Real Name: Rhonda Hinson
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Valdese, North Carolina
Date: December 23, 1981
Details: On the night of December 22, 1981, just three days before Christmas, nineteen-year-old Rhonda Hinson attended her first office Christmas party. She had recently graduated from high school in Valdese, North Carolina, and started a job as a clerical worker for a steel company. At around midnight, she and two of her friends left the party and headed home. At approximately 12:30 am, she dropped off her friends and began the ten mile drive back home, where she still lived with her parents. At 1 am, her mother awoke from a sound sleep with a strange premonition: she believed that her daughter had been hurt in an accident. Her father also awoke and decided to turn on his police scanner to see if an accident had occurred. They then heard that a homicide had occurred; the victim was Rhonda.
Her car was discovered on Mineral Springs Mountain Road, just a half mile from her home. The driver's door was opened, and just a few feet away, she was found dead. She was lying on her back, with her arms deliberately placed at her side. She had been killed by a single bullet fired from a high-powered rifle. The bullet had traveled through her trunk and her seat and had penetrated her heart. Police believed at first that her murder was a random act of violence until an investigation revealed that she may have known her killer.
Rhonda was acting strange in the weeks before her death. Although she was normally comfortable driving alone, she began to ask her father to accompany her on trips into town. During one of these trips, she told her father that she had something to tell him, and that it was bad. However, she never explained to her father what was troubling her. Her mother also recalled a strange conversation she had with her. Rhonda asked her mother if it was ever okay to be in a relationship with a married man. Her mother did not know why she asked this question; she did not know if Rhonda was asking for herself or for a friend.
In the weeks prior to her murder, her parents noticed that she was suffering from insomnia. She also began getting up in the middle of the night and taking showers. She told her mother that she "felt dirty". According to police, this is usually the behavior of someone who has been sexually abused. This unusual behavior suggested to police that she was under some kind of pressure. Police also uncovered evidence that suggested that she was being stalked by someone on the night of her death.
Between 12:15 and 12:30 am on the morning of Rhonda's murder, a witness drove under the Interstate 40 on Mineral Springs Mountain Road. She observed a blue GM Chevrolet facing in a northerly direction, with two white males inside. The car was parked next to the same off-ramp that Rhonda would later use to exit. It was spotted just thirty minutes before Rhonda was shot and just two-hundred yards from where her body was found.
Later that evening, another witness traveling down the same road passed by a similar blue vehicle, with a single man behind the wheel. This vehicle was speeding away from the murder site. As he continued down the road, the witness saw Rhonda's vehicle at the same spot where her body would be found. The witness saw her slumped over the steering wheel with an unidentified man standing at the front driver's side door. The witness was unable to get a close look at the man. Assuming that they were a drunk couple, he drove on.
In order to remember more about his sighting, the witness agreed to undergo hypnosis. He described the car leaving the scene as a blue Chevelle, a 70s model, with a messed up front end, and a gray primer. He described the man next to Rhonda's car as between 5'10" and 6'0", with a medium build and dark brown hair. The witness also recalled seeing another vehicle parked down the road from Rhonda's vehicle. The car was a black or dark blue Trans Am. Some believe that this car was driven by the killer.
Several latent prints were found on Rhonda's driver's side door. Investigators believe they belong to the killer; however, the prints have never been identified. Her murder has never been solved, and a $20,000 reward is being offered for information.
Suspects: Based on various statements and actions Rhonda made prior to her death, investigators believe that she may have known her killer.
Shortly before the murder, one witness noticed a blue GM Chevrolet parked near the area where Rhonda was found dead. Two unidentified white males were inside this vehicle.
Another witness saw the same car speeding away from the murder scene. This witness also saw an unidentified man at Rhonda's driver's side door. The witness went under hypnosis and described the unidentified man as 5'10" to 6'0", with medium build and brown hair. He was driving a black or dark-blue Trans Am. He described the car leaving the scene as a blue Chevelle, a 70s model, with a messed up front end, and a gray primer.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 15, 1989 episode.
Results: Unsolved. According to Rhonda's mother, foreign DNA was recovered from Rhonda's sweater; however, this DNA has never been matched to a suspect. Her family and the investigators are still searching for answers.
- Rhonda Hinson at Find a Grave
- Rhonda Hinson on Unsolved.com
- Rhonda Hinson's Case at the Burke Sheriff Office
- After 34 years, family and sheriff cling to hope of finding N.C. teen's killer