Tracy Ocasio was a huge basketball fan. Her favorite team was the Orlando Magic, and on the evening of Tuesday, May 26, 2009, she was supposed to attend one of their games with her father, Joe Ocasio. Unfortunately, Joe ended up having to leave town for business, so Tracy decided to go to the Florida Tap Room in Orlando to watch the game. The 27-year-old was thrilled when the Magic won the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and was in a great mood when she left the bar around 1:30 am.

Tracy had spoken to her mother, Liz Ocasio, before the basketball game started and told her that she would be home once it was over. When Liz woke up early Wednesday morning, she realized that Tracy had never made it home. At first, she wasn’t too concerned. Tracy was an adult; it wasn’t uncommon for her to change her mind at the last minute and decide to stay at a friend’s house.

Liz sent Tracy a text message around 6:30 am asking her where she was but wasn’t surprised when she didn’t hear back from her. She assumed that Tracy was still asleep and would contact her once she woke up. As hours went by without any word from her, however, Liz started to grow concerned. After leaving several voicemails without getting a reply, Liz began calling Tracy’s friends to see if any of them knew where she was. None of them had heard from her since the previous day.

As morning turned to afternoon, Liz started calling all the hospitals in the area, afraid that Tracy had been in some kind of accident. None of them had a patient matching Tracy’s description. Fearing the worst, Liz started calling jails and morgues without luck. As she sat and pondered her next move, the phone rang. It was someone from the Ocoee Police Department.

The caller asked for Tracy; Liz explained that Tracy seemed to be missing after a night out. The caller informed Liz that a homeowner in Ocoee had called police after finding a yellow Chevrolet Cobalt seemingly abandoned on their property. Police determined the car belonged to Tracy and were calling to ask her to move it. Liz asked for the address where the car had been found and learned it was only a few miles from their home; she and Tracy’s brother immediately drove to that location.

Liz was surprised when she saw her daughter’s car; it was parked on the front lawn of a home on Franklin Street in Ocoee. There was no damage to the outside of the car, but when Liz looked inside she saw that both of the front seats had been pushed all the way forward, as if someone had been in the backseat and needed to climb out. It was clear the seats had been pushed forward after the car was parked; there was no way anyone would have been able to drive with the seats like that.

There was no sign of Tracy anywhere near the car. Her purse and cell phone were also unaccounted for, giving Liz hope that Tracy had willingly gotten out of the car and taken her things with her. She still wasn’t answering her phone, however, and Liz decided to call the Orlando Police Department and report her missing.

Police searched the area surrounding Tracy’s car but found no clues as to what happened to her. There were no signs of foul play in or around the car, and bloodhounds were unable to pick up a scent trail leading away from the car.

Investigators from the Orlando Police Department went to the last place Liz knew her daughter had been, the Florida Tap Room. The bartender confirmed that Tracy had been there to watch the Magic game the previous night, but said that nothing unusual had taken place in the bar. It had been crowded with people watching the basketball game and he couldn’t recall what time Tracy had left. It seemed like a dead end until the bartender mentioned that the Tap Room was monitored by several surveillance cameras. The manager turned the footage over to police.

Detectives scoured the surveillance footage and soon caught sight of Tracy. She could be seen socializing with various people after the basketball game ended, then headed towards the door of the bar around 1:30 am. She wasn’t alone. Surprisingly, the man she was seen leaving with was familiar to one of the investigators viewing the tape; he recognized the man as someone who hung out at a diner in Ocoee where some of the police officers would gather when they were off duty.

The man seen leaving with Tracy was 28-year-old James Hataway, a lifelong Ocoee resident with a minor criminal record. Detectives immediately went to his home to interview him. James told them that he had met Tracy at the Florida Tap Room a couple of weeks earlier and had asked her for a ride home the previous night. He claimed that she dropped him off at 2:00 am and left; he had no idea what had happened to her after that.

Although James appeared to be cooperative, police were suspicious of his story. Tracy’s car had been found only 150 yards away from his house, a fact that seemed to be more than just a coincidence. Still, with no evidence of foul play, there was little they could do.

Once they confirmed that Tracy had last been seen in Ocoee, the Orlando Police Department turned the case over to investigators with the Ocoee Police Department. They immediately brought James to the police station to be questioned. Over the course of a four-hour interview, James repeatedly denied knowing anything about what had happened to Tracy. He insisted that she had simply dropped him off and then left.

James was brought back in for a second interview the following day. He agreed to take a polygraph examination about Tracy’s disappearance; he failed it. After being questioned for 12 hours, James decided it was time to stop cooperating. He asked for an attorney and the interview was terminated.

While detectives were convinced that James was hiding something, Amanda Case, who had a 5-year-old daughter with him, insisted that there was no way he was involved in Tracy’s disappearance. Claiming that he didn’t do drugs and was very trustworthy, she told reporters, “He would never do anything like that.” She was the only person who came forward to publicly support him.

On Saturday, investigators obtained cell phone records for both Tracy and James. They determined that Tracy’s phone had still been at James’ house at 7:00 am Wednesday, hours after James had insisted she left. This gave detectives probable cause to obtain a search warrant for James’ home.

On Monday, investigators combed through the house searching for any evidence that Tracy had been inside, but none of her belongings were found. They did find evidence of drug use. James was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia; he remained in jail while the search for Tracy continued.

