Overview of Tracy Ocasio
Tracy’s parents say she could make friends anywhere, even from a young age.
Tracy had a lot of different interests - she kept lizards and scorpions as pets and had a cat named Cookie. She asked for books about World War II aircraft and ancient Rome for Christmas. Tracy was also taking classes at a community college and turned one of her hobbies into a moneymaker - she loved making jewelry, so she started selling her jewelry online.
Tracy was a huge fan of the Orlando Magic basketball team, her father described Tracy as the type of fan you’d want to sit two seats over from because she could be so loud. If Tracy couldn’t attend the game in person, she’d go to her favorite local bar - the Florida Tap Room. Whenever Tracy watched games at the Tap Room, she’d float from table to table, chatting with various customers.
The night of Tracy’s disappearance.
On the night of May 26, 2009, Tracy leaves her parents’ Ocoee home and travels to the Florida Tap Room. Tracy goes there to watch the Orlando Magic play the Cleveland Cavaliers. She plans to meet up with some friends and tells her mom she’ll be back later that night and doesn't plan on spending the night out.
At around 6:30 am on May 27th, Liz goes to Tracy’s room to check on her, but she isn't there. Liz sends Tracy a text asking, “Where are you?” She doesn't expect to get a reply right away and figures Tracy maybe had too much to drink and decided to stay with a friend instead of driving home.
But when 8:00 am rolls around and Tracy hasn't responded yet, Liz starts to worry. She calls Tracy at 8:00 and 10:00, still waiting for a reply. Liz then calls the friend she thinks Tracy could be staying with, but that friend doesn't know where Tracy is either.
At around 7:00 pm, the police call the Ocasio home phone asking for Tracy. Liz said no and asked why they were looking for Tracy - Liz explained that she too was looking for Tracy. The police then say Tracy’s yellow Chevy Cobalt car was found abandoned in the front yard of someone’s property on Franklin Street in Ocoee. The car is unlocked and the keys are not in the car (neither are Tracy’s wallet or phone
Orlando detectives go to the Tap Room and speak to the bartender who says they saw Tracy the night before but didn’t see anything weird. The bartender says they had surveillance footage, so detectives reviewed the video. After a few hours of video, they watch Tracy leave the bar at around 1:30 am. She is seen leaving with a man they quickly identify as 28-year-old James Virgil Hataway.
Police Interview James.
On May 27, detectives went to James Hataway’s Ocoee home to interview him regarding Tracy’s disappearance. James says he met Tracy at the bar and asked her for a ride home - she said yes. James further said that he and Tracy were going to smoke marijuana at James’s house, but when he showed her the weed he had, she didn’t like it, so she left his house at around 2:00 am. James says he hadn’t seen or heard from Tracy since she left.
Investigators find that Tracy’s phone pinged off a tower near James’s home at around 8:00 am on the 27th - the ping happened when Liz called Tracy to see where she was. James became a person of interest after this but isn't named as a suspect
On June 1, 2009, detectives searched James’s home with a warrant hoping to at least find Tracy’s clothes, keys, wallet, and/or phone. However, they do not find anything belonging to Tracy. Detectives find a marijuana bong, so they decide to arrest James for possession of drug paraphernalia.
This wasn’t the first time the police heard James Hataway’s name. He’s been on their radar before.
Because James was the only person of interest in Tracy's disappearance, his arrest quickly made the news. Within five minutes of his image being shown on screen, Ocoee detectives received a call from a woman named Kristi explaining James' attack on her just about a year prior in August 2008.
After driving James home from a party, he invited Kristi inside to smoke some weed. She said no thanks, and then she hugged James (they were still in the car). But James wouldn’t let go and started squeezing Kristi tighter despite her yelling out in pain. Kristi struggled but broke free before James lunged at her again put her in a choke hold, and squeezed.
Kristi was able to escape the vehicle and she started running down the street, screaming, “Please help me! This guy is trying to kill me!” Then, Kristi trips. At that moment, James grabbed her by the hair and started slamming her head against the curb, while saying, “Don’t make me kill you.” He then tried to twist Kristi’s neck and break it. Thankfully, neighbors heard Kristi screaming for help and came outside, she was able to break free, and James ran off. James wasn’t arrested for this attack until Kristi came forward again.
Another victim comes forward.
As the media picks up on the story of Tracy’s disappearance and the link to James, another victim comes forward to detail her encounter with James. We’ll call this woman "Hannah."
Hannah tells the Orlando Sentinel that she knew James casually from the Seminole County bar scene.
In or around June 2008, James asked Hannah for a ride home. Once they were inside Hannah’s car, James pulled his pants down and tried to force Hannah to give him oral sex. She refused and went back inside the bar - she did not call the police.
James’ connection to his friend's disappearance.
After spending the day with friends James and Tyler, Chris George goes missing on February 11, 2009. On February 12, 2009, officers see James and Tyler leaving the woods near Lake Carter in Apopka. James and Tyler are stopped and questioned. They told police that they were looking for their friend Chris, who had run off into the woods while on hallucinogens. The men say they haven't found Chris yet. Officers search the area where Chris is last seen and find Chris’s car abandoned off Ocoee-Apopka Road (which is right by Lake Carter). It looks like the car had driven off the roadway.
James and Tyler are asked for more info and they say that on February 11, they had been driving around in Chris’s car with Chris doing drugs. They pulled over near the lake, and Chris got out of the car and ran into the woods. James and Tyler searched, but couldn’t find Chris, so they left. They were worried they’d get caught with drugs in the car, so they took the car and cleaned it all out. Then they returned the car to the wooded area by the lake.
While searching for both Tracy and Chris in February 2011, investigators found several human bones and a skull. Also found are Chris’s wallet, cell phone, and jewelry. After this find, testing confirms that the skeletal remains are indeed Chris’s.
February 2011 was the second anniversary of Chris George’s disappearance. That month, James and Tyler were publicly named as persons of interest in Chris’s disappearance.
James Goes to Trial For the Attempted Murder of Kristi.
James takes the stand in his own defense. He denies intentionally hurting Kristi - he says, “I cared about her. I was not trying to kill her.” He said he was so drunk that he didn’t remember a lot of what happened.
On April 1, 2011, after the jury deliberated for less than two and a half hours, James was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder, burglary, robbery, and false imprisonment.
James is sentenced to life in prison. The judge made it clear that she was sentencing James to life only for the attack on Kristi - her decision has nothing to do with Tracy’s disappearance.
Where the case stands today.
James Hataway has been a suspect in Tracy’s disappearance since May 2010, but no new leads have emerged.
May 2022 marks the 13th anniversary of Tracy’s disappearance. In June 2022, the Ocoee Police Chief said, “It is our hope to one day bring closure to this case and her family by finding Tracy or learning what happened to her. By bringing continued attention to her case, someone might come forth with a critical piece of information to solve her disappearance. No matter how inconsequential a piece of information might seem, it could be the key.”
The department plans to resubmit evidence from Tracy’s case to see if new technology can pick up on anything.
Tracy's case remains unsolved. If you have any information please contact the Ocoee Police Department at (407) 905-3161.
This case research is courtesy of Haley Gray. Since 2016, Haley has been a renowned true crime researcher and writer for over 20 podcasts, including My Favorite Murder, Generation Why, Detective Perspective, and Voices for Justice. She is the Co-Founder, Co-CEO, and Research Specialist for True Crime Podcast Training.