The Trail Went Cold – Episode 4 – Rhonda Hinson

December 22, 1981. 19-year old Rhonda Hinson attends an office Christmas party in Hickory, North Carolina. Sometime after midnight, Rhonda is driving back home when she is struck by a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle, killing her instantly and causing her car to crash into the ditch. Incredibly, the bullet manages to travel through the vehicle’s trunk, back seat, and driver’s seat, striking Rhonda in the heart and killing her instantly. The seemingly impossible fatal shot, along with a strange eyewitness sighting of an unidentified man at the scene, has led to debate about whether Rhonda was deliberately targeted or the unfortunate victim of a freak accident. Join me for a new episode of “The Trail Went Cold”, as I analyze the baffling murder of Rhonda Hinson.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

6 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 4 – Rhonda Hinson

  • Here is my theory. This might have been a prank gone horribly wrong. I could see some boneheaded teens thinking they were going to shoot out a tail light on a car , not realizing the bullet would travel further. Thinking maybe they’d only wounded Rhonda, they tried to go help and maybe even laid her on the ground in a fruitless attempt to render aid. That’s one came to mind when I heard this story.

  • I love this podcast and it’s inspired me to hop into my way-back machine and re-watch Unsolved Mysteries. I was about 12-13 when it aired originally and it used to scare the bejeesus out of me!! I’m up to the episode which profiles Rhonda Hinson’s murder and, after watching it, I have a theory about what may have happened to Rhonda.

    The whole “magic bullet” aspect of Rhonda’s death is so baffling that the initial reaction is that it must be accidental, but Rhonda’s strange behaviour leading up to her death flips the whole thing back to looking pre-meditated. So I thought, what if both of those theories are correct? What if the shooting was intentional, but the outcome, Rhonda’s death, was not?

    I think Rhonda was being stalked and that the stalking was escalating. Rhonda asking her father to accompany her on drives makes me think that she’d received a threat of something either happening to her car, or of something happening to her while driving. Which leads us to Rhonda’s death. I think the shooter wanted to scare Rhonda, as part of their escalating stalking campaign, and that the plan was to shoot out one of Rhonda’s back tires. But shooting the tires of a moving vehicle ain’t as easy as movies make it look. The shooter missed the shot, the bullet went up through the trunk instead and hit Rhonda, killing her instantly. The shooter pulls Rhonda from the car, possibly to try and save her, but realises it’s too late and flees the scene.

    I even have a theory on who that shooter might have been. Before she died, Rhonda asked her mother if it was ever ok to go with a married man. If Rhonda had a specific married man in mind, and decided to “go with” him anyway, the person stalking Rhonda and scaring her could have been that man’s wife. A witness saw two men in a vehicle near the spot where Rhonda was killed, but everyone knows witness testimony can be horribly unreliable, which makes me wonder if the witness actually saw a man and a woman in that car and mistook them for two men.

    That’s my theory. Love the show and keep up the great work!!

    • Hey, thanks for listening to the podcast. I do think that theory is definitely possible. I know the Unsolved Mysteries segment did a hypothetical re-enactment of a scenario where Rhonda stopped for someone at that location and they fired a shot at her while she was driving away. As you said, this might have been done in an attempt to scare her, but in a freak occurrence, the bullet entered her car and killed her. However, I’m still bothered by the fact that they couldn’t match the blue Chevy or Trans Am to anyone in Rhonda’s life. But it’s possible this could have been someone who Rhonda knew, but her friends and family did not.

    • That’s pretty much exactly what i was thinking, Sakura! I was wondering if it was the married man though. Maybe someone who had coerced her into sex in a way in which they could make her feel like she allowed it- something to keep her job or something, maybe? Then, when she feels to disgusted and guilty to continue, the stalking begins… something spooked her from her friends house, where she had planned to stay, and the stalker followed. Maybe someone at the party asked where she was going after and she had to change plans, adds credence to it being someone at work, as does her reluctance to go to the party. But they never planned to kill her like that, because a stalker wants to possess. Killing loses that possession.

  • This was a really good episode. I agree with your conclusions. Since it would be virtually impossible to make a shot like that on purpose, it seems the logical conclusion is that no one would have attempted it. What remains is that she was hit by poachers shooting at a deer at night who missed and the bullet hit her instead, probably from a long distance away. This sort of thing actually happens sometimes in places where hunting is common — someone shoots at a deer and misses and the bullet goes over several hilltops to hit someone two miles away. The drama in her personal life doesn’t seem connected, because again, even if she had had some complicated issues going on with people, no one would have attempted to murder her by shooting her through the back of a moving carcar. It’s just too difficult, not to say impossible.

    As far as the people seen near her body, I think they probably saw her car crash and went to help, but fled when they saw she had been shot, possibly because they were afraid of being shot by her killer too, or because they didn’t want to get involved in a shooting case.

    Fascinating story though, but most likely a freak accident. I doubt her killer even knows what he did.

  • I’m working my way through these podcasts, so I trust I’ll be forgiven for resurrecting this one.

    I’m going to go against the consensus and say that I think the shot was deliberately fired at the driver. I discount the idea that Hinson’s death was the result of a hunting accident: the bullet must have been fired along the road, parallel to the ground, and I can’t see any circumstances in which a hunter would fire such as shot, since the tail-lights of the car would be clearly visible.

    The other possibility is that drunks were fooling around with a rifle and fired a shot which hit the car either by accident or design. It’s not possible to discount this scenario because it’s a bit of a ‘movable feast’ but it does seem quite unlikely. However, the thing that leads me to believe that the shooting was deliberate was that Hinson was driving up a steep hill, when clearly her car would have to slow down, making it an easier target. If the gunman was hiding at the bottom of the hill he would have a near zero-deflection shot into the rear of the car, which makes the shot much less difficult than you might imagine.

    However, I do wonder if the intended target was someone else who drove a similar car, and Hinson just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Possibly the shooter went over to check that the victim was dead, found that they’d shot the wrong person and attempted to help her.

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