When police absolutely can't locate someone - from a bad guy to a trial witness - they call on Ron Hill.

So do lawyers looking for heirs to estates and finance companies trying to find those who skip out on their bills.Recently, Hill was paging through a magazine when he saw a list of the state's most-wanted criminals and decided this was the ultimate challenge to his investigative skills.

Sitting at a computer at home, searching through databases, he soon came up with a clue to one of the fugitives: Willie Norris Griffith, who escaped from prison while serving a life sentence for killing an Orlando cab driver.

Griffith had used his Social Security number for identification in 1986 in California.

Hill called the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and FDLE agents were soon working with Hill to track down the killer. Griffith, using a new name and with a wife and two children, was arrested in Utah.

Chalk up another success for Hill, who makes his living by finding people who have dropped out of sight.

Hill, 45, is new to computers but not to investigations. He is a former military intelligence officer, private investigator and radio reporter and started up the computer business, called InfoTrak, with his son in 1988.

He learned the value of computers in his work for an Orlando law firm, locating auto accident witnesses years after the crashes, when many had moved.

"I needed a way of tracking somebody who's been gone more than a year or left no forwarding address," Hill said on Saturday.

His son, Charles, 23, a University of Central Florida computer science student, helped find the databases that held information on millions of people, filed by Social Security numbers.

Using a Social Security number or sometimes just a name, the Hills find someone's current and past addresses, job history, names and phone numbers of neighbors and other information. Hill has access to driver license records in Florida, magazine subscription lists, telephone directories nationwide and other sources.

Police agencies learned about Hill only after he was the victim of a crime two years ago.

An InfoTrak client was a con man who received $1,000 in services without paying. Hill reported the crime and learned the client had failed to pay a lot of bills. He worked with investigators to track the man down.

The word about his work spread in the law enforcement community, and Hill is happy to help in tracking down crooks - for free.

"He's never charged law enforcement," said Longwood police detective Steve Faulk. "And I know there's a cost to him."

FDLE did give Hill a $2,000 reward for helping catch Griffith.

Hill has helped agencies across Florida, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshal's Service and Orlando police.

"When we're at our wits' end, we call him and he gives us everything we need," said Orlando traffic homicide investigator Lydia Bass.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office recognized him Saturday as auxiliary deputy sheriff of the year.

Hill estimates that there are about 1 percent of the criminal element that he cannot find. "They're really sharp," he said. They would have to break free of their past, stop all contact with relatives, change their careers, give up hobbies.

But most of them slip up, at least once.

"Then they're mine," Hill said.