Deputies ID shooter in cold case murder of military veteran, ‘milk man’


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Testimony from two witnesses led deputies to identify a suspect in the decades-old cold case murder of a military veteran and milk delivery man. Deputies learned that Thomas Jefferson Williams confessed to relatives that he fatally shot Hiram “Ross” Grayam several times in springtime 1968 during a delivery route in Gifford.


“(Grayam) was killed execution-style,” Sheriff Eric Flowers said during a news conference Thursday at the agency. “We’re closing out the oldest cold case within the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. This case in our agency for years has been known as the Milk Man Homicide.”

The news conference was held on the 56th anniversary of the day Grayam went missing. His body was found the next day – April 12, 1968 – near his delivery truck in a wooded area near 43rd Street, Flowers said.

Flowers said the homicide was a possible robbery attempt and that Grayam – a World War II veteran – was known to carry cash as he dropped off milk at the doorsteps of his clientele. The murder was among more than 30 unsolved cases the sheriff’s cold case unit – established under Flowers – continuously works to solve.

Deputies continue to search for a second suspect in the Grayam homicide case. Flowers said Williams and the second person engaged Grayam in conversation during one of his deliveries, where Grayam let them inside his truck.

“They made a ruse to get into the truck,” Flowers said.

Grayam, who was 47 years old and lived in Vero Beach, died on April 11, 1968, a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Grayam worked for Borden Dairy delivering milk to local customers in Gifford, Flowers said.

Williams, who lived in Vero Beach, died of natural causes in 2016 when he was in his late 60s, sheriff’s officials said. Williams’ relatives told deputies that Williams was known to be violent, a career-criminal and was a threat to the family.

Deputies returned Grayam’s belongings – including a wallet and sunglasses – to his family after having it stored in evidence for years, Flowers said.

Grayam’s relatives said the major update in the case has left them with mixed emotions. Larry Grayam, son of Hiram Grayam, said his father’s death led him to study crime investigations and work as a photojournalist.

“I was 16 years old. That devastated me and my family,” Larry Grayam said. “I’m very pleased we can now close the case.”

Military man

Hiram Grayam, born in Akron, Ohio, was heavily involved in the community before his life was cut short, Flowers said. The military sergeant fought in Europe with the 316th Regiment of the 80th Infantry Division under General George Smith Patton Jr. during World War II.

Grayam was given the Purple Heart award for wounds he sustained during his time of service, Flowers said. Grayam fought during the Battle of the Bulge and was involved in the liberation of two concentration camps, sheriff’s officials said.

Grayam and his family moved to Vero Beach in 1946.

Flowers said Grayam was part of the Disabled American Veterans, where he was elected as Florida State Commander in 1963. Grayam joined the Civil Air Patrol, where he became commander of the Vero Beach squadron and also held the title of district commander.

The shooting

The sheriff’s office received a complaint the evening of April 11, 1968, when Grayam, a father of three, did not return home from a delivery, Flowers said. Grayam’s family and the Borden Dairy company became concerned about the man’s whereabouts.

“Our deputies looked for Grayam but were not able to find him,” Flowers said. “A witness at the time said she saw Grayam’s truck headed south on 35th Avenue.”

The witness said Grayam and two other men, including Williams, engaged in conversation. Flowers said Grayam let the men in his truck, where they forced him to continue driving south on 35th Avenue and then headed west on 41st Street toward a wooded area.

The next day, the sheriff’s office, which did not have helicopters at the time, used a Piper airplane to locate Grayam’s truck deep in a wooded area west of 38th Avenue and south of 43rd Street in Gifford. Deputies found Grayam’s body, with gunshot wounds, lying next to his truck, Flowers said.

Tips from media

Flowers said interviews from local newspapers and news stations throughout the years have helped lead deputies to the identity of the shooter. There have been 16 separate investigations into the Grayam homicide case.

Larry Graham asked deputies to reopen the case in 2006, Flowers said. The same year, Larry Graham and deputies did an interview with The Press Journal and WPBF about the case, which prompted Williams to write a letter to the editor of The Press Journal.

“Williams wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper after he saw the coverage and said he had been accused of the murder, but denied any knowledge of it,” Flowers said. “We went out and talked to him at the time. He came forward with an alibi. We’ve been able to disprove that alibi since then. He was in Gifford at the time (of the murder).”

Deputies received a request from an inmate at the jail in February 2022 to talk about the homicide case. The inmate led deputies to a relative of Williams, who said Williams confessed to her that he killed Grayam, Flowers said.

Deputies spoke with another relative in December 2023, who also said that Williams confessed to fatally shooting Grayam. Flowers said deputies continue to search for the second suspect involved in Grayam’s death.

“We know there’s another person out there who knows what happened on that day. We know who he is. We want someone from the community to come forward to give us more information,” Flowers said.  “Our cold case team is working on these cases constantly. If you’re a bad guy, your time is ticking. We’re coming to get you.”

Those who have more information on the Grayam homicide can contact Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-800-273-TIPS or Callers can remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000. 

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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