JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Evidence obtained by News4Jax in a 1974 murder that went unsolved until last year includes statements made to police at the time by a teenage witness -- the same witness whose death before she could testify allowed the killer to make a plea agreement and be released after less than a year in jail.
Freddie Farah, 34, was shot and killed May 22, 1974, while working at a food store on Kings Road. Jacksonville police lifted fingerprints from cans of soda and frosting, but they could not trace them to anyone.
Other evidence included the statements of a 14-year-old Annette Bryant, who witnessed the shooting, and said she saw a teenage boy in a red shirt, blue trousers and sneakers approach the counter and ask Farah for something.
“The cashier got the merchandise and then rang it up. I then saw this black man pull a gun and he said something. The cashier man moved and the black man shot him and ran from the store," she wrote on the day of the shooting.
Two days later, Bryant gave another written statement with more detail.
“The boy said something like give me the money or it’s a hold-up or something like that. Mr. Fred moved over behind the cash register, the boy moved over in front of it. It looked like Mr. Fred moved his hand and the man shot him. The man was holding the gun with both hands," she wrote.
No suspect was identified at the time and the case went cold. Early in 2017, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office reran the 2017 fingerprints and came up with a match to Johnie Miller, who had become a street performer in New Orleans known as Uncle Louie. A warrant was obtained and Miller was arrested.
The evidence released Thursday includes video of Miller, in his street-performer outfit, sitting for hours, even sleeping in an interrogation room of the New Orleans Police Department. Eventually, he did talk with two JSO cold case detectives, saying he didn't remember Farah or the shooting.
Miller was brought to Jacksonville for trial last year, but Bryant died suddenly before she could provide a deposition in the murder case. Miller, now 61, agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for the time he had served: 344 days.
He was released from jail last month and has since returned to New Orleans.