WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Police Department is looking for answers in a 1986 murder.
Randy Hockabout was found dead in a park on South Front Street near his car in January 1986.
“I would just love to hug him one more time, but I know that’s not going to happen,” Patricia Rongotes said.
Patricia Rongotes would give anything for just one more moment, one more conversation, one more memory with her brother Randy.
“We went from school together, to graduation together to getting married the same year,” Rongotes said. “Me and him was so close and I’ve never been close to anybody like I was him.”
On January 25th 1986, Rongotes lost her best friend.
“His car was nose down in the little creek by the railroad track,” Rongotes said.
This was not a car accident. It was a murder. Detective Joshua Childress with the Wilmington Police Department said a few people found Hockabout’s body next to his car in Optimist Park on South Front Street that morning.
“The vehicle had been crashed or intentionally set into that creek area partially into the water and the victim who was identified as Randy Hockabout was found pretty much naked and had been beaten very, very badly and he was already deceased when he was found,” Childress said.
The day before, Rongotes said Hockabout was at their mom’s house and afterwards went out downtown with some friends.
“He left my mom’s house about 2:30,” Rongotes said. “He was going to go to the exxon, get a pack of cigarettes and then he was going to go to Burger King to get a cheese burger and then he was supposed to come back home.”
Hockabout never returned.
“I just don’t know any reason for anybody to do something like that,” Rongotes said.
Childress said detectives have one theory.
“Mr. Hockabout had come out actually on the news as being homosexual,” Childress said.
Hockabout had been married and had a child and then, later divorced.
“We all knew he was gay, but that didn’t make a difference to us,” Rongotes said. He was my brother still.”
Childress said it was the 80s.
“At a time where that really wasn’t as accepted as it is now and due just to the violence of this case and just how horrifically beaten he was, we couldn’t help but wonder if that had something to do with why the suspect or suspects did what they did,” Childress said.
Rongotes does not think that is the case.
“I just think it was some people,” Rongotes said. “They said, ‘we found somebody to play with’ and they went too far.”
After 32 years, Childress said detectives are still looking at all the possibilities.
“We get some leads every now and then. We also have some new, potentially new ways that we can test old evidence that we’re trying to explore,” Childress said.
He said the clock is ticking and they need witnesses to come forward whether they are new or old.
“Anyone who knew something about where Randy went or heard somebody talk about something that happened back then even if you think maybe we’ve heard it before, it wouldn’t hurt to tell us again especially if it is someone who’s just never spoken to police before,” Childress said.
Rongotes said she will not stop looking for answers.
“I have stayed on the case for 32 years cause I don’t want him to be forgotten,” Rongotes said.
While she hopes police find the person responsible, she said the family has already found forgiveness.
“We have forgiven them. We’ve let that go. The anger, the bad feelings toward anybody we knew did this,” Rongotes said.
She said they just want know why.
“We want closure,” Rongotes said.
If you have any information, please call the Wilmington Police Department.