JACKSONVILLE, FL- For families waiting for answers about the murder or disappearance of their loved one, waiting can be one of the most painful and difficult parts. Some have waited years, other decades, but it was earlier this year that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office made an arrest for a murder that occurred 43 years ago.
Bobby Farah remembers spending days with his dad at the family store. Standing on a milk crate and counting coins, just excited to be with his father. He also remembers it was a Wednesday when he found out the devastating news.
"As a 6-year-old boy I would see a police officer and ask them 'hey my dad got killed, can you help me find out who killed my dad'?," tells Farah.
His father, Freddie Farah, was working at his Grand Park Food Store in 1974 when a witness recalls a young man walked in and demanded money and shot Freddie in the chest then ran off. Freddie’s family was devastated, Bobby says his parents loved each other deeply and his mother had to become the rock of the family for Bobby and his three sisters.
As years stretched into decades, Bobby kept pursuing answers in his father’s case.
"There was someone out there responsible and I wanted to find out who that person could be," he says.
More than 40 years later, on another Wednesday, Bobby got a call from a Sergeant at JSO to bring his family and come by the station. In a room of detectives and investigators, Bobby and his mother were told that officers had taken 60-year-old Johnie Miller into custody in New Orleans for the murder of his father.
"I don’t remember exactly what I said or what I did when I walked out of the room, but I remember putting my hand down on the table and saying 'I knew it!' I knew somebody was out there responsible, it was just a matter of finding him," explains Farah.
Sheriff Mike Williams described the arrest as good old fashioned police work mixed with new DNA and fingerprint technology. As technology advances, social media is also changing the game. It can help connect witnesses to law enforcement and spread information at lightning speed.
That’s the goal of Project: Cold Case, a local organization creating a searchable database of cold cases and spotlighting cases on social media in hopes that witnesses will come forward. A group that has spotlighted the Farah case in the past.
Project: Cold Case founder Ryan Backmann also lost his father in shooting and the case remains unsolved, but he says seeing an arrest in the Farah case after decades gives every cold case family hope.
"That should give everybody that has one of these cases hope and it should make them realize law enforcement isn’t giving up and you shouldn’t give up. If you have a case with physical evidence, give them a call and ask when the last time that evidence was tested," tells Backmann.
Bobby Farah says he knows it isn’t easy, it is hard to wait for answers, but never give up.
"You never know when somebody will come forward with just a little piece of information that leads to an even bigger piece of information," says Farah.
Johnie Miller has since been extradited from New Orleans back to Jacksonville where court records show he has not yet entered a plea. His next court date is set for October 30th.
For the next several weeks, every Friday night at 11, we will be telling you about an unsolved case in our area as families hope they too will one day get an answer.
For more information on cold cases in the area - visit www.projectcoldcase.org