Cold case detectives trying to solve Jacksonville man’s murder

Saad Kawaf killed in May 1999

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than two decades after a Jacksonville business owner was murdered in his own garage, police are turning to the public for help solving this cold case homicide.

In May 1999, Saad Kawaf was getting ready to leave his home in the gated community of Deerwood on the city’s Southside. Kawaf, 39, owned Forest Discount Store and was about to make a cash deposit at the bank. Instead, he and his wife were ambushed by a man and woman. Kawaf was stabbed to death and robbed while the woman scuffled with his wife.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office released a composite sketch of the woman after the stabbing, but she still has not been identified. The man’s identity also remains a mystery even though police collected his fingerprints and DNA from the scene. Now, police hope someone holds the key to solving this case.

While detectives don’t know how the couple slipped past security to enter the gated community, it’s likely that they knew Kawaf owned Forest Discount Store and studied his routine long enough to know when he made his bank deposits, Cold Case Unit Det. Margo Rhatigan told News4Jax.

“It (the DNA) was tested back in ’99, early 2000s and then as recent as 2015,” Rhatigan said. “And we still have not been able to develop a suspect from it.”

Based on the lack of matches, Rhatigan suspects whoever committed the crime might not have been in trouble with the law before. “Looks like they’re just flying under the radar,” she said.

When Kawaf was killed, his family and friends were offering a $100,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

“There’s no day passing by I do not think about him. Every month, i get more frustrated,” Kawaf’s brother, Omar, told News4Jax in 1999.

The male suspect was described as 5-feet 9-inches to 6-feet tall with a medium to large build. He has reddish-blonde hair with a graying mustache. The female was described as very petite, about 5-feet 2-inches to 5-feet 3-inches tall.

“What struck me as odd was that she was there in a skirt, in a long skirt,” Rhatigan said. “It kind of stands out.”

Composite sketch
Composite sketch (News4Jax.com)

Neighbors said they remember seeing a red Jeep Cherokee leaving the house on the morning after the murder.

“That was a vehicle that just couldn’t be accounted for at the time,” Rhatigan said. "We don’t know if that’s going to be a suspect vehicle. It was parked in the driveway.

Anyone with information can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers. There’s no longer a $100,000 reward, however, Crime Stoppers is still offering a $3,000 reward.

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