CHAMPAIGN — Champaign police detectives would like nothing more than to be able to give a Champaign family answers about their missing loved one.
"Ray-Ray did not simply disappear. There's someone who knows what has happened to him or where he is. Christmas is fast approaching. The family is just miserable," said detective Pat Funkhouser in an appeal to the public for help.
Funkhouser was among a team of police officers Thursday knocking on doors in the northwest Champaign neighborhood where Renard Jackson is a familiar face, in hopes of getting any information that can help them find him.
The 49-year-old man has been missing from his home in the 1500 block of Holly Hill Drive since Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. His family reported him missing on the following Monday, Nov. 28.
"This is extremely out of character for him. He's kind of a homebody," said Funkhouser. "He's been in this neighborhood for at least a decade. He's well known to people in the neighborhood for being out on his bicycle, running errands for neighbors. He does not drive. He gets around solely on his bicycle. He's never disappeared for a night and now it's been three weeks."
Funkhouser said police don't believe he is missing of his own accord for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is one of two primary caretakers for his disabled stepdaughter and her children. The other is that his wallet and bicycle were found about two blocks from his home, near Hedge and Summerlin, on the Tuesday after his disappearance, leading police to believe he may have been the victim of foul play.
"(Jackson's stepdaughter) had sudden and massive medical problems this past spring which have left her confined to a wheelchair. Just recently, her boyfriend and Jackson have assumed the role of caregivers," Funkhouser said, adding that Jackson seemed fine with doing that.
"One of the things we look at (with missing persons) is things that would alter your personality. This guy is just not one of those guys. This is not a person we would suspect to be at risk for disappearing for no reason," he said.
Jackson left the house about 2 p.m. to pay a bill for the family. The 6 feet 1 inch tall, 165-pound, "skinny" black man was last seen wearing a black coat with a fur-trimmed hood. That's the only piece of clothing the family can recall with certainty.
He left on his bicycle that Funkhouser described as his "pride and joy."
"Just within the past year, he built this. It's a beach cruiser, purple with chrome fenders. We're told there's no way he would abandon that bicycle," Funkhouser said.
Detectives have packaged that bicycle to send it to the state crime lab in hopes that scientists might be able to find something on it that would help police.
As for his wallet, Funkhouser declined to say what may have been missing from it. But he said police have checked bank accounts and "anything that would have been in his wallet or on his person that was traceable."
"We have looked at an awful lot of things and we're not anywhere close to done with this. There are many more investigative avenues for us," he said.
"For him to have simply disappeared without his personal property at an intersection in this neighborhood in daylight hours ... it's not possible for him to evaporate. There has to be someone who knows something that can help us," he said.
Funkhouser said besides Jackson and his stepdaughter and her boyfriend, the stepdaughter's four children live with him. Jackson's mother has come to town from Chicago since he was reported missing.
"We're dying for someone to help us, to tell us something," he said.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Champaign police department at 217-351-4545 or they can give tips anonymously to Crimestoppers with the possibility of a reward.
The phone number for Crimestoppers is 217-373-8477. Tips can also be sent at http://www.373tips.com or by text by sending Tip397 plus the tip to CRIMES (274637).
The information is confidential and callers do not have to give their name or appear in court.