WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As Randy Hockabout’s family prepares to mark 34 years since he was killed, there is a new push for answers in his cold case.
“I might get a glance at his picture and I hold him and I’ll say, ‘Randy, please let me know something.’ Because it’s so hard.” said Patricia Rongotes, his sister. “We went out dancing all the time. I don’t dance anymore. I haven’t danced since he died.”
Hockabout was killed on Jan. 25, 1986. He was beaten to death. His body and his car were found at Optimist Park, along Front St. in Wilmington.
Patricia had to identify his body in the hospital, something she can’t shake.
“I still see images of his body," she said. “You could never imagine that somebody could be that angry or mean at somebody. That they could just do what they did to him. They broke every bone in his face. He didn’t have a face.”
Rongotes said she recently sought the help of a counselor because she can’t get over what happened to her brother.
“I’m very angry,” she said. “I’m not an angry type of person but this is something that hurts me so bad that I can’t let go of it.”
Sgt. Myron Irving of the Wilmington Police Department recently reviewed the case and talked about what police need to solve it.
“It’s going to take some public help,” he said. “I am sure that someone out there in the community knows something, maybe has heard something. I would ask that they come forward. The person responsible for Randy’s death, if they see this, if they would have some compassion in their heart to come forward.”
That’s if the killer is still alive.
Irving said a detective reviewed the case in 2018 and found some witnesses and even some possible suspects may be dead.
Still, Irving is hopeful police can get answers.
“In 2006, we were able to send some stuff off and we just didn’t get enough of DNA to create a total profile,” he said.
Irving said that may be different today. With scientific advancements, Irving said WPD may be able to send evidence back to the state lab for testing.
While who killed Hockabout remains a mystery, some are sure of why it happened.
His family believes Randy was targeted because he was gay.
“It was a hate crime,” Rongotes said.
Rongotes said he tried to live as a straight man. At one point, Hockabout got married and had a daughter. Eventually, he and his wife divorced.
Her brother came out in the early 80s, sometimes dressing in drag.
He appeared in a series of stories that aired on WECT News, where he talked about life as a gay man in Wilmington.
Irving said he is not sure if his sexuality is the reason Hockabout was killed but it is something investigators are not ruling out.
Rongotes said Hockabout just returned to Wilmington from Florida, where he worked a construction job, less than two weeks before his death.
A week before he was killed, she said he was attacked on Greenfield St. where his car broke down.
“He had a flat tire,” she said. “He got out of the car and when he was changing it, somebody came up and hit him in the head and knocked him out.”
The last time his family saw him, he said he was going to a store at Dawson and 3rd Streets to buy cigarettes.
Irving said police tracked down witnesses who last saw him around 2:30 a.m. along Front St. He got into a car with an unknown person.
While his body and car were left at Optimist Park, it’s unknown where he was killed.
Rongotes said their mother is now 86 and in poor health. Her family wants to get answers before it is too late.
“I’m going to keep on until I find out who did this and I want them to know I’m coming at you now,” she said. “34 years is just too long. You’ve had time to enjoy your life. I want to enjoy the rest of my life. I want peace.”
That peace will come when she gets justice.
There is a Crime Stoppers reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.
The number to call is (910) 763-3888 or 1-800-531-9845.