SILER CITY — More than four months after the killing of Ramon Hernandez, Chatham County police have made little progress in locating his suspected killer, Sergio “Yovani” Rodriguez …
Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Making high quality community journalism isn’t free — please consider supporting our journalism by subscribing to the News + Record today.
Unlimited Digital Access: $3.99 for 1 month, $39 for 1 year.
SILER CITY — More than four months after the killing of Ramon Hernandez, Chatham County police have made little progress in locating his suspected killer, Sergio “Yovani” Rodriguez Pereira.
“We have warrants for him. We’re actively looking for him. We have probable cause for his arrest,” Sheriff Mike Roberson told the News + Record. “ ... It’s just a matter of locating him. And there’s no end or statute of limitations on it. I hope we find him soon, but if it’s years, the warrants are still active, and they’ll stay active. It’s not going to go away.”
Hernandez, 28, died Dec. 20 in the UNC-Chapel Hill Medical Center after he was shot several times in the torso. He’d been found earlier the same day on Waterford Street in Siler City after authorities received reports of several gunshots.
A witness later identified Rodriguez — a Siler City resident and Hernandez’s brother-in-law — as the shooter. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office subsequently charged Rodriguez with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
“It’s like he disappeared,” said Hernandez’s older sister, Tania. “He hasn’t made contact from what I know with family, or with anyone, so we are clueless as to how to find (him), how to search for him.”
According to Hernandez, Rodriguez’s family members in Chatham have also said they don’t know his whereabouts. In the event that he’s fled town, local police can still retrieve Rodriguez for prosecution through a network of law enforcement agencies. Any law enforcement officer in North Carolina can see any warrant issued within the state, Roberson said. Warrants are also entered into a national database.
“When we enter those, if your name gets run in any state, it pops up a hit that you’re a wanted person out of Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina,” Roberson said. “And we’ve also talked to the U.S. Marshals about it and they can do things on their end.”
Local law enforcement’s authority to apprehend Rodriguez extends even beyond U.S. borders. When asked if the police could still arrest Rodriguez if he’s found in another country, Roberson responded, “Yes, the U.S. Marshals will help us with that, or the FBI — the Federal officers will help us with that.”
Tania said she doesn’t think Rodriguez has left the U.S., though it’s possible.
“That’s what we’re afraid of, to be honest with you,” she told the News + Record. “... I don’t think he’s flown out. I don’t think he’s gone to any other place because in Honduras — I don’t think he’s made it that far. There’s no way that he would have.”
She thinks it’s more likely Rodriguez has fled to a nearby state, perhaps to distant family connections who don’t know her brother or what happened.
“I want to think he’s still on the east side,” she said, adding, “I want to say he’s on his own. ... I just don’t see anybody that is going to get anything out of it, being incriminated as an accessory for assisting somebody that is on the run. So, what I’m thinking really is he’s hiding with friends.”
Authorities found Rodriguez’s car abandoned within county lines less than a week after Hernandez died, according to Tania.
“So someone picked him up, someone hid him,” she said. “I don’t know if that person still has him hiding or just (bought) enough time for him to be moved to another place. And he’s been hidden since.”
That’s why she said she suspects some among the community know more than they’ve told the family or authorities. And though she understands that some may be afraid, she asks that anyone who knows something come forward — anonymously, if they prefer.
“If you know anything, call the hotline,” she said. “You don’t have to give out your name. You don’t have to come to us. You don’t even have to make your face appear if it’s a possibility. If you just give us an idea of where he’s at ... we’re trying to get this crime brought to justice, and unfortunately, we have nothing.”
The Sheriff’s Office requests that anyone with relevant information, including tips regarding Rodriguez’s whereabouts, contact the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 919-542-2911.
Like Tania, Roberson fears police will not find Rodriguez unless community members, and probably his own family, turn him in.
“Without help from the family and the community it’s going to take us running up on him somewhere,” he said. “… But I think wherever he’s found, I think the (district attorney) is willing to bring him back. A lot of times people think the police can find people on their own. But we need the community most of the time. It’s going to take the community to help us get him quickly.”
To encourage community tips, the Hernandez family, Tania said, is prepared to offer a reward “as gratitude” to anyone who comes forward with information.
“I think that we are grateful for what was done for Ramon,” she said, “and, you know, we grew up in Chatham County. We’ve been here most of our lives. Just bringing him to justice — it’s really what we were asking.”
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dldolder.