Thaddeus Houston was 34 years old when he was murdered. His body was found on the floor of his scrap metal shop in Cocoa, Florida, more than 30 years ago, and the person responsible for his death has yet to be brought to justice.
On the morning of March 12, 1990, deputies with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a warehouse on 1510 W. Peachtree St. after receiving a 911 call from a patron about a shooting.
When police officers arrived on the scene, they found Thaddeus Houston dead inside his business, “where he collected and sold aluminum cans and other scrap metals,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Houston, a community activist, had been shot several times in the chest and stomach area with a small-caliber handgun.
Witnesses told police that when a rusty gold, four-door Chrysler backed up to the shop, two men exited the vehicle and opened the trunk. A few seconds later, gunshots were heard, and that’s when they saw the car driving away.
The driver of the vehicle was described as “a white male with reddish-brown hair and a beard. He was wearing a light blue baseball hat, a red plaid shirt, and work boots,” Florida Today reported.
It was reported that a second person was inside the vehicle, but witnesses could not provide a description.
At the time of his death, Houston lived in an apartment complex at 836 Poinsett Drive in a neighborhood known as “Little Vietnam” because drug users and drug dealers frequented the area.
Although Houston went through great trials and tribulations, he was able to save money over the course of 11 years and start a scrap metal business.
He also spent that time trying to make a change in his community by organizing “tenants associations that fought for more police protection and housing improvements in the neighborhood,” according to a report in 1990.
Slowly but surely, the neighborhood began to change. Landlords were cleaning houses, more police officers were patrolling the area, and a park was built for the children in the community.
Houston also said he wanted “respectability for his fellow tenants, but they soon lost interest.”
In a 1988 interview, Houston stated that “when people start getting what they want, it’s hard to keep them interested. Sometimes you don’t live long enough to get things done.”
Cocoa resident Lucious Potter said, “He was like a brother to me. He was one of the nicest people you could meet.”
“If you needed money, he would let you have it. I borrowed money from him all the time.”
“He was a good man. He really cared about the children, especially,” said John Smith, a resident at the apartment complex.
The motive for the shooting is unknown, but investigators believe that money could have been a motive. A friend of the victim stated that Houston was known to carry large sums of money inside his scrap metal shop.
Anyone with information regarding the unsolved murder of Thaddeus Houston is encouraged to contact the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office at (321) 633-8413 or contact CRIMELINE at 1-800-423-TIPS.
A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered.