By Angie Villada
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Nebeeh Hanania was a man who aimed high in life, worked hard, and loved his family. He lived the American Dream – a dream that shattered on Aug. 22, 1989, when someone entered his house and killed him while he was waiting for his daughter to come home.
The murder, which has never been solved, still tugs at the hearts of his family. They think of him daily and still hope and pray for justice.
Hanania had moved to the United States from Ramallah, Jordan when he was 32-years old. He was married and had five children at the time, four daughters and one son. Three years later, the rest of the family followed him to America.
He opened his first business in 1959, called Banner Food Store. Hanania was committed to working. He would go to work at 5 a.m. and would return home around 11 p.m.
The Hanania family lived in Jacksonville. Hanania and his wife, Wedad J. Hanania, welcomed their fifth daughter, Susie, in 1964. Everything seemed to be going well. Hanania built his wife a house that she took care of, the grocery store was growing, and the kids were living regular lives.
But two tragedies shocked the family in 1968. Hanania’s wife developed a brain tumor. Six months later she died. Two months after that their son, Elias Nebeeh Hanania, was killed in a car accident.
Hanania became a single dad of five young daughters and had to say goodbye to his wife and son in less than six months.
Hanania’s daughters remember their father as a man who had a hard time expressing himself, but showed his love by being a provider. He was a responsible businessman and a father who provided for his children.
Susie Wrubluski, Hanania’s youngest daughter, remembers going to the mall with her dad and they both liked to watch the people go by. It was Hanania’s favorite thing to do with her, she said.
Wrubluski also remembers a trip to Disney World with her father. Hanania took a day off from work and the children were excited to spend time with him. Wrubluski remembers her dad smiling and having fun.
“He was old school. He would work hard. When we went off with him to Disney World it was a big treat because he worked seven days,” said Poline Salameh, one of Hanania’s daughters.
Life started looking brighter for Hanania. Hanania remarried to a woman named Zarifeh and together they had a son, Jad. Hanania was happy to have a son again because Jad would carry the family’s name.
Hanania continued to work and had two other businesses. He was the founder of a Sandwich Shop on Lem Turner Road and Palmdale Street and moved on to own a restaurant called Downtown BBQ in the 1980s.
Hanania was a strong man and didn’t give up on life. He recovered from two strokes and a bypass. Nothing ever stopped him from doing the things he loved. Hanania was about 56 years old when he decided to take a break. Cooking was one of his favorite things to do and he loved to watch Bonanza at night with his daughters when they came home to visit.
The day of Hanania’s murder started off as a normal day for his family. Everything changed when Hanania’s wife received a phone call from her husband who told her he had been shot. Hanania had been at home watching TV, and his wife was at work. She worked at the Arlington Bowling Alley on Arlington Expressway. She immediately called Jad and told him what had happened. Jad, who was at his sister’s house nearby, ran home and saw his dad covered in blood.
“The guy shot five times. Three of the bullets went in him and the rest went in the ceiling. My dad didn’t realize how bad he was shot. Until he sat down…on the couch and sat back. That is when blood started gushing out,” Wrubluski said.
According to Poline, her brother heard her father blame a tall, blonde man for shooting him. Poline said this was one of the few things Hanania told Jad before the ambulance arrived.
Wrubluski was returning from work and found ambulances, police cars, and police tape at the front of her house. She wasn’t allowed to get near her dad. Hanania was life-flighted to UF Health (Shands) Hospital. “I ran to the neighbor’s house and called my sisters and let them know what was going on,” Wrubluski said.
Wrubluski said earlier in the day that her dad had said he would leave the back door open for her. The killer, she thinks, entered the house through the back.
Hanania apparently met the killer in the laundry room located in the back of the house. Wrubluski thinks her dad heard the door open and thought it was her entering the house.
According to Wrubluski, when she signed the police report, it said the incident was a break-in with an intent of murder.
“He had a real gold watch on, a ton of money in his pocket, and he had a gold diamond ring, but they didn’t take anything,” Wrubluski said. “They walked in, did what they needed to do and left.”
Hanania remained several weeks at the hospital. Hanania had seen the person who killed him, but couldn’t talk because he was intubated.
“He couldn’t talk…the police didn’t even pursue it because they figure they are going to take the tube out and we will be able to get a description of the person,” said Wrubluski.
Hanania went into surgery, but didn’t make it out alive. Everyone hoped he was going to give authorities a description of the killer. Hanania probably even knew the person that killed him. But that is something the family doesn’t know to this day. The family still wants justice.
Hanania never got to see his fourteen grandchildren grow up. He didn’t get to walk Wrubluski down the aisle and missed his son’s wedding. Hanania’s daughters lost both parents tragically, their mother to cancer and their father to murder.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Nebeeh Hanania, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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