A French Quarter street performer known for his “human statue” act is in a New Orleans jail fighting extradition to Jacksonville after he was charged with murder in a more than 40-year-old cold case.
Johnie Lewis Miller, a New Orleans icon better known there as Uncle Louie, is captured in photo after photo frozen in mid-stride in a white Uncle Sam-like suit with a patriotic top hat walking a small stuffed dog on a leash. Tourists photographed him. News outlets profiled him.
Now authorities are charging him with killing 34-year-old Freddie Farah during a botched convenience store robbery in May 1974, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
The arrest is on the heels of a profile on Project: Cold Case, a Jacksonville nonprofit group that spotlighted the case last month at the request of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Farah owned and operated Grand Park Food Store at 2361 Kings Road, where he was working about 2 p.m. May 22, 1974, when a man walked in and demanded money, according to the profile on Project: Cold Case. He began shooting as Farah moved away from the cash register.
Farah was found behind the counter near the cash register shot in the head, according to a Times-Union report at the time. No money or merchandise was taken from the store, according to the report.
New Orleans police assisted Jacksonville investigators with booking Miller into jail Tuesday on an out-of-state murder warrant, according to The Advocate.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office declined to confirm the arrest was for the Farah cold case or provide other details.
Miller, 60, was linked after evidence matched a profile of him in an FBI database, according to The Advocate. The charges are one count of murder and two counts of attempted armed robbery, according to the arrest report.
Miller refused to waive extradition to Florida during his initial court appearance Wednesday, according to The Advocate. He will appear in a New Orleans court for an extradition hearing on June 26.
Project: Cold Case lauded the arrest.
“Project: Cold Case is thrilled to hear the reports that an arrest has been made in the Freddie Farah case,” the organization said in a statement. “For 43 years the Farah family has been denied justice. Thanks to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and its cold case detectives, that is no longer the situation.”
In Duval County, a Johnie Lewis Miller with the same December 1956 birthday was found guilty of 1987 charges of loitering and resisting a police officer and was charged in a 1989 misdemeanor case of breaching the peace, although that case was dismissed.
Farah was a native of Valdosta, Ga., who lived in Jacksonville most of his life, according to his obituary.
He was survived at the time by his wife Nadia, his mother, three daughters, a son, and three brothers.
Reporter Ramon Antonio Vargas of The New Orleans Advocate contributed to this article.
Sebastian Kitchen: (904) 359-4161