed her first full-time broadcasting job at WECT-TV in Wilmington. She came in as a reporter for the late night newscasts, and eventually landed the role of anchoring the station’s Midday newscasts. Maureen remembers those days fondly, for her growth as a journalist and experiences watching the area’s new film industry spread its’ wings.
“I loved the people there, I absolutely adored the people,” she says about her co-workers and the community. “I realized that humility was super-important, and with humility comes asking for help. There were a lot of times I was crashing (working on) a story for the late news, in the edit bay, and I really should have stopped, walked out into the newsroom and found someone to help me because there would be something like a jump-cut or a black hole for a second, and it was not cool.”
From Wilmington Maureen moved on to a station in Macon, Georgia, where her life would be changed forever. On the morning of April 3, 1986, Maureen was sexually assaulted in her apartment. The rapist, James Starling, had stalked her for months, breaking-in to her apartment prior to the attack and living among her belongings. She was tortured, assaulted and, on several occasions, told she was going to die. Our conversation turned to that incident at the 22:00 of the podcast, and we spoke about several different issues. Among them, Maureen’s reaction when told she would be killed, how the traumatizing event ended, and the moment weeks later she decided to get out of Macon, Georgia.
“He told me he was going to kill me,” Maureen says. “At that very moment, I’ll tell you exactly what I thought. This is where my Faith has always been based on the way God has always been with me. At that very moment, I could feel the words coming through to me. They were not my words. I said ‘You will not kill me. I will not die here. My nephew was born three days ago, there is no way you will kill me!’ They completely threw him off guard because he had everything there to kill me. He had an array of weapons and all kinds of luggage to pack me in. He was going to put me all over the county so nobody could find me. I know I did not have that ability to come up with that (wording) in that very moment. I know it was God.”
Co-workers called Maureen’s apartment that morning when she did not show up for her shift anchoring the station’s early-morning news. When the phone rang during the attack, she told Starling who it was and why they were calling. “If you leave now, they won’t catch you!”, she told him. After hours of raping and traumatizing her, Starling put Maureen in a bathroom and left. Maureen O’Boyle had survived. You can read Maureen’s description of that horrible event by clicking here.
Maureen says she never intended to tell the story publicly. After a stop in Spokane, Washington for a main anchor position, Maureen landed her first national television show, taking over for Maury Povich as the anchor on the newsmagazine “A Current Affair”. Ratings improved. She was telling stories to millions of viewers across the country. Six years had passed since the attack, when someone outed her and sold the story to the tabloids. Maureen made the decision to let the world know her darkest secret. Her account appeared in the March 23, 1992 edition of People Magazine.
“I had been in the ladies’ room of the office building that we housed our show in, and I was crying to someone saying it was the anniversary of this bad thing that happened to me,” Maureen said. “She said ‘What happened? What was it?’ I told her, but I didn’t know someone else was in the ladies’ room at the time. That person then sold the story. As bad as that sounds, that was also God’s work. God completely knew that by the story coming out, it would force me to confront the devil in the experience and the way that experience was controlling my life, and would also give me an opportunity to give voice to all those women who have suffered sexual assault, child molestation, stalking, post-traumatic stress disorder who’ve never dealt with it.”
Maureen’s career continued to flourish. She went from “A Current Affair” to another newsmagazine “Extra”. For a time, she had her own show called “In Person”. But when Maureen’s daughter Keegan was born in 1999, she took a hiatus from broadcasting. She stepped away from the limelight of Los Angeles, retreating instead to a small log cabin on a piece of land in upstate New York. We talked about it at 47:00 of the podcast.
“I just found myself lonely in Los Angeles,” she recalls. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
While pouring her love and devotion into raising her little girl, Maureen started corresponding with the General Manager of a television station in her hometown of Charlotte. Maureen started blogging about her life in a log cabin with Keegan, sending emails about motherhood, life in a log cabin and being away from the rat race of Los Angeles and New York City. That turned into the opportunity to join WBTV-TV, where she became one of the station’s lead anchors.
Maureen O’Boyle was not done telling her own story, though. A teenage Keegan played an integral role in how the next chapter began in February 2016. Mom and daughter happened to turn on the television at the time Lady Gaga was up for a Grammy Award for her song about sexual assault. Keegan asked Maureen “How old would that man be that did that to you?” Not knowing the answer, Maureen turned to Google. She was horrified by what she found and went public with her story. The conversation begins at 32:20 of the podcast.
“I Googled and it said he (Starling) was up for parole in like, a month, or month-and-a-half, six to eight weeks, it was crazy,” Maureen said. “That’s when I started the petition, on change.org. I just wrote about what happened to me and that I know there are a lot of other people who have been through similar experiences. It just snowballed.”
Likes, shares, posts on social media boosted the effort. Her petition to keep James Starling imprisoned garnered 72,000 signatures. Maureen appeared before the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, pleading for the serial rapist to be held behind bars instead of being released 20 years early. The story gained a lot of media attention. Maureen posted the video of the day she received the phone call, and through tears learned that Starling’s parole was denied, and he won’t be eligible again until 2026.
“I don’t want to sound like a champion or anything like that,” she says. “I’m just a regular person who used this website. I happen to have a TV job, that sort of helped. But more than anything, the stories that came from it from people who said ‘I never got any justice! My rapist was never caught! The man who assaulted me as a child never faced the justice system!’ That healing process was probably greater than keeping him behind bars.”
Maureen teared up at several points of our conversation when talking about the victims who have reached out to her with a simple “Thank You”. She is very active in the Charlotte community, volunteering her time for non-profit agencies, emceeing fundraising events, and taking the lead to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism and other conditions. We also talked about the television news industry, family and her happiness working at WBTV. You’ll hear me say several times during the interview how much I respect and admire Maureen O’Boyle for the courage she has shown and the lives she has changed by telling her stories. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
You can hear the full podcast conversation with Maureen O’Boyle by clicking on any of the links below.
Please subscribe to the “1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast, and you will immediately receive the new episodes every Saturday.
The “1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast is a free download on many of your favorite podcast streaming apps including: