WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — It was their town. Warren and Jamiel were synonymous. A quick drive down Main Street proved it.
There was the Jamiel shoe store, the Jamiel tax services, the Jamiel children’s clothing store, the Jamiel law offices and of course, Jamiel’s Park.
“A very important family,” said former Providence Journal reporter Wayne Worcester, who is now a professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Connecticut.
Of the 13 Jamiel siblings, Amon was the oldest.
“Amon was generally regarded as the unofficial mayor of town,” Worcester added.
That’s what made his death on March 19, 1978, so shocking to the town.
“It was an emotional death,” current Warren Deputy Chief Roy Borges said.
Jamiel’s murder may have begun months before the trigger was pulled. In 1988, then Chief Robert Pare said Jamiel told authorities in 1978 he was concerned about theft at the shop he famously owned, The House of a Million Items.
“I am talking about large amounts of money,” Pare recalled Jamiel saying. “Hundreds of dollars and even maybe thousands of dollars.”
Worcester has held onto the files he collected in the decade after Jamiel’s death. He has grand jury testimony, witness interviews, and autopsy reports.
“It was a crime of passion,” he said.
Nearly a week before Jamiel’s death, The House of a Million Things was set on fire. It was ruled an arson. No arrests were ever made.
The investigation revealed a gun was missing from inside.
“A .32 caliber Harrington-Richardson revolver was missing from the store’s sales inventory,” Worcester recalled. “So the belief was, it was stolen before the fire.”
Fast-forward to March 19: Jamiel was set to go to dinner in Newport with his wife Marcelle and son Jonathan. According to witness testimony, Jamiel got a phone call and let his wife and son go to dinner without him.
They returned home to horror.
Jamiel’s body was found in the shower upstairs riddled with bullets. Marcelle told investigators she remembered seeing steam still coming from the water when they arrived.
No gun was found. There were no fingerprints collected. There was no sign of forced entry.
The autopsy report indicates 11 shots were fired. Police believed the gun was likely the .32 caliber weapon stolen from the store.
That gun didn’t hold 11 bullets, however.
“That means somebody had to stand there and reload while Amon Jamiel was dying,” Worcester said. “Which is pretty cruel. And very cold.”
The case was tough enough to manage but the detectives said their case took a devastating blow mere hours after the murder.
“You can probably say that the scene was utter chaos at the onset,” Pare said in 1988.
“They made the rather fatal mistake of not posting a guard on the scene overnight,” Worcester said.
Despite specific and clear instructions to not enter the room, according to police, that night Marcelle went into the bathroom and cleaned the crime scene.
“When they showed up the following morning, the room was spic and span,” Worcester said. “There was no blood or fingerprints.”
“It may have held the evidence that’s eluded them for a decade,” famed channel 12 investigator Jack White said in a series on the murder on the tenth anniversary.
Despite two grand jury investigations, no charges were ever filed and that .32 caliber gun was never recovered.
“It has dried up,” Borges said.
Police haven’t received any new tips in the last five years, according to Borges.
“We’ve looked at every possible scenario that’s happened,” he added. “We’ve spoken to different people in the community.”
To generate new leads, Warren police added the investigation to a deck of cold case playing cards. Each card highlights an unsolved homicide or missing person case in Rhode Island.
Amon Jamiel is the king of spades.
Worcester said a tip or a guilty conscience might be their only shot at resolution.
“I think it will only be solved if somebody comes forward,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-877-RI-SOLVE.