JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — It was December 1975 when two young brothers were hunting for rabbits near Simmons Brook in Johnston. The pair found more than they bargained for.
Their dog alerted them to a shallow grave barely concealing a man’s near-skeletal remains. That man was 31-year-old Henry Reeves.
Christine Hodgkinson, Reeves’ younger sister, described him as a “really good soul.”
“He’d do anything to help somebody out,” Hodgkinson told 12 News.
Hodgkinson was just a teenager when her brother died, but she vividly remembers how his body was found three months after her family reported him missing.
What’s worse, she said, was that his disappearance came just days after he’d witnessed a murder.
That September, Hodgkinson said Reeves was working underneath a car at Quonset Motor Sales in North Kingstown.
“A gentleman walked in, he told me,” Hodgkinson recalled. “He said a few seconds later, two other gentlemen walked in and he heard a gunshot. They did not know he was underneath the vehicle.”
“He didn’t know what to do,” she continued. “He had one of those long wrenches, he figured out which gentleman had the gun and he smacked him across the shins with it … the guy dropped the gun, [my brother] grabbed it and pushed himself out from underneath the vehicle.”
Hodgkinson said her brother then jumped into his van with the gun and took off.
“He didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Five people were ultimately charged in connection with the death of the man at Quonset Motor Sales. He was Cranston car dealer John Roderick.
According to media reports from the time, one of the suspects never made it to trial. He was found strangled in his jail cell and his death was ruled a homicide.
Other suspects were adjudicated, and some of them had ties to organized crime.
“These people back then, they thought they ran everything,” Hodgkinson added. “But what they didn’t realize is … they were ruining people’s lives.”
Reeves vanished about a week after Roderick’s murder at the autobody shop. After his body was discovered months later in Johnston, an autopsy revealed he had been shot from behind four times. His van was found in pieces in a nearby junkyard.
Johnston Police Chief Joseph Razza told 12 News they’d like to get closure for Reeves’ family.
“As is the case in all homicides, especially those that go unsolved, we seek to bring those responsible before justice in order to provide closure for the loved ones of the victim,” Razza said. “The investigation into the death of Mr. Reeves is no different, and we extend our condolences to his family and friends.”
On the day Reeves disappeared, Hodgkinson said her brother was on his way to an attorney’s office discuss Roderick’s murder, but he never made it.
“He wanted me to take the ride and I didn’t take the ride,” she said. “I didn’t know, as a kid, if it may have saved his life or if I might have been right there with him.”
Anyone with information about Reeves’ murder is urged to contact the Johnston Police Department at (401) 231-4210.