A war hero labeled a deserter might have been a high ranking US spy.

A caucasian man, Ray Hickenbotham, wearing a military uniform. His hat covers his hair.

Ray Hickenbotham

A vintage photo of a woman standing next to a child. They are both in dark jackets.

Carol, Ray’s daughter


In September of 1945, at the end of World War II, Lt. Ray Hickingbotham settled down with his wife, Dorothy, and three year old daughter, Carol, in Arlington, Virginia.

A newspaper clipping that includes a photo of the family: Ray with his wife and kid.

Newspaper article in local paper

A decorated war hero, Ray was assigned to Army intelligence. The base housed a top-secret radio operation. Ray may have been part of a select group of expert code-breakers. His assignment was monitoring radio communications from behind the Iron Curtain. It was the beginning of the Cold War.

Former CIA operative John Stockwell explains:

“It’s a good ulcer job. You’re sitting at a desk, you’re not mobile, you can’t get up. I’ve seen them scream sometimes, in just physical frustration … you know, trying to ventilate their frustration while they continue plodding away with this boring but potentially incredibly fascinating job.”

In less than a year, Ray and his group were absorbed into the newly created Central Intelligence Agency.

Ray was working long hours and spending little time with his family. In the summer of 1947, he was transferred to another top-secret group, but he didn’t tell Dorothy about the new assignment.

Ray’s daughter, Carol Solstad, remembers her father’s demeanor at the time:

“My mother was worried because he seemed so tired and so uptight. He became very tense, and it became worse. It just got worse and worse.”

Late that summer, Dorothy took Carol to Long Island for a two-week visit with her grandparents. When Dorothy tried to phone Ray, she was given the surprising news that he had gone on leave. Then, she learned that the military had, without explanation, hired a moving crew to clean out their apartment.

Two weeks later, a moving van showed up at Dorothy’s parents’ house. In the boxes and trunks, there was not one single item belonging to Ray.

Ray’s daughter recalls the incident:

“No pictures, no letters, no writing, nothing. It was as though he had been purged from our lives, as though he was completely gone and wiped out. And my mother just didn’t know what to make of it. “

A man in uniform loading something into the back of a military van.

Ray’s belongings disappeared

A month later, a man claiming to be from the Army visited Dorothy with shocking news. He said that on October 14th, 1947, Ray was listed as AWOL. Thirty days later, he was dropped from the military rolls and classified as a deserter.

As a result, Dorothy and Carol lost all of their military benefits. Dorothy later tried to get in touch with the visitor, but the Army said they had never heard of him.

Carol Solstad says her mother always felt that the government knew more than they were telling:

“My mother was alone, she was frightened, and she was afraid something terrible had happened to my father. Perhaps he’d gone overseas and been killed in the line of duty. She could not comprehend that he would just disappear. She really thought the government was withholding information from her.”

Former CIA operative John Stockwell thinks those fears are not over-blown:

“It is absolutely not total paranoia to wonder if the CIA or another intelligence branch had something to do with his disappearance. I can think of a half-dozen cases where … weird things like that happened, where the family was not told the truth, and the loved-one did disappear or died, and they weren’t told how they died.”

After Ray was labeled a deserter, Carol and her mother struggled to make ends meet. Carol grew up, married, and moved to Oklahoma. She became a private investigator, specializing in reuniting families. But she never gave up the search for her own father:

“As I look through the material that I received, I began to get a picture of someone very special, someone very highly-trained, someone who had performed at the top level. And I came to believe that this was a man who would not just disappear.”

After years of butting heads with government bureaucracy, Carol finally went to the media. An article about her missing father appeared in the local Arlington newspaper. Three hours later, she received a phone call.

The caller identified himself by a code name, Archangel. He provided Carol with what seemed like inside information:

“He said that my article had really rattled cages at the CIA, and that it had really shook people up. Those were his words.”

Archangel told Carol that her father had been investigating sensitive leaks regarding atomic energy. He said that in August of 1947, an attempt was made on Ray’s life, so a decision was made for Ray to go underground while making it look like he had been a deserter.

But the most astonishing news revealed by Archangel was that for nearly a year, Ray had lived only three miles away from Carol and her mother. He had been hidden by the government in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He told Carol that her father was currently living in a NATO country and that his name was now Nelson.

Carol didn’t know what to make of Archangel:

“When I hung up the phone I felt very drained. Maybe he was a jokester or a con artist. Maybe he was going to call back and want money. I just didn’t know what to believe. But there was a part of me that kept saying, ‘My dad’s alive. There’s a chance.’”

