The Heartbreaking Disappearance of Tracy Ocasio

Police think they know who killed her but her body has never been found.

Tracy Ocasio

Tracy Ocasio was a huge basketball fan. Her favorite team was the Orlando Magic, and on Tuesday night, May 26, 2009, she was attend to attend one of their games with her father, Joe Ocasio. Unfortunately, Joe ended up having to leave town for business, so Tracy decided to go to the Florida Tap Room in Orlando to watch the game. The 27-year-old was delighted when the Magic won the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and was in a great mood as she left the bar around 1:30 am.

Tracy talked to her mother, Liz Ocasio, before the basketball game started and told her that she would be homeafter the game was over. When Liz woke up early Wednesday morning, she realized that Tracy had never come home. At first, didn’t care too much. Tracy was an adult; it wasn’t uncommon for her to change her mind at the last minute and decide to stay at a friend’s house.

Liz sent Tracy a text message around 6:30 am asking her where she was but wasn’t unsurprisingly when she didn’t hear back from her. She assumed that Tracy was still asleep and would contact her once she woke up. However hours went by without any word from her, however, Liz began to worry. After leaving multiple voicemails with no response, Liz began calling Tracy’s friends to see if any of them knew where she was. None of them had heard from her since the previous day.

As she sat and pondered her next move, the phone rang. It was someone from the Ocoee Police Department.

The caller asked Tracy; Liz explained that Tracy seemed to be missing after a night out. The caller informed Liz that a homeowner in Ocoee had called police after finding a yellow Chevrolet Cobalt that appeared to be abandoned on their property. Police have identified the car belonged to Tracy and were calling to ask her to move it. Liz asked for the address where the car had been found and learned it was only a few miles from their home; she and Tracy’s brother immediately drove to that location.

Tracy Ocasio

There was no sign of Tracy anywhere near the car. Her purse and cell phone were also unaccounted for, giving Liz hope that Tracy had willingly gotten out of the car and taken her things with her. She still wasn’t answering her phone, however, and Liz decided to call the Orlando Police Department and report her missing.

Police searched the area surrounding Tracy’s car but found no clues as to what happened to her. There were no signs of foul play in or around the car, and bloodhounds were unable to pick up a scent trail leading away from the car.

Detectives scoured the surveillance footage and soon caught sight of Tracy. She could be seen hanging out with a lot of people after the basketball game ended, then walks towards the bar’s door around 1:30 am. She wasn’t alone. Surprisingly, the man she was seen leaving with was familiar to one of the investigators viewing the tape; he recognized the man as someone who hung out at a diner in Ocoee where some of the police officers would gather when they were off work.

Detectives scoured the surveillance footage and quickly caught up with Tracy. She can be seen hanging out with a lot of people after the basketball game ends, then walks towards the bar’s door around 1:30 am. She is not alone. Surprisingly, the man she was seen leaving was familiar to one of the investigators watching the tape; he recognized the man as someone who had been hanging out at a diner in Ocoee, where several police officers would gather when they were out of work.

The man seen leaving with Tracy was 28-year-old James Hataway, a lifelong Ocoee resident with a minor criminal record. Detectives immediately went to his home to interview him. James told them that he had met Tracy at the Florida Tap Room a couple of weeks earlier and had asked her for a ride home the previous night. He claimed that she dropped him off at 2:00 am and left; he had no idea what had happened to her after that.

While detectives were convinced that James was hiding something, Amanda Case, who had a 5-year-old daughter with him, insisted that there was no way he was involved in Tracy’s disappearance. Claiming that he didn’t do drugs and was very trustworthy, she told reporters, “He would never do anything like that.” She was the only person who came forward to publicly support him.

hortly after James was arrested, a woman named Rachel Clarke came forward and told detectives that he had assaulted her the previous year. Rachel had agreed to give James a ride home from a party in Fern Park, Florida, on August 7, 2008; he was staying in Seminole County at the time. When she pulled up in front of his apartment building, she started to give him a goodbye hug when he suddenly grabbed her around the neck.

Rachel managed to fight him off long enough to get her car door open and she attempted to flee down the street, but James caught up with her. He threw her down onto the pavement and started slamming her head against the concrete, telling her, “Don’t make me kill you.” Rachel continued to fight him off and her screams eventually woke up some of the nearby residents. When they ran outside to see what was happening, James ran away. When police officers arrived at the scene, they were unable to locate him.

It was clear Rachel had been in a fight for her life; she had bruises on her neck and scrapes on her face, hands, arms, back, and knees. Police made several attempts at locating James so they could bring him in for questioning, but he managed to evade them.

On June 10, investigators and cadaver dogs scoured a 280-acre property that James was known to use as an illegal dumping ground. Located in Ocoee near the intersection of Ingram and Clarcona-Ocoee Roads, the heavily wooded area was remote enough that detectives thought James might have gone there to hide Tracy’s body but found no evidence suggesting he had done so.

The next week passed with no progress on the case. Although Joe and Liz wanted to believe that Tracy was still alive, they knew that she never would have voluntarily disappeared; they were sure she would have contacted them if she had been able to. Joe told a reporter, “All the circumstances tell us that something’s happened to her…I hope and pray to God that’s not the case.”

On August 22, Orange County deputies found a black boot while they were completing a training exercise on horseback. It matched the description of what Tracy had been wearing when she went missing, so they immediately called Ocoee detectives. The boot had been found in a wooded area of Ocoee that had already been searched in the past. The area was searched again but no other items belonging to Tracy were found.

Tracy’s body has never been found and no one has ever been charged in connection with her disappearance, but both her family and detectives believe that she was killed shortly after she left the Florida Tap Room on the night she disappeared. James remains the only suspect. Her family continues to pray that her remains will be found so they can give her a proper burial.

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