Hamlet police: 2006 murder case ‘solvable’

 Beaten to death in 2006, McLean’s murderer still free

* If you can be of any help with this case, call the Richmond County Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454 or the Hamlet Police Department at 910-582-2551. *

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — Top officials within the Hamlet Police Department believe an unsolved murder from 2006 is “solvable” but feel an unidentified witness from the original investigation has yet to step forward.

It’s one of two open homicide cases Hamlet police officers continue to investigate. This one, said acting Chief Rodney Tucker, is “solvable.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hamlet Police Chief Rodney Tucker, right, and Capt M. Scott Waters review the case file on the 2006 murder of Michael McLean.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hamlet Police Chief Rodney Tucker, right, and Capt M. Scott Waters review the case file on the 2006 murder of Michael McLean.

Officers received a call at about 12:08 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2006, from a phone repair technician who had found the body of Michael McLean, 41, lying in the middle of Oak Avenue. Then Sgt. Gary Carter and Officer Jimmy Covington responded to the scene.

“They thought it was trash in the road, got out and saw it was a body,” said Carter, now a lieutenant. “At the time, we thought he got hit by a car. That was a guess. We’ve got this guy in the roadway, he’s dead. The guy appeared to be either hit (by a vehicle) or beaten.”

McLean’s body was transported to Sandhills Regional Medical Center on Broad Avenue for assessment.

Shot or stabbed also was a possibility, at least at first, officials said recently as Carter, Tucker and Lieut. Gary Carter. The victims face was swollen, consistent with injuries suffered from a beating of an unknown weapon. The official cause of death was ruled as blunt force trauma to the head. He also suffered injuries to the neck and rib areas of the body. An autopsy indicated McLean had been drinking heavily, but it wasn’t sure how — if at all — that played into the incident.

The victim was not immediately able to be identified, police said. A coworker from Brown Molding identified the body has McLean’s, police said, in part because of a can of dip. McLean was living in a two-story boarding house on Lackey Street, just around the corner from Oak Avenue where McLean’s body was found.

What was clear early on, however, was this, said Carter: “He was not hit by a car.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Capt. M. Scott Waters points to the two-story boarding house on Lackey Street where Michael McLean lived in January 2006. McLean's body was found just around the corner on Oak Avenue, the victim of a fatal beating.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Capt. M. Scott Waters points to the two-story boarding house on Lackey Street where Michael McLean lived in January 2006. McLean’s body was found just around the corner on Oak Avenue, the victim of a fatal beating.

It was a “clean scene,” police said. No broken headlights from where a car might have struck him. Experience told the officers there was more to it than that. The original report, Tucker said, “showed it was a possible homicide.”

As police investigated, this is what they know. McLean went to a friend’s house nearby. They were drinking. Through a window, McLean saw a group of girls and “he wanted to go try to talk to them,” said Capt. M. Scott Waters. “He was up and through the door” before the friend even realized he was gone.

“That’s the last time he was seen,” Waters said, “when he turned that corner, by his friend.”

That was around 10 p.m., which leaves much to the imagination until McLean’s body was discovered two hours later. One theory is that McLean followed the group of women to a home, where a man became upset with McLean’s presence. From the original investigation, police said, there was at least one other person at the home that night where the man was reported to be mad at McLean. That person hasn’t come forward as a witness.

A tip to Richmond County Crime Stoppers on April 9, 2006, moved the investigation forward — by an inch. Tucker said the caller stated McLean was seen at the home where he’d followed the group of women. When he was asked to leave, an argument ensued. The caller said the man at the home “assaulted (McLean),” Tucker said.

He is, Tucker said, “a person of interest” and was interviewed Waters described the man as “uncooperative” when questioned and police didn’t have enough evidence to obtain a warrant to search the home in which McLean might have been assaulted and killed.

“According to the Crime Stoppers tip, the caller said there was supposed to be a second person there when the beating happened.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Capt. M. Scott Waters  points at the approximate location of where the body of Michael McLean was found. McLean was 41 when he was beaten to death in January 2006 in Hamlet.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Capt. M. Scott Waters points at the approximate location of where the body of Michael McLean was found. McLean was 41 when he was beaten to death in January 2006 in Hamlet.

After questioning the man, police let him go. The investigation, Tucker said, “was pretty much at a dead end.”

Since May 15, 2006, investigators have been willing to pursue any leads that might come their way. But the case went cold. That bothers the men who wear the badge that have looked into the murder for the past eight years.

“When a good police officer works on a case such as this, it stays with him sometimes,” Tucker said.

Waters offers a walking tour of the scene of the crime. He visits the spot where McLean’s body was found and walks to the nearby boarding house where McLean lived.

“I can’t go by that street without seeing” the body, Waters said. “It won’t go away. I just want justice done.”

The family wants answers, too. A nephew of McLean’s recently visited Tucker at the Hamlet police station. Tucker assured the man the case was still open.

“The family needs closure, too,” Waters said.

 

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