Details of Disappearance
Collingwood was an inmate at Brevard Correctional Institution in Sharpes, Florida in 1979; he was serving a four-year sentence for car theft. He was doing landscape work outside the fence on December 12 of that year when he told a guard he was going to that bathroom. He has never been heard from again and was assumed to have escaped.
John Rodney McRae is the prime and only suspect in Collingwood's case. A photograph of him is posted with this case summary. He was a guard at the prison and lived in a trailer on the grounds. There were allegations that he and Collingwood were having an inappropriate relationship.
McRae denied the affair and said Collingwood was an informer who told him about the activities of other inmates. Prison officials, however, feel the two men were in fact sexually involved with one another, and that Collingwood was trying to expose the affair before he disappeared.
McRae murdered and dismembered an 8-year-old Michigan boy in the 1950s, when he was only sixteen. He served twenty years in prison for the crime. From 1976 to 1980, he worked as a guard at the Brevard Correctional Institution, which houses mostly teenagers. While McRae was working there, five local boys disappeared. McRae resigned his position at the prison and moved to his native Michigan in March 1980, four months after Collingwood's disappearance.
McRae is considered a suspect in the disappearances of twelve-year-old Kipling Hess
in 1979 and thirteen-year-old Keith Fleming
in 1977. Neither of the boys were ever found. McRae was convicted of the 1987 murder of a 14-year-old boy, Randy Ray Laufer. His conviction was later overturned on appeal, but he was convicted again in May 2005 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
70 years old and wheelchair-bound at the time of the retrial, he was found in his cell only two weeks later, dead of intestinal ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Investigators strongly believe that McRae committed more murders than he was convicted of, including the murders of Kipling, Keith and Collingwood. They even offered him immunity from prosecution if he would reveal where the boys' bodies were, but he always maintained his innocence. His wife, however, stated he had admitted the Hess and Collingwood murders to her.
Collingwood's case remains unsolved. He had a history of escapes, but he would usually follow a particular pattern after he escaped, and after his last one he didn't. Other inmates implicated McRae in assisting Collingwood's escape from the prison. Although he is wanted by the police, foul play is suspected in his case.