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Police Hoping NASCAR Race Will Stir Up Cold Case Memories

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s race weekend at the Homestead Miami Speedway.  This year, at least one driver was racing for more than just the checkered flag.

Kevin Conway drives car 87.  While he’s racing around the track, the 75,000 spectators at the racetrack and the multi-million television viewers got to see a sign on his car, asking for help in solving a cold case.  It featured the murder of Coral Gables police officer Walter Stathers.

It was December 19, 1967.  Officer Walter Stathers was on patrol in the 700 block of South Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables.

His son Wayne remembers that night.

“It was a night just like always, we had dinner, then I went to do my homework and he got ready to go to work,” recalled Wayne.

That dinner would be the last time they’d see him alive.  Around 4:15 in the morning — Stathers requested a “dog car” now known as a K-9 unit. That was the last radio call he’d make.

“I heard a gunshot,” remembered Jim Harley.  He was a patrolman, later, the police chief.  He was nearby and found Officer Stather’s dead.

“He was on his stomach,” Harley said. “I rolled Officer Stathers over, it was obvious that he was dead, there was no sign of life whatsoever.”

Investigators believe officer Stather may have come upon a prowler, got him into custody…put him in his police cruiser and took off.  The theory was that there was a struggle in the car and they crashed into the back of a house.

“The two of them managed to get out and he chased them by the end of the house and it was at this point, where there was a struggle and the subject shot him in the back of the head and his revolver was taken,” said Harley

“My cousin, who lives across the street, was a sergeant at the Coral Gables Police Department,” recalled Wayne. “He came in and work me up that morning, of course, when he came in and woke me up, I knew something was wrong.”

Wayne has spent the last 44 years wondering who killed his father…and why.  Now, the case is in the hands of Miami-Dade Homicide Detective Maria Mederos, the latest in a long line of detectives who have been looking for answers.

“This case has been worked extensively by generations of homicide detectives,” said Det. Mederos.  “As they retire, the case is passed on to another detective just to keep it fresh.”

Whether the killer is still alive – or dead – more than 4 decades later, detectives and the family are holding out hope that this case will be solved.  “I think whoever did this is probably long gone,” said Wayne. “But maybe he told a family member or friend that might have information on it that might lead up back to whoever did this.”

Detectives remind everyone, all it takes is just one phone call, one small tip that could lead to the killer of Officer Stathers.  if you have any information that can help, give Miami Dade Crimestoppers a call at 305-471-TIPS.

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