Jacksonville police make arrest in 1991 murder of elderly man

69-year-old suspect with criminal history was living in Tallahassee shelter

By Corley Peel - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Just over 28 years after police found an 84-year-old man dead in his home after an apparent burglary, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested a man with a history of violent offenses for the murder.

Police believe Joseph Back found Eddie Rhiles Jr. in his house in the San Souci neighborhood the night of July 13, 1991, and the burglar killed him. His body was found the next day.

According to reports at the time, Back was stabbed to death.

Police couldn't identify the intruder at the time, but Assistant Chief Brian Kee said they routinely re-scan latent fingerprints from cold cases and submit them to a national database to see if they come up with a match.

This time, the fingerprints came back with a match to Rhiles, who has an extensive criminal history and served time in prison for kidnapping, battery on elderly person and robbery.

Rhiles, now 69, was located living in a homeless shelter in Tallahassee and was arrested. Police are expected to bring him back to Jacksonville to face the charges.

When police told Back's relatives an arrest have been made, the family said they were relieved.

Mike Williams, a man who lives in the neighborhood where Back was killed, was shocked to learn of the arrest.

"It's a real relief," Williams said. "Everyone around here that's still here from those days finally found out something."

Williams said he will never forget the day he identified Back's body.

"His girlfriend couldn't get in touch with him, so she called the police to come do a welfare check. They went around the house, couldn't get in ... so they forced entry and found him dead in the back room," Williams said.

 Williams said Back was a former JEA employee and a friendly neighbor who collected antiques.

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