Robert Hourihan kissed his wife, Tara, and told her to have a good day as he left for work on the morning of Friday, April 8, 2011. As usual, the 33-year-old left his home in Fluvanna County, Virginia at 6:30 am for his 45-mile commute to his electrician job in Richmond, Virginia. He would usually take Interstate 64 directly into the city, but on this morning he didn’t follow his normal pattern. A witness saw the car he was driving — with its distinctive TARAMAE license plate — heading in the opposite direction. Robert didn’t work that day, never returned home, and was never seen again.

Tara didn’t know what to think when her husband didn’t come home from work that evening. She didn’t believe he would voluntarily abandon her; they had been together since they were teenagers and had been married for 14 years. “Our 6-year-old daughter is the apple of his eye, his reason for getting up every day. There’s no way he could stay away from us.” No one who knew Robert believed that he would willingly walk away from his family.

Robert had a serious heart condition that required daily medication; he didn’t take his prescription with him when he left the house, leaving Tara worried for his health. When she found out that he hadn’t contacted his parents, his brother, or any of his friends, she called the police and reported him missing.

Investigators with the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office launched a search for the missing man. They searched along the route he normally took to get to work but didn’t find any sign of him or Tara’s Chevrolet Cavalier, which he was driving that morning. After a few days with no word from Robert, they made a public appeal for information, asking anyone who thought they had seen Robert to contact the sheriff’s office.Robert (Photo credit:

Fluvanna County Lt. David Wells said that detectives hadn’t found any evidence to suggest foul play had taken place, but the fact that Robert didn’t have his heart medication with him left them concerned.

Robert was an electrician for the state of Virginia, and Tara assumed he was going to work that Friday morning as he was wearing his work uniform when he left the house. She later learned that Robert wasn’t scheduled to work that day. It appeared he had lied to his wife, though she had no idea why he would have done so. “I thought he was going to work. He had his uniform on when he walked out the door.”

One of Tara’s co-workers was driving on Route 53 that morning when she realized she was driving behind Tara’s Cavalier; she instantly recognized Tara’s personalized license plate. When she told Tara what she had seen, Tara was confused as Robert had been heading in the opposite direction of his work. She called his cell phone to see what was going on but it went straight to voicemail.

At 8:00 am, Robert was seen at a deli located at the intersection of Route 53 and U.S. 15, where he bought breakfast. He was a regular customer there, and several people later recalled seeing him that morning. He didn’t give any indication that anything was wrong.

A week after Robert was last seen, Crime Stoppers announced that they were offering a $500 reward for information leading to the recovery of Robert’s vehicle and $5,000 for information leading to Robert’s whereabouts.

On April 20, 2011, officials stated that they considered Robert’s disappearance to be suspicious, although they refused to say why they felt that way. Lt. Wells noted, “We’ve gotten a lot of information and we’re still trying to track it down…I’m hoping when we find the car we might find some answers.”

Tara told reporters she had been convinced from the start that something terrible had happened to her husband, and the fact that he didn’t have his heart medication with him led her to believe that he was no longer alive. “I have a terrible feeling someone has done something horrible to him because they can’t find him and they can’t find my car. It’s like he disappeared off the face of the earth.”

Robert and Tara had been married for 14 years but had known each other far longer. “For me it was love at first sight. We started talking and became best friends. I was in love with him for seven years and he never knew it.” Once Tara finally got up the courage to tell Robert how she felt about him, she was thrilled to learn he felt the same way about her. “I feel like I’ve lost my right arm…it’s just unbearable.”

The first potential break in the case came on May 28, 2011, when Tara’s car was found in a Target parking lot in La Plata, Maryland. A deputy from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office had spotted the car and ran its license plate number because it had been left on the outskirts of the parking lot and he thought it looked out of place.]

La Plata was 110 miles away from Robert’s home, and none of his friends or family members could think of any reason why he might have gone to that area. It was unclear how long the Cavalier had been parked there; although there were surveillance cameras covering the parking lot, the footage was only retained for a short amount of time before it was taped over. Investigators pulled all available footage but it was too late to retrieve video of the car’s arrival. Detectives were hoping to find someone who had seen the driver of the car so they could confirm if Robert had been behind the wheel when the car was abandoned there.

Inside the car, investigators found Robert’s work shirt as well as his tools; Tara didn’t think he would have willingly left his tools behind as some of them were quite expensive. Other personal belongings, such as his wallet and his cell phone, were not found in the vehicle. Cell phone records showed that Robert hadn’t used his phone since 7:41 am on the day he went missing.

Investigators with the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office were working with the Virginia State Police and the Maryland State Police to see if they could determine how Robert’s car ended up in La Plata, but tips were few and far between. Lt. Wells noted that though they had no concrete evidence pointing to what happened, he believed that foul play was likely.

