59-year Leon Hicks, co-owner of Hicks Brothers Restaurant at 1501 East 23rd Street, finished work the evening of March 10, 1972. As part of his normal routine, Hicks took his teenage dishwasher home, dropped his girlfriend at her house, and then went to his residence at a trailer park on South Holly Street.
Sometime after 2:00am on March 11, 1972, neighbor Ray Gorrell heard gunshots and went to investigate. He found Leon Hicks lying dead at the foot of the steps to Hicks’ trailer. Hicks had been shot three times.
Evidence recovered at the murder scene included three .38 projectiles and a fedora hat.
Initially, the investigation revealed no known suspects.
In late March 1972, the Chattanooga FBI Office received information from the US District Attorney’s Office in Atlanta leading to the identity of suspect Harry Brooks Daniels, white male, DOB 12/29/1910.
Daniels was a career criminal who lived in Atlanta but frequented Chattanooga. In the months prior to Hicks’ murder, Daniels had robbed several Chattanooga restaurants and taverns, including the popular Black Angus.
Numerous people reported Daniels bragged about killing Hicks and showed them a gunshot wound he claimed he received during the struggle with the tavern owner.
In April 1972, police executed a search warrant of Daniels’ Atlanta apartment. They recovered a pair of bloodstained shorts, five (5) fedora hats of the same size as the one collected from the murder scene and various medical supplies indicative of ongoing treatment for a gunshot wound.
Harry Brooks Daniels was brought to Chattanooga and indicted on the Black Angus armed robbery. But the murder investigation stalled.
In March 2015, the DA’s Cold Case Unit requested Chattanooga Police files on two known cold cases. In the bottom of one of the boxes we found a dirty, moldy old satchel. The 1972 Leon Hicks file was discovered inside the satchel.
Defense attorney Jerry Summers provided invaluable assistance to this unit in securing the cooperation of a key witness who corroborated much of the information found in the file. The name of the witness will not be released. He agreed to speak with us only on the condition his personal identifying information be kept confidential.
Based on a thorough review of the evidence, it is the conclusion of District Attorney Neal Pinkston and the Cold Case Unit that if the individuals involved in the original investigation, including suspect Harry Brooks Daniels, were alive today, Daniels would be prosecuted for the murder of Leon Hicks.
As a result, Chattanooga Police will be closing this case as “exceptionally cleared” due to the death of the defendant.
Original Investigating Agency: Chattanooga Police Department
If you have information on a cold case, please use the form below or call the cold case hotline: 423-209-7470