What happened to Woodrow Rae Harr?

Woodrow Rae Harr

Woodrow Rae Harr courtesy of his high school friends

What happened to Woody? That’s what his best friends from high school would like to know. On February 25, 1982, Woodrow “Woody” Rae Harr (April 7, 1964 – February 25, 1982) was found dead in a shallow pond near Newport News, Virginia. He was just 17 years old.

I have tried to find more information about this case online but there isn’t any. Woody has no web presence at all.

The authorities ruled his death a suicide and supposedly did not collect any evidence to the contrary. But some believe that Woody would never have killed himself.

Cases like these were on my mind when I wrote my contribution for the AISOCC’s book “Solving the Unsolved.” In my chapter I explored whether we should expand the definition of cold cases where doubt lingers. If the cause of death is “undetermined” and it is from the pre-DNA era we should look at it one more time with modern technology. This is part of my chapter:

In some unsolved cases it is more complicated to say what happened to the victim. The victim’s death might be defined as “undetermined.” Sometimes such a case is treated as a suicide. However, upon closer inspection some of those cases might actually be covered up murders.

With new technological advances in forensic sciences (such as the M-Vac) and more collaboration between law enforcement and scientists, should we not expand that new-found interaction to cases where doubt still lingers? We use modern technology to identify the John and Jane Does. We discover what happened in unsolved homicides. We are better able to make progress in cases of missing persons. It will be interesting to see whether the definition of a cold case will widen to include those cases that were initially closed as suicides but where doubt remains.”

Woody is missed till this day by his friends. “He was my best friend and 30 years later, I still think of him everyday. I need to know what happened.”

Another friend thought the case was presented to the Grand Jury but that there was insufficient evidence for the courts to issue an indictment. If correct, this tells me that police did investigate the possibility that Woody’s death may not have been a suicide. If evidence they collected back then is properly preserved we could look at them with modern technology for touch DNA.

All friends agree on this: it is the not knowing of what and why that torments them. Among them is Woody’s mom who is still alive. She is in her 80s and just wants to know what happened to her son.

One of his friends said: “Woody’s family and friends were fortunate enough to have his body so we could mourn and bury him. However, there are hundreds of cases where loved ones are left empty-handed. Someone knows what happened. Please call the authorities anonymously and give us peace of mind.

If you have any information about this case please contact MPD A. C. Schraudt, Cold Case Homicide Unit, Newport News Police Department at 757-928-4247 or via email at [email protected]

Thank you for remembering Woodrow Rae Harr with us.