MILAN. Tenn. — A suspect has been named in the cold-case of a Mid-South teenager who disappeared more than 20 years ago.
Cayce McDaniel, 14, was reported missing in Milan in 1996.
Her body’s never been found and no arrests ever made.
Now police have named a suspect: 66-year-old Finis Ewin Hill.
WREG reported on Hill last week when he was indicted for crossing state lines to have sex with a teenager.
He was arrested in Southaven after police say he went to a hotel room to meet a woman and her 15-year-old daughter he met online.
He didn’t know he`d actually been messaging police. It was all set up in the hopes police would learn more about a role he may have had in a mystery case 22 years ago.
When Brocknie Bray heard Hill was back behind bars, she thought, “Thank God, but oh my goodness, I sure hope he hasn’t hurt anyone else,” she said.
Bray knows what Hill’s capable of. What he did to her in 2003 sent him to prison for 15 years.
“I feel glad I was the one there really to be honest with you, to get him off the streets, for as long as he was off the streets,” she said.
She was in her late twenties at the time at the car wash.
It was dark out and she says she remembers feeling in trouble when another car pulled up beside her.
“I felt him walk up, so I turned around and grabbed him on his wrist and we struggled for a little while.”
She offered cash to get him to leave.
“He says, ‘I don’t want your money. You need to get in my car,'” said Bray. “I said, ‘I’m not getting in your car.’ He said, ‘I have a gun, I’ll blow your brains out. You need to get in my car.'”
She grabbed her phone and told him she’d call police.
Eventually, he agreed to leave and sped away.
“I was more aggressive than he was, but he had the gun and was the one telling me to get in the car,” said Bray. “I was furious. I didn’t get scared until he left, then I was terrified.”
Thanks to her will to fight, detailed description and a fingerprint left at the scene, Hill was caught soon after.
He already had a violent criminal record with charges ranging from aggravated rape to burglary.
“What do you think he was planning to do with you that night?” WREG’s Bridget Chapman asked Bray.
“He most definitely would’ve raped me,” she answered. “I don’t doubt he would’ve beat me for certain.”
She said she’ll never forget looking into his eyes.
“There’s no emotion, nothing, it’s just like dead.”
Hill pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
While he was in prison, Bray said she heard stories from other women who had similar encounters with him.
She’s worried more victims are out there.
“I just remembered this young girl who`d gone missing, just vanished without a trace.”
She’s talking about Cayce McDaniel.
The 14-year-old disappeared from Milan in 1996 and has never been found.
WREG highlighted the cold case last year after podcaster Brandon Barnett did a series on it, shining new light on the mystery.
“What I had to do in sifting through a lot of the rumors, that’s probably what law enforcement had to do,” said Barnett, ‘Searching for Ghosts’ podcaster.
Through those rumors one name kept popping up: Pete Hill — who’s real name Finis Ewin Hill.
“Cayce had called him Uncle Pete, so he was kind of around,” said Barnett.
Cayce’s mother reported to police that she disappeared after a chaperone dropped her off after a church party.
Barnett says he’s heard from many that on the night of her disappearance, Cayce’s mother, mother’s boyfriend and Hill were at a different party in Humboldt.
“It had too many varying stories about who was there and when they were there, and I knew I was being lied to,” said Barnett.
He says he knew the party was significant and from what he was told of Hill, so was his presence.
“Just an aggressive tendency towards women in general,” said Barnett.
He says while putting together his podcast `Searching For Ghosts,` even Cayce`s mother called him one night, seemingly intoxicated, and told him Hill was responsible for Cayce’s disappearance.
It’s a suspicion Milan Police are now revealing they’ve also had.
“From day one, he was a suspect,” said Milan Police Chief Bobby Sellers. “His name had come up about being in certain places where Cayce was and her family, so he’s kind of been on the radar of law enforcement for a long time.”
Hill was released from prison at the beginning of this year after serving time for trying to kidnap Bray.
Milan police got permission to start a task force and work with the FBI to see if they could get information from him now that he was out.
A city employee created a fake social media account and added Hill.
“He was communicating with what he thought was a young, single mother coming out of an abusive relationship, but he was actually communicating with one of our police officers,” said Chief Sellers.
An affidavit details some of his disturbing messages.
One said he loves to rape, chase his women down and beat them until they no longer move.
Another admitted to having sex twice with a 14-year-old.
And later, he said he wanted to have sex with this made-up woman’s 15-year-old daughter.
“Some of the things we saw were quite disturbing,” said Chief Sellers. “We wanted to draw this out and try to get more information from him, but some of his actions prompted us to make an arrest a lot quicker than we really wanted to.”
They told Hill to meet at a Southaven hotel to have sex with the woman and the teenager.
When the 66-year-old arrived, the FBI was waiting for him.
They reported finding marijuana, alcohol, sex toys and condoms in his car.
“Since we’ve re-invigorated this investigation, we’ve had more victims come forward who didn’t want to back then out of fear.”
And he thinks more are out there.
“He’s 66 and he’s still doing these things, it’s just sick. It’s terrible,” said Bray.
As authorities prosecute Hill for these recent charges, they hope anyone with information about his possible connection to Cayce’s disappearance will come forward.
They’ve brought in cadaver dogs, drained ponds and are following up on every tip.
“I have children of my own and I just can`t imagine what some of her family members have gone through all these years, so we want to help them with closure,” said Chief Sellers.
He believes someone out there knows something.
We went to Hill’s relative’s home where he’d been staying before this recent arrest, but we were told no comment.
There is a cash reward for information that helps move this investigation.