Murder suspect arrested in Milton cold case

After more than four years, witness statements about a homicide in Milton have led Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies to arrest the victim’s previous roommate Monday.

John Travis Palmer has been charged with first-degree felony homicide for allegedly shooting the victim in the head according the arrest report provided by the State Attorney’s Office.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies discovered Stephen Richmond Rice, Jr. dead in his residence at Persimmon Hollow Road in Milton March 26, 2015, while conducting a welfare check.

According to an arrest report, Rice had died by a gunshot wound to the head. Palmer was Rice’s roommate at the time. He was named as a suspect in the investigation, and the sheriff’s office put out a plea for additional information. No arrest was made, and the case went cold for years.

In August and September 2019, three witness made sworn statements to deputies stating Palmer had stated he committed the murder. Witnesses described Palmer explaining details about the murder and even seeming to brag about the killing.

According to the report, Palmer was found in possession of some of Rice’s belongings including tools, a vehicle, a dirt bike and firearms.

In a sheriff’s office press conference Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney John Molchan said they will be pursuing a grand jury indictment for first degree murder. An indictment is not a conviction. Palmer could be facing the death penalty if convicted Molchan said.

He remained in Santa Rosa County Jail on no bond Tuesday pending first appearance.

 

 

As seen in the Sept. 12 issue of Navarre Press.

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