Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cold Case Still Chills Hearts of Shooting Victim's Parents; Their Son Was Killed 5 Years Ago in Jacksonville Beach; Police Still Can't Find Motive, Suspect

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cold Case Still Chills Hearts of Shooting Victim's Parents; Their Son Was Killed 5 Years Ago in Jacksonville Beach; Police Still Can't Find Motive, Suspect

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler

The Rev. Milton Batts arrived in Jacksonville Beach five years ago Sunday searching for answers into the execution-style slaying of his son hours earlier in the parking lot of a Beach Boulevard Waffle House.

Batts, from Rocky Mount, N.C., said the many memories of that traumatic trip included first seeing his 1-year-old grandson Terrance as he stretched out his arms to be picked up. Batts said the child mistook him for his father, whom Batts resembled, but the toddler realized his mistake almost immediately.

"He kind of turned away and wanted to get down," said Batts, 60. "Then he walked through the house looking for him, just kind of crying. It tore me up."

Batts and his wife, Melvia, will return to Jacksonville on Saturday to make a public plea for any new leads to help police solve the killing of their 33-year-old son, a Jacksonville bar owner and father of four. Their plans include holding a news conference at noon across from the crime scene in the 300 block of Beach Boulevard.

"I don't know that there is such as thing" as closure, said Melvia Batts, 58. "But I do think that ... just knowing exactly what happened and who did this would certainly help us to move on."

Jacksonville Beach police believe Roderick Batts Sr.'s killers ambushed him May 18, 2009, after they followed him to the all-night restaurant from his Big Apple Sports Bar and Grill in Jacksonville's Norwood neighborhood. But they remained baffled by who and why.

"It was close and personal," said Detective Cpl. Paul Watkins, who has worked the case for the last four years.

THE KILLING

Batts and a handful of friends from Atlanta closed his bar and were still inside when a stranger spooked an employee who had just walked outside. The employee challenged the man for startling him and the stranger got into a dark-colored car, which drove off.

A short time later, Batts and his friends, some of whom were staying at a hotel in Atlantic Beach, went to the Waffle House about 3 a.m. They had just gotten a table when Batts got a call from his fiancee over his Blue Tooth and went outside to talk.

The friends remember seeing Batts near the front window and drawing a smiley face on the glass before walking off into the parking lot. They heard what sounded like a rock hit the window and moments later, someone came inside to tell them Batts had been shot.

Watkins said the first shot missed, causing the bullet to crack the window. A second shot pierced his lower back as he tried to run. A third shot hit him in the face from about 6 inches away.

A witness told police they saw two men run from the scene and drive off in a dark-colored Buick or Oldsmobile parked across Beach Boulevard. Batts, left with his jewelry and money, died at the scene.

Watkins said he is convinced the man who startled the employee outside Batts' bar was there to kill Batts and followed him, along with a second man, to the beach. …

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