Robert’s parents hired a private investigator and offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Robert’s whereabouts or the person responsible for his disappearance. Tara said that, due to her husband’s heart condition and the fact that he didn’t take his medication with him, she didn’t believe he was still alive. His prescription hadn’t been refilled anywhere and Tara said he couldn’t live without it.

Tara believed her husband was dead but was desperate to find out exactly what had happened to him. “I truly believe in my heart somebody has done something to him and if they had any decency at all they would tell us where they’ve put him. I would at least like to put him to rest. I don’t want him lying out there like he’s a piece of trash.”

Robert’s daughter, Melody, was too young to fully understand what was going on; she only knew that her father was no longer around and it devastated her. Tara noted, “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody…having to watch my daughter is enough to rip my heart out of my chest. She loves her Daddy so much and no one will ever be able to fill that void.”

The holidays were an excruciating time for Robert’s loved ones. Tara said she was grateful to have the support of Robert’s parents and members of her church, but she missed her husband and just wanted answers. She had been surprised when she learned that Robert hadn’t been scheduled to work on the day he went missing; although there were many rumors going around about the possibility that he had been living a double life, Tara couldn’t believe that was the case. She insisted Robert never would have voluntarily left her and his daughter.

As the first anniversary of Robert’s disappearance approached, detectives knew little more than they did on the morning he first went missing. The Cavalier had been processed for evidence but failed to yield any clues as to what had happened to the missing man. Tara just wanted answers. “We just want someone to come forward and end this for us. The longer it’s drawn out, the harder it is. We just so desperately need to know what happened.”

Robert’s mother, Melinda Hourihan, told reporters that she didn’t expect to find her son alive, but she wanted to be able to bring him home and give him a proper burial. “Someone out there knows something. We don’t care what happened, who did it…we just want to know where he is.”

Years went by and Robert’s fate remained a mystery. In 2015, investigators revealed that Robert was supposed to meet up with an acquaintance on the morning he went missing. Daniel Boyd Fennel, who lived in Palmyra, Virginia told detectives that Robert never showed up to their scheduled meeting and he had no idea why he failed to meet him.

Lt. Wells believed that there were people who knew exactly what had happened to Robert but were refusing to come forward. “I believe there are people locally who know a lot more than they are telling me…their level of involvement, I don’t know. I really wish that someone in his group of friends could give me some information.” He admitted that police didn’t expect to find Robert alive but were searching for his body so his family could have closure. “We might never be able to prove what happened or who did it, but at least they wouldn’t have to wonder.”

In August 2021, the reward for information regarding Robert’s whereabouts was increased to $20,000. Robert had been missing for over a decade; while detectives still believed he had most likely been a victim of foul play, they hadn’t had any luck in determining exactly what had happened to him. They hoped the increased reward would bring in some new information and jumpstart the stalled investigation.

Tara was forced to adjust to life as a single mother while Melody grew up without her father. Tara was heartbroken not only for her own loss, but for that of her daughter. “She was so young when he went missing. She doesn’t really remember him, and that’s what hurts most of all.” Tara had been blindsided by Robert’s disappearance and still wasn’t sure exactly what took place on the day he went missing. “I wish I knew that was the last time I would see him. I would have held onto him a little longer.”

Detectives have been tightlipped about their investigation; although Robert is still listed as a missing person, they believe he was a victim of foul play. By 2021, Lt. Wells had been promoted to the rank of Major but was still working on Robert’s case. He told reporters that he felt the case could still be solved. “We believe multiple parties were involved and have knowledge of what happened…we’re hoping now that so much time has passed, someone will come forward.”

Major Wells believes that Robert knew the person or persons responsible for his disappearance, though he has never said how he thinks they were connected. Tara said on multiple occasions that she didn’t believe her husband was involved with drugs or any other illegal activity; if investigators found any evidence to the contrary, they haven’t released that information to the public. The fact that Robert apparently lied to Tara about having to work that morning, however, seems to indicate that he was up to something he didn’t want her to know about. Sadly, whatever his secret was, it may have gotten him ki*lled.

Robert Lee Hourihan was 33 years old when he went missing from Palmyra, Virginia in April 2011. Although he told his wife he was going to work, he drove in the opposite direction and apparently had plans to meet Daniel Boyd Fennell, an acquaintance of his. According to Daniel, Robert never showed up for their meeting and it’s unclear what the two men planned to talk about. Investigators believe that Robert met with foul play at the hands of someone he knew but his body has never been found. Robert has blue eyes and red hair, and at the time of his disappearance, he was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 250 pounds. He was last seen wearing navy blue work pants, a gray work shirt, and boots. Robert needs daily medication for a heart condition; he didn’t have his prescription with him when he vanished. If you have any information about Robert, please contact the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office at 434–589–8211. There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to Robert’s recovery or the arrest and conviction of those responsible for his disappearance.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *