Thursday, May 27, 2010

He can make them disappear

I began writing this article in June, 2009. Today, I bring it up to date.

In February of 2009, Chris George's car was found abandoned near a wooded area in Apopka, Florida. Also known as George Onda, family members and friends didn't think much of it because he often took off and went on drug-induced binges. Three weeks later, the family called Apopka police and a search ensued. One of the volunteers was a guy by the name of James Hataway. He was one of only two people who last saw George alive. When the case went cold, police closed it out, but last May, something happened, prompting detectives to reopen the case. Today, the Ocoee Police Department has linked a total of 6 victims to James Virgil Hataway.

Tracy Ocasio was last seen a year ago leaving the Tap Room bar on Raleigh Street in Orlando's MetroWest neighborhood, at 1:30 AM on May 27. Her car was found abandoned about 15 miles from the bar, not far from Hataway's home. Yesterday, Ocoee detectives named him as the only suspect in her disappearance. Until then, he was only a person of interest.

Last June, I went to pick up a few prescriptions from the pharmacy almost across the street from where I live. As she was ringing up my purchase, I asked the always friendly woman behind the counter if she knew anything about Tracy and the guy police have in custody who might also be tied into Jennifer Kesse, missing since January 24, 2006. It's pretty big news around Orlando and both women are a sad reprieve from the Casey Anthony saga. At first, she didn't quite know, so I mentioned the bar up the street by Dan's Restaurant, called McGuinnty's Irish Pub. I told her he used to go there.

"Oh, yeah, I remember seeing him on the news. I thought he looked familiar," she said. I told her McGuinnty's was one of his hangouts because he lived nearby. "I think I used to see him in here."

As a single mother, I just don't picture my clerk as much of a drinker and, needless to say, neither am I any longer, but I was more of one back then and I knew who this guy was the first time I saw his picture on the local news. McGuinnty's has been closed for about 3 years years now, but I can remember some of those times like it was yesterday, and I can easily remember the people who oftentimes frequented the place.

I never befriended James Virgil Hataway at that bar and there were some very good reasons why. The people he hung around with were skinhead types. Hoodlums, plain and simple, and most of the time the regular crowd stayed on one side while they planted themselves on the other. They were young - mid 20s to early 30s - the way I saw it. Today, Hataway is 29. They shaved their heads and had goatees. They all had piercings and tattoos. They were a tough group hanging with rough, but good-looking women. There were a few I knew by name, but not much else. Dallas was a good guy. Today, I don't remember most of the names but I do remember the faces. To give you an idea, the tall guy in the middle of the picture at this link, Matt, taken at McGuinnty's, had at one time been a nice young man until he got mixed up with that bunch. His change was overnight. Shaved head, tattoos all over, nasty, punk, degenerate attitude. He went from saying hello to wanting to beat the living crap out of everyone in his way and for no good reason at all. Of course, I never said a word to him again after he snarled one night. These were the guys who had no respect for anyone but their own small clique of friends. They had the ultimate chip on their shoulders. They had no respect for anyone but their own and it's becoming clearer and clearer that Hataway had no respect for human life from what is emerging.

He was always the quiet one in the crowd, but it doesn't surprise me the least that he, or any of the other ones for that matter, is the only suspect in the disappearance of Tracy Ocasio. A surveillance video from the Tap Room showed Hataway and Ocasio leaving together. She had offered to give him a ride home to Ocoee, a couple of miles northwest of the bar. Although not charged with her disappearance, he is in the Seminole County Jail, awaiting trial for an unrelated attempted-murder case from August of 2008, where a woman accused him of choking her, trying to snap her neck and slamming her head repeatedly in the pavement. There were witnesses, too. Real ones, and still alive.

This is a guy who fancied himself "the worst criminal in the universe" by using the alias Vader McGirth on his now closed MySpace page, named after the Darth Vader character in Star Wars. He's no stranger to police because he has an extensive criminal record dating back to 1993 which includes kidnapping causing bodily harm, many traffic offenses and drug possession. See Inmate History Report

One of the former bartenders at McGuinnty's told me he used to ask her for a ride home once in a while. I asked her if she had ever given him one. "No," she said, "I always told him I live in the opposite direction."

When I asked her if she was glad she didn't, she responded, "YES," but she never would have thought that he could do such a thing, other than because of the type of crowd he was always hanging with. I asked her where they all came from. Why did they congregate at McGuinnty's? She said most of them lived in the trailer park behind the bar. She also told me that most of them have since outgrown that skinhead phase, and some are married. For the record, the trailer park is now a housing development, but I'm sure none of them live there.

"He wouldn't care who it was, he would make them disappear, just like he told me. 
The way he would talk about people ... what he would want to do," said a former roommate who did not wish to be identified, because he said he had received threats from some of Hataway's friends.

Before his arrest last year on drug charges, Hataway lived with his father in Ocoee. He also worked with his father dredging ponds.

"This Jimmy has a preponderance to do violence, he snaps, he gets angry, it's always a woman, ride home, end up alone," said Sgt. Mike Bryant of the Ocoee Police Department, in June 2009. "He's very familiar with going out into open land at night and not getting caught dumping land debris and waste, that's a concern..."

"We believe he did it. He's always been a suspect," the detective said yesterday, almost a year after Tracy disappeared. "He is suspected of killing her."

Too bad for Tracy because this stunning beauty was a true blue Orlando Magic fan. That's why she went to the Tap Room bar that fateful Tuesday night on May 26, to watch her team win, and win they did, against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Too bad another James, James Virgil Hataway, was there to watch her lose her life in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. No one ever saw her again. Just like magic, he made her disappear.

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