Ray Hodgkinson: Still missing after 24 years
After more than 24 years, Eulan “Ray” Hodgkinson is still listed as a missing person although he is believed to be dead with foul play involved.
His mother, Doyle Hodgkinson, has spent many years doing what she can on finding out what happened to her son.
Hodgkinson was 31 years old when he disappeared on Sept. 11 1988. If he were around today, he would be 55 years old. He stood about 6-foot-2-inches tall, weighed 200 pounds with black wavy hair and brown eyes at the time of his disappearance.
Doyle Hodgkinson describes her son as a friendly person. She also said she didn’t think he had any enemies or anyone who would want to harm him. In addition, she said he didn’t drink or do drugs and wasn’t in situations where something could happen to him because he mostly was a “homebody.”
Ray Hodgkinson had a love for his hobbies such as collecting model trains and firearms. He was also an accomplished mechanic, certified welder and worked in the construction business. Ray Hodgkinson who a 1975 Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School graduate used to take his 19 foot boat with a cabin on it out in the water with friends, Doyle Hodgkinson said.
On the day he was last seen by his mother, he had worked on a welding a frame for a pickup truck. The project needed to be completed by the next day, so when the grinder broke he needed another one immediately. It was a Sunday evening about 6 p.m. and with all the stores closed in the small Pinehurst town of 2,274 people, he set out to find a part.
However, first he cleaned up and took a shower. Doyle Hodgkinson was in another room as her son shouted out to her he would not be home for dinner and would pick up something to eat while he was out. Dressed in a long sleeved plaid shirt, dark trousers and black shoes, he shut the door behind him at their residence in the 3800 block f Pheasant Street as he left and forever changed life as Doyle Hodgkinson knew it.
Time passed and Doyle Hodgkinson knew this was not like her son to not let her know where he was. Especially when it began to rain. His welding equipment was still outside as it was when he left which was something he never did. So, she went out to cover it up so it would not be damaged and continue to wait for him to return.
“ I knew there was something wrong when he didn’t return that first night,” she said. “This was before the days of cell phones.”
According to reports, Hodgkinson left his mother’s Pinehurst home to visit with his employer and give him the status of the welding job in progress. He disappeared after leaving his boss’ home. He was reported missing a few days later.
According to Doyle Hodgkinson, three days before his disappearance, he told a convenience store clerk, “ he knew something serious, but wasn’t going to say anything unless it went to court and then he would testify.”
Ray Hodgkinson’s gray and black 1988 Dodge Dakota was found abandoned by a person in the woods off of FM 1130 by an abandoned oil well. The man told police he had seen it the day after the disappearance but didn’t know it was related to the incident. He reported the truck to officials when he returned about 10 days later and it was still there.
Missing from the locked truck was an automatic gun which had been stashed behind the seat. The keys are also reported missing. The jack which was also behind was the seat was found in the bed of the pickup. The windshield wipers were in an upright position, indicating it may have been raining when the pickup was parked. Investigators felt the pickup was parked away from the crime scene to act as a diversion.
The community rallied to help find Hodgkinson. More than 75 people gathered with horses and all terrain vehicles to search the area where the pickup was found. Local businesses contributed food and water for the searchers. Volunteers covered more than 600 acres over the course of the days to follow. They searched two sites within a few miles of where the truck was located and a third site near FM 3247 which is within two miles of Hodgkinson’s residence. The volunteers from the community included members from the Orange Jaycees, Sheriff’s Office reserves, Citizen’s Radio Assistance Corps and local fire departments. Working together, they searched using probing rods and shovels.
However, their search did not reveal any conclusive evidence. But, investigators did find a few spots they would return later to use heavy equipment to overturn.
About five weeks later, a body was found about a quarter of a mile from where the pickup truck was found. A man cutting grass found the body and contacted law enforcement. Authorities felt at first it was Ray Hodgkinson since it was quite a coincidence the body location was close to where Hodgkinson’s pickup truck was found.
Ironically, the spot where the body was found was the same field where searchers had been the previous day.
Tension filled the air as Hodgkinson’s parents were at the scene eagerly waiting on the shoulder of the roadway near a culvert. Authorities anxiously worked about 500 yards from where they stood. The Hodgkinsons dreaded hearing information on the body in fear that it was their son, and they also knew it would put the search to an end. However, it was later determined by autopsy reports the body was a missing Vidor man.
The Hodgkinsons were told the news and they returned to their vigil with hope they would find Ray alive.
