Kipling Randolph Hess III

Kipling, circa 1979; John Rodney McRae in 2005

  • Missing Since 03/27/1979
  • Missing From Merritt Island, Florida
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Male
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 08/02/1966 (53)
  • Age 12 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'4, 90 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Brown hair, brown eyes. Kipling's nickname is Kip.

Details of Disappearance

Kipling was last seen on his way to school in Merritt Island, Florida on the morning of March 27, 1979. He never arrived for classes that day and has never been heard from again. He left behind a note at home that simply said, "Goodbye, Mom and Dad."

John Rodney McRae is the prime and only suspect in Kipling's case. A photograph of him is posted with this case summary. He and his son met Kipling at a church carnival a few days prior to the child's disappearance, and McRae later assisted in the search for the missing boy. Several years later, police also found a missing person flier for Kipling taped inside McRae's locker at his workplace.

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 in Florida; the institution houses mostly teenagers. While McRae was working there, three local boys disappeared.

One of them was a 20-year-old inmate, Charles Collingwood, who escaped from the prison shortly after allegations were made that he had an inappropriate relationship with McRae. McRae is considered a suspect in that case, and also in the 1977 disappearance of 13-year-old Keith Fleming. None 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.

Kipling was a student at Edgewood Middle School in 1979. He was involved in church activities and the Boy Scouts, and took piano lessons. His case remains unsolved.

Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 18, 2018; two pictures added; details of disappearance updated.