The Tragic Truth About Chad Michael Murray

Chad Michael Murray's Hollywood journey seems as charmed as they come — after graduating from being a teen heartthrob, he was able to keep working and eventually matured into a wholesome Hallmark leading man. However, like any Cinderella story, his life has been touched by tragedy.

Murray set many hearts aflutter when he scored his breakout role as the basketball-loving loner Lucas Scott on "One Tree Hill." Actors who receive that type of adoration sometimes get enlarged egos and take advantage of their fame in ways that can be detrimental to them. However, Murray has avoided many of the pitfalls that can lead to a popular actor's downfall. In a 2007 interview with Seventeen, he revealed that it was important to him to set a shining example for his young fans. "I want to say, 'I got here without drugs, and I got here without drinking or smoking. If I can do it, you can do it,'" he said.

While Murray didn't let any vices derail his career, the "Sullivan's Crossing" star doesn't pretend that he's made zero mistakes. "I have more regrets in my life than I care to think about, but I don't live in the past," he told E! News in 2023. Once you've delved into his tragic past, you might understand why he'd rather focus on the present and future.

Chad Michael Murray's life before fame was tough

Growing up, Chad Michael Murray developed a close relationship with his dad for a sad reason – when he was 10 years old, his mother disappeared from his life. "She put me on the bus for school one morning, saying she was going out of town for a couple of weeks," Murray recalled to Seventeen. It was eight years before he saw her again.

Murray was so upset over being abandoned by his mother that he became reclusive. Going to school was also a miserable experience for him because money was tight in his household, and most of his classmates were wealthy. "Everyone else has the coolest clothes and the greatest cars. They would get a beautiful new Lexus for their birthday, and I was driving a 1979 Cougar," he said in his 2007 Seventeen interview. However, he didn't grow to resent his father for being unable to provide him with the same luxuries his classmates enjoyed. Instead, his dad earned his respect by doing whatever he could to help Murray and his siblings. "I idolize my father. I mean, he has worked so hard in his life," the actor shared. As for his mom, it seems that their relationship was never fully repaired, but he did spend some time with her before her death in 2024. "I got to hug it out with her," he told The Cut. "It was really healing to see where my smile came from."

He gave the term 'killer abs' a whole new meaning

When he was 15, Chad Michael Murray experienced a medical emergency that almost killed him. His nightmare began when he was playing football, a sport that he adored; he told Seventeen he once dreamed of continuing his football career in college. However, a traumatic injury ultimately led to Murray nixing this plan. "Sophomore year, I got hit in the stomach," he recalled. Murray had to be taken to the hospital, where doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with him at first. On "The Jess Cagle Show," the "Too Close for Christmas" star revealed that he came much too close to meeting the Grim Reaper because his washboard stomach made it impossible for doctors to tell that he was experiencing internal bleeding. "My stomach didn't expand. Basically, my abs kept it flat," he explained.

According to Murray, his father was beside himself with grief because he feared the worst. "They had a priest at the end of my bed," he recalled. Luckily, a nurse saved the day by giving Murray a blood transfusion, and doctors eventually solved their medical mystery. "My intestines twisted," Murray said. He later said he had over two feet of small intestine taken out.

Murray revealed that the nurse who saved his life did some modeling on the side and offered to hook him up with a manager. This is how he ended up ditching his football dreams in favor of an acting career.

He's taken some beatings

Chad Michael Murray told PBS Kids Go! that some of his fellow students were needlessly cruel to him when he was in grade school. "I had my two front teeth knocked out by a sixth grader in first grade," he said. His bully was so big and strong that he was able to lift Murray in the air before punching him in the face. The "Riverdale" star revealed that he was also an egging victim.

Sometimes, a kid's situation can improve when they get a fresh slate in high school, but this wasn't the case for Murray. "I didn't have any friends, because I didn't fit in," he said. He also took an emotional beating when he had difficulties dating. In a 2004 appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," Murray said this is why he landed a job as a janitor at Donut World. "I moved on and said, 'Hey, there's hot girls working at Donut World,'" he recalled. Murray blamed his financial status for his lack of popularity with the ladies. "I was the Payless Shoes poster boy," he quipped. He credited a broken nose for changing his fortunes at age 18, telling CosmoGIRL! (via that he began getting modeling work after having the appendage reset. He had gotten attacked at Burger King. "They put my nose on the other side of my face. It was three kids," he told E! News, according to Showbizz Daily.

His marriage failed and began experiencing agoraphobia

Sophia Bush's tragic story includes a chapter about her short-lived marriage to Chad Michael Murray, who also didn't have the most blissful matrimonial experience. He wed Bush when he was just 23, and the "One Tree Hill" co-stars called it quits after five months as husband and wife. "I was a baby. I didn't know up, down, left, right," he told The Cut. Of how he was feeling at that time, he added, "I was walking around with a really pained heart."

Fame also began to take a mental toll on Murray. "The world felt like it was closing in; I was having anxiety attacks," he said. The actor revealed that he was struggling with agoraphobia as well. It's an anxiety disorder that makes sufferers fearful of certain situations or locations. An example would be going somewhere packed with people. For someone who makes a living in the public eye, it's clearly a difficult condition to live with. However, Murray told Good Housekeeping that it helped him connect with his "Sullivan's Crossing" character. "Cal is just a piece of my own playbook. I don't do well in large crowds ... It's an overload of the senses and I can't handle it," he said. "So, for Cal, a lot of that backstory is planted in wanting to be alone." Murray also doesn't let his agoraphobia prevent him from interacting with loyal fans at events such as Christmas Con.

Chad Michael Murray's emotional tribute to his canine companion

Chad Michael Murray's beloved dog Joe used to make frequent appearances on his Instagram page. Murray shared photos of his furry friend chilling with him on the set of his film "Left Behind" and watching a movie with the pup in bed. Murray also revealed that he treated Joe to only the finest canine cuisine. "Joe & I decide a couch day is in order. Pizza & Whiskey coming my way. Bully stick & Steak for Joe," he captioned a 2013 pic. Joe wasn't just a faithful companion, but also one of Murray's co-stars — he made cameos in a 2008 episode of "One Tree Hill" and the 2015 movie "Other People's Children." The talented twosome were almost inseparable, so Murray was understandably devastated when Joe's health took a turn for the worse. In June 2015, he asked his followers to pray for his old pal, who was nearly 15 years old.

Sadly, Joe died two months later. In an emotional Instagram tribute, Murray shared how thankful he was that the dog who was like family to him got to meet his first human child. (Murray and his wife, Sarah Roemer, celebrated the birth of their son in May 2015.) "You've been my kindred spirit, my unconditional friend. Thank you for carrying the weight that I could not," Murray's heartfelt message read. "You taught me more about selflessness and compassion than I thought a dog could know."