Tracy Ocasio case remains open | West Orange Times & Observer
The last time anyone saw Tracy Ocasio was leaving a MetroWest bar after an Orlando Magic game in 2009.
Now, 13 years later, Ocasio’s disappearance remains an open case as detectives from the Ocoee Police Department continue to search for evidence that may help bring closure to the woman’s family and friends. .
The night of Tuesday, May 26, 2009 started out like any other typical night at the Florida Tap Room.
Ocasio had left her home, where she lived with her parents in Ocoee, for a fun night out at one of her favorite local bars to watch her favorite team, the Orlando Magic, take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 27-year-old was last seen leaving the bar with Ocoee resident James Hataway.
Ocasio’s yellow Chevrolet Cobalt was later found abandoned on the morning of Wednesday, May 27 on Franklin Street in Ocoee.
Ocoee Police Detective David Gray said Hataway remains the only suspect in Ocasio’s disappearance.
Hataway is currently serving a life sentence for attacking another woman, Rachel Clarke, in 2008 in Seminole County.
Ocoee Police Chief Saima Plasencia said while investigative leads can cause a case to go cold, no victim is ever forgotten.
“We hope one day to end this case and her family by finding Tracy or learning what happened to her,” Plasencia said. “By paying continued attention to her case, someone could provide the essential information to solve her disappearance. No matter how unimportant a piece of information may seem, it could be the key.
FIRST PART OF THE SURVEY: OPD
Wednesday, May 27, 2009: After repeated attempts to reach or locate her daughter by contacting friends when Ocasio failed to return home, mother Elizabeth received a call from officers who had responded to a call from an Ocoee resident who said there was an abandoned car, identified as Tracy’s, left in the front yard.
According to Elizabeth, when she went to move the car, both front seats were pushed all the way forward.
At the time, Tracy’s father, Joe, was on a business trip. Elizabeth said she called him and the couple immediately reported their daughter missing.
The Orlando Police Department attended to Tracy’s last known location – the faucet room. A bartender had seen her but hadn’t noticed anything strange. After viewing surveillance footage, police saw Tracy drive off with a man who was later recognized as Hataway.
OPD investigators traveled to Hataway’s home to question him. Hataway said he met Tracy at the bar and asked her to take her home. Gray said Hataway’s claim was that the two were going to smoke marijuana at his house. He claims he didn’t have the amount Tracy wanted and she left around 2am.
However, police found it suspicious that Tracy’s car was found a few hundred yards from Hataway’s home.
When the OPD realized Tracy was last seen outside their jurisdiction, officers turned the matter over to the Ocoee PD.
SECOND PART SURVEY: OCOEE PD
Ocoee police brought in Hataway for questioning. He was interviewed for approximately four hours and shared the same story he told the OPD.
During their research, detectives discovered that Hataway had lived in Ocoee his entire life and, until then, had only had minor run-ins with the law.
Friday, May 29, 2009: Detectives re-examined Hataway, keeping him in custody for 12 hours and giving him a polygraph test, which then-detective Mark Olson said failed. Hataway requested an attorney, and detectives halted the interrogation.
The Bloodhounds were then used to follow Tracy from her car, but they picked up nothing. Managers believed she had never gotten out of the car earlier.
The Ocoee PD asked the Orlando Forensics team to examine the DNA found in the backseat of the car, although after weeks of analysis no match could be found.
The police also looked into Tracy’s past.
Elizabeth said she received a letter in the mail a few days after Tracy disappeared from the state’s attorney’s office for Tracy, informing her that she had filed a charge against an individual for misdemeanor battery, which Elizabeth had not no idea.
After briefing Olson, the detective said he was shocked to recognize the man’s name, Paul Hutto, who was well recognized by local officers.
According to Tracy’s friends, after an altercation with Hutto’s girlfriend, Hutto and Tracy had a confrontation in which she said he pushed her to the ground outside the bar, where she then called the police. .
Saturday May 30, 2009: The police brought Hutto in for questioning, where his story and whereabouts of Tracy’s disappearance were verified. He denied any involvement.
However, officers found a connection between Hataway and Hutto. Hutto was part of the family shoreline cleanup business, where Hataway worked, but no recent contact has been made through phone records.
Although police did not find Hutto a person of interest, he was not ruled out completely.