Carol never heard from the mysterious caller again. But she and her son, Ian, have never stopped trying to decipher Archangel’s clues:

“It is possible that my father chose to follow his career and that that was what he wanted above all else, including myself and our family. And that’s very painful. I have compassion for a young man who may have made a wrong choice. We all make wrong choices, and I want my father to know that we love him, and that it’s forgotten. We just want the pain of not having him to end.”

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season two with Robert Stack and season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




  1. Cristal Alcantara

    Is Mary son still looking to find at least what happened?


  2. Bryson

    Finally saw a unsolved mystery episode that I hadn’t seen before and came across this one. When I googled country with crystal clear lakes- I came across a Nelson City in New Zealand. It is a NATO country. Nelson could have been a clue as to where he was.


  3. Bubs

    Sounds fishy to me. Wife goes on vacation tries contact husband was told he went on leave?? Then out of the blue the military is packing up all of their belongings. No explanation. No trace of him. How does a guy be labeled as a deserter when the wife was told he went on leave by the military?? The military is hiding something . Hiding behind their code and authority. The CIA is even shadier. Unfortunately any information on the guy is muddled, lost or something worse. Something dark and sinister entered into this guy’s life . Damaging the family that was left behind.


  4. Cary Morin

    Carol has passed on. I feel so bad for her not ever finding her dad. Why is the CIA and government always allowed to get away with this?


  5. Erin

    I think the crime was staged and ray died somewhere else and they planted his body their because the hole in the roof and the way he landed just doesn’t seem right


  6. Anonymous

    I left a suggestion, but wanted to leave one here as well. Based on the clues provided in the movie, I would try Switzerland. The Swiss Alps are renowned, it has sparkling, crystal lakes, and is a NATO country, and yes, believe it or not, there are Nelsons who live there.


  7. nick

    garbage – dont trust any family stories, he either died, or ran to the USSR


    • Tony Smith

      I think he died too. The family lists him as deceased in subsequent obituaries of his surviving siblings and parents. Either she didn’t want to believe it or the family refused to tell her the full story.


  8. Christina

    I do not feel like this is a coincidence, the CIA does not mess around. Something has clearly happen to this man, all of a sudden she goes out of town and comes home to her house being moved and her husband is never seen again. Please lets go back to how many men and women have “fallen out of their bedroom window” Or had a random heart attack. People don’t want to think the government is capable of this kind of thing…that’s what they want you to think…


  9. Anonymous

    Look back in Washington DC, hiding in plane site.


  10. Drew

    I feel very strongly that Iceland is where she should look, it has a very old democracy possibly the longest continuous running democracy. I hope this man is found


  11. Michae

    I am a nonprofit private detective who researches and investigates missing people, if the family stills wants answers e-mail me at investigate@srtresearch.com will help at NO CHARGE


  12. NIK

    Seen this recently on Unsolved Mysteries. Wonder what really happened.


  13. Jenns57

    Ray lived in Louisiana and had several children. Katherine, would be 58 OR 59. I DON’T remember all the children’ s name.
    The homestead where They lived is gone now and so are the children. This story caught my attention because I remember how haunted the man looked.
    Also on episode 113 the young krystal, i didn’t get the whole story, but she looked very very familiar. Can you send me a picture and what her age would be now.


  14. Stella

    Carol died last May 2014. May she be with God and her father, both she and her father R.I.P..


  15. Stella

    I suggest translating the article printed in the DC newspaper into Swiss German, (Switsche Deutsch), Italian and French but especially Swiss German and send the article to Swiss Newspapers, Austrian Newspapers, Italian and French newspapers, as well as maybe Norwegian and Swedish Newspapers–Also send to the BBC in the UK. Send the article EVERY WEEK to all of them via email and within 3-4 months at least a couple of newspapers will publish it in their own language. If you cannot find a translator, then send it in English. .


  16. Skorpion

    This reminds me of the Richard Colvin Cox case, where a West Point cadet who’d previously served in occupied Germany disappeared from the Point under very mysterious circumstances.


  17. Chree

    Maybe try Bulgaria or Belgium as pertains to the clues of a nato country with high mountains and clear lakes.


  18. Anonymous

    this man is my grandmothers twin brother. I have pics of him somewhere.


  19. Anonymous

    Judging by the clues from the episode, she might try Scotland, Norway, or Iceland. Scotland would be the strongest possibility due to the surname of Nelson, which could’ve derived from Admiral Nelson.