1968 execution-style killing of Florida milkman, decorated WWII veteran is solved 56 years later

ByMallika Kallingal and Sara Smart, CNN, CNNWire
Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Fifty-six years after a Florida milkman failed to return home after his rounds, his homicide has been solved, closing the oldest cold case in Indian River County Sheriff's Office history.

The emergence of two people who say the suspect confessed to them helped investigators determine who killed Hiram "Ross" Grayam, a decorated World War II veteran who was fatally shot execution style while working on April 11, 1968, according to the sheriff's office.

The victim's son Larry Grayam, who was 16 at the time of his father's death, said the resolution of the case has brought mixed emotions.

"It devastated my family as a young kid, and caused me to actually lead a life of public safety and work as a photojournalist as well," Larry Grayam said.

Hiram Grayam, 47, a married father of three from Vero Beach who was a recipient of the Purple Heart, was last seen by a witness talking to two males who then got into his truck, Sheriff Eric Flowers said Thursday at a news conference.

The witness "said Mr. Grayam engaged them in conversation and announced that he would be back shortly," Flowers added. The next day, Grayam's body and truck were located in a wooded area in what was described as a "chilling scene," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

Over the subsequent years, 16 separate investigations occurred through April 1974 in an effort to solve the case, Flowers said.

In 2006, the case was reopened at the request of a family member. After the victim's family was interviewed by the media, the suspected killer, Thomas J. Williams, wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper saying he had been accused of the killing but denied being involved in it, Flowers said.

"At that point, he wasn't on anybody's radar," Larry Grayam said at the news conference. "He kind of interjected himself into the crime and became a suspect."

Williams died in 2016, but two people said prior to his death he confessed to them that he had killed Grayam, the sheriff said.

The sheriff's office told CNN investigators were tipped off in February 2022 by an inmate in their jail, who told them Williams had confessed to him. The inmate was a member of Williams' family, the sheriff said.

After receiving that information, detectives tracked down the suspect's ex-wife, who also said Williams confessed to her, Flowers said.

The sheriff's office noted the two individuals who knew of the confession were independent witnesses who did not know each other and had not come forward earlier out of fear for their safety as Williams had threatened them. The witnesses said the suspect had been arrested and convicted several times on other charges, the sheriff's office added.

"Thomas Williams, we believe is our shooter in this case... but we know there's another person out there that knows what happened on that day. We know who he is, and we want someone to come forward from the community to give us more information about that," Flowers said.

The sheriff's office said the developments in "the milkman homicide" case "stand as beacons of hope for families like the Grayams, ensuring that no victim is forgotten, and no crime is unpunished."

Cara Lynn Clarkson contributed to this report.

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