KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Investigators are revisiting a 34-year-old murder case with ties to the Tri-Cities this week and are asking for the public’s help.
According to a press release from the Charlotte County, Florida Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), cold case detectives are in Kingsport Tuesday and hoping to speak with individuals connected to the 1988 murder of retired U.S. Army officer Robert Hecht.
“We’ve always felt like getting closure as much as we can,” Mike Vogel, a detective on the case, said. “And determining who killed a person for his loved one, for that family or for the remaining relatives of the of the person who was killed.”
November 26, 1988
On a Saturday night in Punta Gorda, Florida, 58-year-old Robert Hecht was seen speaking with a man who called himself “Ray” in a local bar. That sighting was the last time the retired Army officer was seen alive, and investigators have attempted to piece together the night’s events for decades.
The next morning, Hecht didn’t pick up when his sister called him for their weekly chat. After a report to local authorities, Hecht’s body was found inside his home. Investigators say he was “the obvious victim of murder.”
“Ray” was described as a white male with a Southern accent and told others in the bar that he was from Tennessee and Kentucky. On Nov. 28, 1988, witnesses saw Hecht’s Lincoln Town Car parked in Lenoir, North Carolina after a man resembling “Ray” entered a store nearby. A white woman with long blonde hair was also seen in the car’s passenger seat.
On Dec. 1, 1988, Lenoir police found Hecht’s car parked on Main Street in Lenoir, where it appeared to have been sitting for several days.
After an “exhaustive” investigation, Hecht’s case went cold. In 2009, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit was formed and the homicide case was reopened.
2022 to Now
Efforts by CCSO identified “Ray” as Kenneth Ray Miller, who investigators believe was born in Kentucky and lived in Kingsport until his death in 2007. Investigators say a “direct connection” exists between Miller, Hecht’s home and the stolen car found in Lenoir.
“Once you learn the identity of a potential actor, you start looking to research to see who might be in their sphere, friends, family, acquaintances, people that they associated with,” Kurt Mehl, a CCSO detective on the case, said. “People that they may have done criminal acts with in the past or had been involved in criminal activity.”
In order to answer long-standing questions about Hecht’s death, detectives with CCSO scheduled a Tuesday visit in Kingsport to search for the woman seen riding alongside Miller just days after the murder.
“We like to what we call ‘stir the pot’ and see if there’s anything that might come to the surface in regards to the investigation,” Vogel said. “Just by bringing it up to the general public, people who have been here for a number of years.”
While the visit is a long shot, investigators believe there is more to reveal surrounding Hecht’s case.
“Detectives strongly believe that this female can assist in this murder investigation,” a release from the CCSO said. “And they have no reason to believe that this female is involved in the murder.”
Anyone with information connected to Miller or the blonde-haired woman allegedly seen with him is encouraged to call CCSO detectives Kurt Mehl at 941-763-0582 or Mike Vogel at 94-763-9394.
“We have we have been in contact and are working closely with members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Lenoir, North Carolina Police Department,” Mehl said. “Along with the Kingsport P.D. who is aware of the situation and and I guess the two county sheriff’s offices, one in North Carolina and one here in Tennessee.”