Kipling Randolph Hess III

Left and Right: Kipling circa, 1979

Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: March 27, 1979

Missing From: Merritt Island, Brevard County, Florida

Classification: Endangered Missing

Date Of Birth: August 2, 1966

Age: 12 years old

Height and Weight: 5’4″ and 90 pounds

Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Male, Brown hair, Brown eyes

NCMEC Number: 1151903

Details of Disappearance

Kipling was last seen in Merritt Island, Florida on March 27th 1979. He left his home that morning to go to school but he never arrived apparently. Kipling left a bit behind for his parents which said “Goodbye, Mom and Dad.” He was never seen or heard from again after his disappearance. Some agencies claim he did make it School that morning but disappeared after first period.

John McRae is the prime suspect in his disappearance. He has a record for crimes against children. In 1950, John murdered and dismembered his 8 year old neighbor, Joseph “Joey” Housey when he was 15 and dumped his remains in a muddied field. McRae served 21 years in prison for the crime and was released from prison in 1971.

John worked as a guard at the Brevard Correctional Institution from the year 1976 to the year 1980. While McRae worked there, three local boys vanished. The first was Keith Fleming in 1977, then in March of 1979, Kipling vanished while waking to school. Kipling had met McRae at the carnival after he saved him from bullies. The last boy to disappear was 20 year old, Charles Edward Collingwood, who was an inmate at the Institution where McRae worked.

It’s possible that McRae was having an inappropriate relationship with Collingwood. McRae denied this and stated that Collingwood was his snitch and spy for other inmates. Authorities believe McRae killed all three boys and dumped them somewhere in Brevard County.

In 1987, a Michigan boy named, Randy Ray Laufer, vanished while walking to a friends house after school. He was initially believed to be a runaway until his remains were found in 1997. His remains were found buried on McRaes property. He was convicted of killing Laufer in 2005 and sentenced to life in prison. He eventually died in prison.

Authorities believe that McRae committed more murders then he said he did. Authorities at one point offered McRae immunity if he revealed the locations of Fleming’s, Hess’s, and Collingwood’s remains but he refused. He maintained his innocence in all cases until his death. His wife stated that McRae had admitted to killing Hess and Collingwood at one point.

Several years after Hess went missing, police found a missing flier for him taped inside of his work locker. McRae also participated in the initial search for Kipling when he disappeared. There was not enough evidence to charge him with his murder before McRae died.

At the time of his disappearance, Kipling was a student at Edgewood Middle School and was involved in church activities and boy scouts. He also took piano lessons as well. His remains have never been recovered and his case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Brevard County Sheriffs Office 321-264-5201

Source Information

The Charley Project

The Doe Network


Dean Marie Pyle Peters & Cold Cases