Investigators revisiting sailor's disappearance from Pascagoula base in 1995
By MARGARET BAKER | The Sun Herald | Published: February 14, 2018
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — When Navy sailor Ronald Reed Duck Jr. went missing on Valentine’s Day 1995, his family drove in from Alabama and started posting signs everywhere they could think of to help find him.
Over the course of three months, they made frequent driving trips from Eclectic, Alabama, and stayed in a motel so they could search for their son in Mississippi.
In the years that followed, Beverly Duck tracked down other Navy sailors she believed were involved in her son’s disappearance.
But Ronald Duck Sr., said no one would admit knowing what happened to his son when he vanished without a trace from Naval Station Pascagoula on Feb. 14, 1995.
As the anniversary of his death comes, Pascagoula police cold case investigators are working with Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers to help find new leads in the case.
The cold case is among 23 other active cold cases on the books in Pascagoula since the mid 1970s.
The last time anyone saw Ronald Duck Jr. alive was about 3:30 a.m. along the docks at Naval Station Pascagoula, according to Pascagoula police. At the time, police Capt. Shannon Broom said, the young sailor was only 50 yards away from where he was scheduled to board the USS Stephen Groves.
The 21-year-old, who was studying to be a electronic communication technician, had spent the previous evening playing pool at the Billiards’s Club in Ocean Springs.
The weekend before that, he had spent time with his wife and and other family members, including his mother.
During that visit, Ronald Duck told relatives he was afraid to go back.
Why? He had turned in another sailor for drugs before he left.
When he headed back to Pascagoula, he brought with him a $40 check for spending money, but police never found the check and it never cleared the bank.
Investigators later told the Duck family he was in a car with another sailor when they went through the first security check at a guard gate at the homeport the morning of his disappearance, but he wasn’t in the car when it got to the second guard gate.
According to investigators, Ronald Duck Jr. had gotten out of the car to talk to someone after passing through the first guard gate.
Investigators later found Duck’s maroon-colored pickup truck in the naval station’s parking lot. There was mud on the floorboard, but the sailor’s Ivory soap he’d purchased for the trip at sea was still inside along with more than a carton of cigarettes — all items the missing sailor’s father said his son would have taken along with him to board the ship.
The Navy reported Ronald Duck Jr. missing the day after he failed to report for duty on the ship.
Several years later, the Navy declared Duck dead.
‘He was afraid’
Early on in the investigation, the Duck family suspected someone had kidnapped Ronald Duck Jr. and hurt him.
The Sunday before Valentine’s Day 1995, Ronald Duck Jr. had gone home to Alabama and told his mom a fellow sailor was threatening him.
The threats came, his father said, after Ronald Duck Jr. got busted trying to buy some drugs himself from what turned out to be an undercover Naval Intelligence officer.
“Some of the sailors coaxed him into buying the drugs somewhere around Panama,” his father said. “Ronnie had a way of always telling on himself anyway. We think it was a revenge thing.”
In the months after the disappearance, the Duck family became more and more vocal about how they felt someone had hurt the son they called Ronnie, who loved to play baseball, ride dirt bikes and hang out with friends as more and more time passed.
They continued to come to Pascagoula to post fliers, and they talked to the media about how Ronald Duck Jr. would have never left his family. His wife was expecting their first child just six weeks later.
“Ronnie didn’t just leave,” his dad said from his home in Eclectic. “I figure he was killed and dumped in a swamp somewhere between Mississippi and Alabama. I’d really like to know where he is so I could give him a proper burial. It’s hard not knowing where he is or what happened to him.”
The sailor’s mother, Beverly Duck, has since passed away, though she had spent a majority of her life tracking down leads she had hoped would help her find out what happened to her son.
Ronnie’s daughter — the one he never got a chance to meet — is now 23 and a registered nurse living in Alabama.
For years, the Duck family has held on to the hope that one day someone would come forward with the information they need to find out what happened.
Julie Maynard, Ronald’s sister, tries to remember the good times she had with her brother, though she, too, holds on to the hope that one day the family will get answers.
When her brother went missing, Maynard said she was “in shock.”
“I didn’t understand how someone could just literally drop off the face of the earth,” Maynard said. “You know you hear about that sort of thing, but when it happens to you, it’s like, ‘How can somebody just disappear?’”
They are hoping a renewed interest in the cold case on the anniversary of his disappearance will finally shed light on what really happened to Ronald Duck Jr.
At the time of his disappearance, authorities said Duck was 5 feet, 11 inches and 170 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He has a scar on his chest because of open heart surgery and another on his lower right shin. He has two tattoos, one of a duck on his chest and another of a dragon on his left thigh.
Police said he was last seen wearing blue jeans and a red and black plaid jacket.
To report information, call the Pascagoula Police Department at 228-762-2211 or call Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at 877-787-5898, or log in to mscoastcrimestoppers.com and leave a tip. Crime Stoppers offers rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in a case.