Friday, January 19, 2018
Public safety

Clearwater police ask for help in solving 2008 murder of taxi driver

CLEARWATER — Billboards didn't do it. Neither did an unusual effort to canvass the mall for a murder suspect's shirt. But Clearwater homicide detectives are hoping renewed publicity for the spare amount of evidence in the killing of taxi driver Jack LaGrand could bring closure to the 4-year-old case.

The Clearwater Police Department invited the media Monday to a briefing of police volunteers who then fanned out to distribute fliers about LaGrand, a 50-year-old Yellow Cab driver who was discovered shot dead in his taxi in a strip mall parking lot at 25716 U.S. 19 in Clearwater on Sept. 17, 2008.

The prime suspect in the case is a man LaGrand picked up at about 1:30 a.m. that morning from Fat Daddy's, a Dunedin bar. The man called a cab from the bar and was caught on surveillance video there.

The video has been enhanced digitally by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, leading to a crisper picture of the suspect, said Clearwater homicide detective Thomas Dawe.

"You can definitely see the facial features," he said, adding, "we're hopeful that somebody knows him."

Police also released the make of the gun they believe was used. It is a Russian-made Makarov 9mm handgun, they said.

LaGrand's murder is one of 34 open homicide cold cases at the Clearwater Police Department. Renewed effort has been directed at those cases since Police Chief Tony Holloway took the reins in 2010.

Since 2008, detectives have taken other steps to solve the case, such as tracking down the distinctive skull-and-roses T-shirt the suspect is seen wearing in the Fat Daddy's video and publicizing it in a billboard campaign.

Nothing has worked, but police hope with the passage of time that somebody familiar with the suspect — described as a possibly Latino man with a thin build and short dark hair, between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-9 — could feel more comfortable coming forward.

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