Kipling Randolph Hess III

Above: Kipling, circa 1979


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: March 27, 1979 from Merritt Island, Florida
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: August 2, 1966
  • Age: 12 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'4, 90 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Brown hair, brown eyes. Kipling's nickname is Kip.
  • Bar

    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 below 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, five local boys disappeared. One of them was a 19-year-old inmate, Charles Collingwood, who disappeared 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.

    Kipling's case remains unsolved.

    Above: McRae in 2005


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Brevard County Sheriff's Office


    Source Information
    Florida Department of Law Enforcement
    Florida Today
    The Detroit Free Press
    Michigan Attorney General's Office
    The Morning Sun
    The Detroit News
    Dean Marie Pyle Peters & Cold Cases


    Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated March 25, 2016; details of disappearance updated.

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