Shortly after James was arrested, a woman named Rachel Clarke came forward and told detectives that he had assaulted her the previous year. Rachel had agreed to give James a ride home from a party in Fern Park, Florida, on August 7, 2008; he was staying in Seminole County at the time. When she pulled up in front of his apartment building, she started to give him a goodbye hug when he suddenly grabbed her around the neck.

Rachel managed to fight him off long enough to get her car door open and she attempted to flee down the street, but James caught up with her. He threw her down onto the pavement and started slamming her head against the concrete, telling her, “Don’t make me kill you.” Rachel continued to fight him off and her screams eventually woke up some of the nearby residents. When they ran outside to see what was happening, James ran away. When police officers arrived at the scene, they were unable to locate him.

It was clear Rachel had been in a fight for her life; she had bruises on her neck and scrapes on her face, hands, arms, back, and knees. Police made several attempts at locating James so they could bring him in for questioning, but he managed to evade them. Eventually, they passed the case on to the District Attorney’s office in Sanford, Florida; incredibly, James was never charged for the assault. The DA’s office tried to follow up with Rachel but she hadn’t returned any of their calls, perhaps out of fear of retribution.

Rachel had been afraid of James at the time, but as soon as she saw he had been arrested and was the prime suspect in Tracy’s disappearance, she knew she had to come forward. After learning that Rachel was now willing to cooperate, prosecutors decided to charge James with aggravated battery; the charge was later upgraded to attempted murder. Although it didn’t bring investigators any closer to finding Tracy, it was enough to keep James behind bars while they continued searching for her.

When Tracy’s parents learned about the attack on Rachel, they were devastated, realizing that James might have attacked Tracy in a similar manner. Rachel had been lucky enough to get away, perhaps Tracy hadn’t. Liz admitted to a reporter, “Knowing his reputation, knowing what he did to Rachel, we don’t really think she’s here. We hoped that she would come home, but I don’t believe that’s going to happen.”

On June 10, investigators and cadaver dogs scoured a 280-acre property that James was known to use as an illegal dumping ground. Located in Ocoee near the intersection of Ingram and Clarcona-Ocoee Roads, the heavily wooded area was remote enough that detectives thought James might have gone there to hide Tracy’s body but found no evidence suggesting he had done so.

At the request of Tracy’s family, Texas EquuSearch joined the search on June 13th. After meeting with law enforcement, the group, along with 150 volunteers, spent several days combing through more than 2,500 acres of land. They found dozens of alligators and snakes, but nothing relevant to the investigation.

On June 18, police seized two computer towers from James’ home. They determined that he had searched the internet for ways to commit suicide the weekend before his home was searched. They also learned that he had expressed an interest in things such as cannibalism and serial killers. Ocoee Police Lt. Stephen McCrosker admitted that none of this meant that James had killed Tracy. He told a reporter, “Tracy Ocasio is missing. Unfortunately, a very weird guy was the last person to be seen with her.”

The next week passed with no progress on the case. Although Joe and Liz wanted to believe that Tracy was still alive, they knew that she never would have voluntarily disappeared; they were sure she would have contacted them if she had been able to. Joe told a reporter, “All the circumstances tell us that something’s happened to her…I hope and pray to God that’s not the case.”

On July 2, investigators returned to James’ house. This time, they concentrated on an area outside of the house; they dug up a septic tank and emptied it, hoping to find evidence linking James to Tracy’s disappearance. They came up empty.

Shortly after Tracy went missing, Crimeline offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts. In August, Joe Ocasio announced that he was offering an additional $5,000, hoping the increased amount would bring in new tips. Jeffrey Sevor, a periodontist from Winter Park, Florida, offered $10,000, bringing the total reward to $20,000.

On August 22, Orange County deputies found a black boot while they were completing a training exercise on horseback. It matched the description of what Tracy had been wearing when she went missing, so they immediately called Ocoee detectives. The boot had been found in a wooded area of Ocoee that had already been searched in the past. The area was searched again but no other items belonging to Tracy were found.

Investigators showed the boot to Tracy’s father and her best friend, and both of them positively identified the boot as belonging to the missing woman. The boot was then sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for DNA analysis. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough DNA recovered to make a comparison. They also tested DNA found in the backseat of Tracy’s car, but the results of this test were inconclusive as well.

By the end of September, Liz admitted that she and Joe had begun the painful process of accepting that their daughter wasn’t coming home. She gave Tracy’s best friend a few pieces of Tracy’s jewelry but refused to touch her bedroom, which still looked exactly as it had on the night Tracy left to go to the Florida Tap Room for the last time.

In May 2011, James was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder for his attack on Rachel Clarke. Liz and Joe had attended the entire trial, realizing that it might be the closest they would get to obtaining justice for Tracy. They were pleased when James was sentenced to life in prison, though they admitted that it didn’t make the loss of Tracy any easier to deal with. Joe noted, “If there’s any comfort it’s that he’s behind bars and he won’t destroy another family like he destroyed our family.”

Tracy’s body has never been found and no one has ever been charged in connection with her disappearance, but both her family and detectives believe that she was killed shortly after she left the Florida Tap Room on the night she disappeared. James remains the only suspect. Her family continues to pray that her remains will be found so they can give her a proper burial.

Tracy Elaine Ocasio was 27 years old when she went missing in 2009. Due to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, police believe she met with foul play. Tracy has brown hair and brown eyes, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, a black tank top, a black hooded sweatshirt, black boots, and a green and white baseball cap. If you have any information about Tracy, please contact the Ocoee Police Department at 407–905–3160.

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