UPDATE: Son finds closure 43 years after father's murder
District Attorney Neal Pinkston and the Cold Case Unit that if Harry Brooks Daniels were alive today, Daniels would be prosecuted for the murder of Leon Hicks.
Wednesday, April 15th 2015, 11:53 AM EDT by
Thursday, April 16th 2015, 5:48 PM EDT
Leon Hicks had a 12-year old son at the time of his murder. His son still lives in Chattanooga.
Channel 3 sat down with Michael Hicks, now 55, and talked about the moment he heard the news and the man he called his everything.
"My father was kind of my mother, my father and my friend," Hicks said.
Michael Hicks was staying with a friend the night his father was murdered.
"I miss him til this day," he said, "Even though it's been 43 years and I was 12 years old, you got to realize he was my... he raised me."
Leon Hicks' murder was front page news on March 12th 1972. But years later, the case went cold.
As his son grew over the years, so did his desire to find his father's killer.
"And I had thought about contacting Unsolved Mysteries and some of the cold case file shows you see on Investigation ID," Hicks said.
But after the Chattanooga Police station flooded in the 1980's, Hicks thought his father's case file was gone with the rest of the department's archives.
"I kind of accepted that my dad's files had been destroyed during that flood," he said, "And I probably would never know the real truth."
The Cold Case unit found his father's file unexpectedly last month and this week closed the case.
The District Attorney's office says the deceased Harry Daniels would be charged with murder if alive today.
For the first time in his life, Michael Hicks woke up this morning with closure.
"So I woke up this morning a new person," Hicks said, "With a new light to move forward now."
And with a new ending to his father's story, one that will be told to generations to come.
"I'm sure my dad is overlooking above," Hicks said, "And glad that i finally gotten that closure."
When the Cold Case Unit formed last year investigators gathered nearly 200 unsolved homicides in Hamilton County.
The 1972 murder of Leon Hicks was never on that list, but because of a surprise finding -- investigators say the case is closed.
In March of 2015, District Attorney General Neal Pinkston's Cold Case Unit requested Chattanooga Police files on two known cold cases.
In the bottom of one of the boxes, they found a dirty, moldy old satchel. Inside, they found the 1972 Leon Hicks murder file. It contained witness testimony, evidence, and crime scene photos from the shooting death.
The murder of 59-year old Hicks was a case the newly formed cold case unit didn't even have listed
"It just appeared in this box and we don't now if anyone knew it was in there," said Mike Mathis, Cold Case Unit Investigator.
On March 11th, Hicks was found with three gunshot wounds to the chest outside his home on South Holly Street.
The case file already named the main suspect as Harry Brooks Daniels, born in 1910.
But why he was never charged -- not even the cold case unit knows.
"We have no clue, and it's not documented," Mathis said.
Hicks was the co-owner of Hicks Brother's Restaurant on East 23rd St, now it's the C&W Cafe.
Before Hicks was killed, Daniels was tied to several Chattanooga armed robberies. He lived in Atlanta but committed crimes across the east coast.
"Mr. Daniels has a criminal history going back to the mid-20's, 1920's," said District Attorney Neal Pinkston.
Pinkston believes Daniels died in a Tennessee prison serving out an armed robbery sentence.
"We could find no record of his existence after he went to prison," Pinkston said, "If the defendant were alive, then we would be prosecuting him for the murder of Mr. Hicks."
Defense attorney Jerry Summers assisted to the Cold Case unit with the cooperation of a key witness, who was able to corroborate much of the information found in the file. The witness agreed to speak with investigators only on the condition his personal identifying information be kept confidential.
Based on a thorough review of the evidence, District Attorney Neal Pinkston and the Cold Case Unit conclude that if the individuals involved in the original investigation, including suspect Harry Brooks Daniels, were alive today, Daniels would be prosecuted for the murder of Leon Hicks.
As a result, the case is now closed because the defendant is dead.
"Even though the suspect is deceased it doesn't change the fact that this was an open murder," Mathis said, "Other family members, maybe second or third generations, they want to know what happened to their loved ones."
After the story posted online, a relative of Hicks contacted the District Attorney's office to say his 91-year old brother is still alive. He was the co-owner of Hick's Brother Restaurant.
The DA's office also got into contact with Hick's son who was 12 years old at the time of this father's murder.
His son even considered contacting the cold case unit last year to take another look.