Hoke homicide

This trailer belonged to Virgil Hoke, who was shot and killed in it near Happy Jack in Coconino County in October 1985. His murder remains unsolved. (Coconino County Sheriff's Office/Courtesy photo)

Coconino County Sheriff's Office

Virgil Hoke would leave his Scottsdale home and spend the summer months alone in his trailer near Happy Jack.

He was 78 and living on Social Security. He was married and had several grown children. He was known in the Happy Jack/Blue Ridge area for years because his family had operated the Long Valley Service Station and Store.

He kept his trailer on an area called Happy Jack Two -- a logging camp run by Southwest Forest Industries.

On Oct. 14, 1985, two of his sons found him dead in his trailer. It was a small trailer -- 12 feet by 8 feet.

“Somebody comes into the trailer and puts a gun at his head and kills him,” said Chuck Jones, investigator for the Coconino County cold case unit. The unit was formed several years ago to try to gain closure in more than 40 cold cases in the county.

The shot, from a .22-caliber weapon, was lethal, but when Hoke fell over he was shot again in the side. The bullet went through his body and lodged in a cushion behind him. The shot came from about 4 feet away. No casings were found at the scene. There are no suspects. Investigators conducted multiple interviews.

Hoke likely knew who killed him.

He had guns in the trailer for protection, Jones said. He could have defended himself from an intruder. There are no signs of forced entry or a struggle. He was sitting down at the time he was shot.

“It’s not like he would open the door up for just anybody,” Jones said. “He didn’t seem to be afraid of anything.”

There was no apparent motive, although a wallet on the table in the trailer was empty. There was a television, an old radio. Hoke had no real means, and the personal belongings were meager.

“He’s not worth killing,” Jones said. “That’s what so perplexing.”

He had no enemies near the camp. He didn’t bother anybody. The workers at the nearby SFI camp knew him and saw him regularly.

“So what do you need to kill him for?” Jones said, adding that whoever killed him had a lot more to lose than to gain.

Hoke’s body had been found by his two sons, who had come up from Phoenix to go hunting and had stopped to see their father. The sons were interviewed by sheriff’s detectives. No evidence was uncovered of them being involved.

Jones said that the cold case unit recently sent a clothing sample of Hoke’s with what appeared to be human tissue on it in for DNA testing. The sample was human tissue, but there was not enough of a sample to develop a profile to compare it with other samples.

What’s next?

“I don’t know,” Jones said.

He added that he’s hopeful for a call from somebody who knows something about the murder -- maybe somebody who the murderer told the story to, wronged, and now has a grudge to satisfy.

“That’s all we got,” Jones said.

If anybody has information about this case, contact the sheriff’s office cold case division at 774-4523, or visit the Facebook page.

Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or lhendricks@azdailysun.com.

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