Investigators then reviewed Tracy and Hataway’s phone records. Olson said a cellphone tower rang Hataway’s location several times pointing to the area where they were traveling to his home. However, although he claimed Tracy left at 2 a.m., when Elizabeth called Tracy around 7 a.m. it rang at his house.
Monday, June 1, 2009: After maintaining a search warrant for Hataway’s home, Olson and other investigators found none of Tracy’s items, including her car key or phone.
Officers found a marijuana bong and Hataway was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, also confiscating his computer for search. Later, it was discovered that Hataway had been looking for a way to kill himself for several hours, over the weekend before police received the search warrant.
INVESTIGATION PART THREE: RACHEL CLARKE
Five minutes after the image of Hataway in handcuffs made headlines, Olson said he received a phone call from a woman named Rachel Clarke, saying she recognized Hataway.
Olson said Clarke informed him that she had been the victim of a battery about a year earlier and that Hataway was the suspect.
Clarke’s story is surprisingly similar to Tracy’s.
Clarke said she brought Hataway home from a bar and as they walked back into the apartment complex, he grabbed her and started choking her. Although she was able to get out and escape the vehicle, Hataway chased her and tackled her to the curb, where he proceeded to strangle her, banging her head on the curb, saying, “Don’t don’t get yourself killed.”
When neighbors heard Clarke’s calls for help and came out to investigate, Hataway fled.
Although Clarke filed a report with the police, they had been unable to locate him previously.
“It made me think I had the right guy,” Olson said in an earlier statement. “I got it. The incidents were too similar. The two young girls, attractive girls, took this guy home, and one got away, and the other didn’t.
Seminole County officers reopened Clarke’s case the next day, and Hataway was immediately extradited from Ocoee. The drug charges he was being held for were dropped and he was later charged with attempted murder.
Monday, May 9, 2011: Hataway was convicted of attempted first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was also found guilty of charges including burglary, robbery and forcible confinement.
The Ocasios said they attended every court hearing; Hataway wouldn’t make eye contact with them.
“If there’s any comfort, it’s that he’s behind bars and he won’t destroy another family like he destroyed our family,” Joe said.
INVESTIGATION PART FOUR: BLACK BOOT
Wednesday, June 3, 2009: A massive search was launched a week into the investigation involving K-9 units, horses and four-wheeled vehicles, which fought against Florida’s terrain and its woodland dwellers, even appealing to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office dive team to search area lakes.
Monday, June 29, 2009: It had been a month since Tracy had last been seen.
Olson received a call from an employee who worked at Disney World who was driving to work and saw something suspicious on the morning of May 27.
The witness said he saw a bright yellow vehicle parked on the shoulder, facing the oncoming traffic, off the road with its headlights on. The area was rural and adjacent to a lake.
The police searched the swamp but found nothing.
The Ocasios chatted with Olson and put together a mounted team to explore a new wooded area, a place where Hataway often dumped yard debris. Almost immediately, they spotted a black women’s boot in Tracy’s size, but nothing else was found.
Tracy’s family and friends were asked to come to the Ocoee station to identify the shoe. Joe said he was convinced the shoe belonged to his daughter; friend Taryn Anthony has confirmed they look like one of Tracy’s favorite pairs.
“I was very moved,” she said in a previous statement. “You’re looking at something that potentially… (was) the last thing your best friend wore before she disappeared.”
Ocasio’s disappearance remains an open case.
Ocoee Police Lt. Mireya Iannuzzi said the department plans to resubmit evidence to the lab to see if the new technology can pick up anything previously missed.
Gray, who took over the case when Olson was promoted, said to move forward the department needed someone who might have information about Tracy to come forward.
“I think someone knows,” Gray said of Tracy Ocasio’s whereabouts. “I don’t know if they’re scared, which they shouldn’t be, because James Hataway is on a life sentence without parole. But I think somebody does, and I hope someday , they’ll introduce themselves and give us the information they know — at least so the family can get some closure.
Joe said he and his wife were praying one of these days to bring Tracy home.
“This week, 13 years ago, we lost our precious daughter,” Joe said. “During this horrific time in our lives, one thing that stood out to us was the kindness and support of our community, the Ocoee Police Department, and many others across the state. From volunteering to research, donating water and food for researchers, comfort and much more. We will never forget and that gives us hope.
CAN YOU HELP?
If you have information on the whereabouts of Tracy Ocasio, contact the Ocoee Police Department at (407) 905-3161 or Crimeline at (407) 423-TIPS.
Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series on unsolved criminal cases in West Orange.