February 24, 2020 | By Piotr Klis
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Katina Hires was excited to hear from her son about a job interview he had earlier in the day with UPS. Anthony Ray called his mother immediately afterwards, hesitant but hopeful he had earned the job.
Later that evening, Katina received another call.
Sandra Jones called her daughter Katina in a panic, frantically telling her to head to the hospital. She heard about a shooting in the area and was worried Anthony was involved.
But when Katina arrived at the hospital, Anthony wasn’t there.
“I, eventually, as a mother started feeling the absence of his being, of his existence. I was demanding the truth,” Katina recalled.
Katina left the hospital and headed to the scene. There, detectives asked her to describe her son. They then informed her that Anthony was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting behind the Burger King on Kings Road in Jacksonville, Florida. Anthony’s home was nearby.
Anthony Ray was just 18 years old when his life was taken on November 3, 2015.
A red Toyota Corolla with a blue passenger door pulled up as Anthony was hanging out with four friends. From the car, gunshots rang out. All five men were hit. Two were killed.
Anthony and the other victim had been pulled out of the retention pond next to the house.
Police believe there were multiple people inside the Corolla but say it’s difficult to know how many fired shots.
The other three victims were rushed to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. They each survived.
Authorities have not been able to bring Anthony Ray’s killers to justice. Katina believes those who killed her son knew him, which makes things tough for her.
Anthony was very close with his family. He had four siblings and parents and a grandmother who were very involved in his life. He talked their ears off, Katina recalled with a laugh. He talked to his mother and grandmother about everything. “He was the only child I had that would come and talk to me about anything,” Katina said. “We used to talk a lot. He was a talker.”
Anthony loved making people around him laugh. He did impressions, and even busted out his Steve Urkel dance to make his family – and especially his mother – laugh. At school he was the class clown, always finding ways to make the class laugh. Katina remembers his teachers giving him a longer leash when it came to discipline because he made them laugh as well, and they allowed him to be himself. Anthony was an intelligent teenager, his mother recalled, with a slight procrastination problem.
Anthony went to church every Sunday, including Sunday school. He was extremely loyal, and very protective over his friends and loved ones. Anthony loved all five of his siblings, especially being close with his oldest sister.
Anthony loved going to the monster truck rallies held at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium every year. He couldn’t sit still and loved being outdoors. “Anthony was very adventurous,” his mother said. Anthony was a huge fan of the WWE. He loved impersonating Rey Mysterio and the Undertaker when he horsed around with his friends and family.
According to the Associated Press, in 2015 there were a reported 113 homicides in the city of Jacksonville – Anthony Ray’s murder included. The family doesn’t want Anthony to be remembered as another stat, another unsolved murder. They all smile and laugh whenever recalling the years they spent with him.
Today, the memories of Anthony Ray live on through his family and friends.
“He was a little different. Older people really took to him,” Katina said. “He was outgoing. He would hold a conversation with anybody. All I can do is thank God for the eighteen years.”
“You have to forgive to be able to move on,” Katina said. “I forgive but I won’t forget.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Anthony Ray, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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