HAMLET — A passing driver found Michael McLean’s body sprawled across a city street more than eight years ago. Detectives believe he was beaten to death, but no suspects were ever identified.
Over time, the case went cold. But the Hamlet Police Department has reopened the homicide investigation, acting on a tip from Richmond County Crime Stoppers.
At 12:08 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2006, the driver of a utility truck working in the area noticed the body in the road on Oak Avenue and called police. Patrol Capt. Scott Waters and Detective Lt. Gary Carter — on duty in their former positions — rushed to the scene.
“His head was swollen pretty bad,” Waters said.
Initially, police said it appeared McLean may have been struck by a car.
“He was taken to Sandhills Regional Medical Center,” Waters said. “He had no ID on him. Coworkers from Brown Molding made a positive identification, recognizing a dip can in his possession. From there, we got a key and entered his house. I remember Chief (John) Haywood worked the case with me.”
The autopsy report lists blunt-force trauma to the head as the official cause of death. There was indication McLean had been drinking in the hours leading up to the grim discovery of his body on Oak Avenue.
Upon further investigation, however, police there was no evidence that he’d been hit by a car or truck.
“A death investigation is what we call it until we learn otherwise,” Waters said. “With those head injuries and the clean appearance of the scene, it becomes a possible homicide. The injuries were mainly to the head and neck, and a rib was broken. There were no signs of a car strike evident, but you can be hit by a car and nothing happen to the car. We just don’t believe that’s what happened.”
Waters believes that someone, somewhere, knows what really happened to McLean that night.
McLean left work at the end of his shift and visited a friend’s house on Spear Street, right around the corner from his rented room on the second floor of a house on adjacent Lackey Street.
The two men began to drink beer, and police said they were still drinking at around 10 p.m. when they noticed a group of people walking up the street.
“He seen some girls and wanted to go talk to them,” Waters said. “The friend said he tried talking McLean out of it because there were guys with them, but McLean went anyway. They had all turned the corner onto Lackey Street before his friend could get out the door to stop him or follow him. The last time he was seen was when he turned the corner onto Lackey Street.”
“We did have a Crime Stoppers tip,” said interim Police Chief Rodney Tucker. “Here’s why we think there’s somebody out there who knows something. According to the tip, the victim showed up at a person’s house with two males there and an argument happened because he’d been drinking heavily and was asked to leave. The person who called the tip in said a friend assaulted the victim, so that friend became a person of interest. But he was uncooperative at the interview.”
Tucker said details the caller provided were consistent with the multiple blunt-force injuries McLean sustained.
Anyone with information on McLean’s killing is asked to call the Hamlet Police Department at 910-582-2551 or Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673.