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May 28, 2024

Cold case murder of WWII veteran in Florida is solved after more than 50 years

Cold case murder of WWII veteran in Florida is solved after more than 50 years

The cold case murder of a decorated World War II veteran, killed “execution style” in the Florida woods in 1968, has been solved 56 years later, authorities announced Thursday.

Hiram “Ross” Grayam, who became a milkman after serving in the war in Europe, failed to return from his regular delivery route on April 11, 1968, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office said.

Hiram “Ross” Grayam.Indian River County Sheriff’s Office

A girl was the last person to see him. She reported running toward Grayam’s milk truck and saw two gunmen in the car with him, officials said in a news conference Thursday.

A police description of the case said that an early ‘50s model Chevrolet, occupied by two unknown males, was seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed minutes after gunshots were heard.

A search was launched for Grayam, and his body was found deep in the woods, shot several times, along with his truck. He was killed “execution style,” Sheriff Eric Flowers said, in a scene investigators described as “chilling.”

“Despite exhaustive efforts, his killer eluded justice,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

The office’s cold cast unit relooked into Grayam’s murder, and the accounts of two witnesses finally cracked the case.

“Through determination and the cooperation of witnesses, new leads emerged: Thomas J. Williams, now deceased, had confessed to Grayam’s murder, his guilt echoing from beyond the grave,” the sheriff’s office said.

Though the case went cold for decades, it was an interview Grayam’s son, Larry Grayam, gave to a local media outlet in 2006 that saw it regain momentum.

“2006, that was the first time that we really got information about Thomas Williams being potentially involved in this,” Flowers said in Thursday’s news conference. “Thomas Williams wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper after he saw the coverage that was happening, saying that he had been accused of the murder but he denied having knowledge of it, that he wasn’t involved in it.”

The trail went cold again, and in 2016 Williams died.

Over the last two years, Williams’ ex-wife and another person came forward.

In February 2022, he came back on the radar after an inmate at Indian River County Jail, who at the time was said to be related to Williams, told detectives Williams confessed to him that “he killed the milkman back in 1968,” TC Palm reported. Then in December 2023, detectives spoke with a woman in Miami who had been married to Williams.

“She did not know this other family member (the inmate), had never spoken to him and gave the exact same account,” Flowers said, TC Palm reported. “Which ultimately gives us two independent witnesses who both say that this guy confessed to killing the milkman to them.”

Flowers noted that the two witnesses were only willing to speak because Williams was dead.

“These folks said, ‘I would have never said anything to you before. As long as he was alive, he was a threat to me and my family, we would have never told you.’ But the fact that he is now dead gave them the courage to come forward,” Flowers said. “Two independent witnesses who both say that this guy confessed to killing the milkman to them, independent of each other, don’t know each other.”

Flowers said the identity of the second person considered a suspect is known to detectives, but they did not disclose a name.

Larry Grayam called the announcement “bittersweet,” saying he was “very pleased that we’ve come to the point that we can now close the case,” TC Palm reported.

Grayam was remembered as a “beloved milkman” and a decorated veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart.

In his time serving, he saw “the liberation of two concentration camps” and “faced the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge,” one of the most important battles in WWII that helped turned the tide of the war and halted Nazi Germany’s advance.

Marlene Lenthang

Breaking News Reporter

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