Not wanting to give up hope, Doyle Hodgkinson contacted a medium.
According to reports, Noreen Renier, of Florida, was called to assist in December 1988. Doyle Hodgkinson used her life savings from her many years as a teacher. The psychic, had gained notoriety with working with law enforcement and she has hired her in hopes of finally getting some answers. Renier was paid $60 per hour plus a $100 flat rate daily rate for expenses.
The investigator at the time told reporters about the possibility of the body being in an Orange County landfill near the construction of FM 1130.
Renier’s visualizations were the basis of two day long searches which covered more than 3,000 acres throughout the county. Renier traveled in Hodgkinson’s pickup truck and led the group to the landfill. Renier said she had discussed the case with law enforcement before coming the Orange area.
“The landfill has all the things I saw in Florida,” Renier told reporters.
He also said he was looking at another area within one-half mile of the FM 1130 area. This location coordinated and matched a vision by the psychic.
The desolate area had hills and knolls where garbage had been buried and the site overlooked the farm road construction. Renier also said the body was buried near a line of young trees. She also described a pipeline being installed near the body. The construction area had numerous pipelines installed.
In addition, Renier said Hodgkinson and the local police chief had been together in the area where he is believed to be buried. The police chief admitted he took Hodgkinson target shooting at the police range located near the landfill.
Renier said Hodgkinson was shot and then buried by a man using heavy machinery. The road crews at the site, about 1.3 miles south of Interstate 10 that were being investigated, leave numerous pieces of heavy machinery at the area every night. The closest house was nearly a mile away.
The foreman of the road crew and some of the employees aided in the search, donating the use of the bulldozer to dig at two places the psychic had suggested.
Although Renier had several images of a tract that fit several locations in Orange County, repeated searches were unsuccessful.
“If I had to do it all over again — I would,” Hodgkinson said.
Renier spent the day working with law enforcement officials by focusing on suspects. Law enforcement officials and the psychic reported they felt Ray Hodgkinson knew his killers.
“She couldn’t narrow it down, but she tried,” Doyle Hodgkinson said.
Renier and officials questioned five suspects and the lead investigator commented to local papers he believed he then had a motive and a probable suspect in the case. He further elaborated by saying he felt the case was not drug related. Together, they formulated a list of several suspects with at least one they felt “very confident about.” The five suspects interviewed did not include a total list and not all were men, according to reports.
The investigator told reporters the believed more than one person knew about the incident, but only one person was actually involved. He went further to say this would erase the problem of how the suspect left the scene of where Hodgkinson’s truck was abandoned.
However, no arrests were made in the case. Not then or ever.
In addition to the psychic, a local dowser, who used a modern-day version of the ancient dowsing rod to locate buried objects volunteered his services to hunt for the body. He located three sites he believed to be where the body was, but still nothing was found.
Although, bringing in a psychic was criticized by some people, law enforcement officials saw it as a new way of helping to develop leads and welcomed the idea. They stated they just wanted to do all they could in order to solve the case.
Investigators finally received a break in the case in 2007. A tip lead them to the area with the Texas Equusearch team to look for Hodgkinson’s body which is believed to be in a barrel under the water.
By August, Texas Equusearch had traveled from Houston and used a side scan sonar to search the area under the Sabine River Bridge.
“We found some images of interest,” said Tim Miller, director of Texas Equusearch following the search. One of the images of interests is of a cylindrical object.
The dark, murky and dangerous waters prevented a diving crew from taking a closer look.
They were unable to give Doyle Hodgkinson the answers she was searching for all these years.
“This is still an open and active case,” said Fred Hanauer, Police Chief of the Pinehurst Police Department.
The statute of limitations has expired on many crimes which could have occurred in this case such as disposal of the body although there is not a statute of limitations on murder.
“No charges will be pursued on any charges other than murder,” Hanauer said.
Never wanting to have the case forever remain unsolved, in 2004 investigators took a DNA sample in case the body is recovered after Doyle Hodgkinson is deceased.
Hanauer encourages anyone with information on the case to come forward no matter how small or trivial the information may seem.
The number to the Pinehurst Police Department is 409-886-2221.
Over the years, friends of Doyle Hodgkinson have asked her why she continues to live in the same place where she last saw her son. It is because this is “home” she tells them. Although she knows her son will never return home, she can’t let go and for a moment hope he will come back to the place he knows of as home too.
Pictured: Doyle Hodgkinson holds a picture of her son, Ray Hodgkinson, who disappeared more than 24 years ago.