JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville police said Wednesday that they have solved the oldest cold case in the history of their department with the arrest of a New Orleans street performer in the shooting death of a father of four 43 years ago.
Freddie Farah, 34, was shot and killed May 22, 1974, while working at the Grand Park Food Store, which he owned on Kings Road.
Johnie Lewis Miller, 60, was arrested on a murder warrant last week in New Orleans, where he moved in the early 1990s and has since worked as well-known street performer, Sheriff Mike Williams said Wednesday at a news conference.
“We're relieved. Some of us never thought we'd see this day,” Farah's son, Bobby Farah, said at the news conference. “I wasn't totally shocked. I've always had this feeling that someone was out there that was responsible, and I wanted to find out who that person could be.”
Williams said that person was Miller, who was 17 years old at the time. He said Miller, who performs at Uncle Louie in New Orleans, was identified through fingerprints because of improvements in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
Williams explained the improvements in the AFIS system through the years as similar to the change in technology for televisions, moving from black and white sets to color TVs to high-definition.
He said that the day Freddie Farah was killed, Miller came into the store, walked up to the counter with some items, pulled out a gun and demanded money. Farah was startled and swiped at the gun, and that's when Miller shot him and ran out, police said. Farah died from his injuries.
Williams said Farah's uncle was in the store at the time but looked up after the shots were fired and couldn't identify the shooter, who was running away from him. But a 14-year-old customer who witnessed the shooting is now 57 years old and living out of state. She provided detectives who were reviewing the case with some valuable information, Williams said.
He said Miller's prints were lifted from the items he left on the counter when he ran out of the store after the shooting, but it wasn't until the case was reviewed again, beginning in December 2016, that the prints were connected to Miller through the technological improvements in the database.
“JSO will follow every lead available in our cases to bring some justice to our families and to ensure that criminals in our community are held accountable,” Williams said.
Farah's wife, son and three daughters, who are related to the well-known Farah attorneys in town, were all at the news conference Wednesday and thanked JSO for its efforts to solve Freddie Farah's murder.
“Your sorrow can't be mended,” Williams said to them, “but I hope this news can bring you some peace.”
Miller is being held without bond and will have an extradition hearing June 26, after he refused to waive extradition to Jacksonville.
Miller is an icon in the French Quarter, where he's performed as a human statue for more than two decades.
People frequently take pictures with him and his miniature stuffed dog, Little Willie, according to the New Orleans Advocate.