The FBI has taken the lead in the cold cold case investigation into the 2009 stabbing death of nationally recognized pocket billiards player Mike Surber.
“The FBI’s renewed interest in this cold case has rekindled the hopes of many people in the Gulf Coast community as well as in his friends across the United States,” said Surber’s friend, Arthur Tripp.
When the murder happened, Tripp said he was “crushed.”
“We couldn’t believe it at first because Mike was so cautious,” he said Monday. “Mike didn’t have a nasty bone in his body. He was just this world class billiards player. We were happy to have him around because he taught us a lot. We never got over it.”
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Surber was a top-ranked one-pocket billiards player at several high-profile matches across the country. Those who knew him here called him “Biloxi Mike.”
His brother, Steve Surber, is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. And Mike Surber’s friends have launched a GoFundMe campaign and a Facebook page called to “Catch a Killer” to help raise money and gather tips.
Shortly after the killing on Nov. 10, 2009, authorities distributed a surveillance tape from Skeeters Bar & Grill — which has billiards tables. The video showed Surber leaving the Tegarden Road business Nov. 10 with the man suspected of killing him.
The suspect identified himself as Jericho Cooper, which is believed to be an alias. He is wanted on a charge of capital murder, which is a murder committed during the commission of another felony crime, in this case robbery.
Tripp said he was among those who spoke to the man before Surber left Skeeters.
“The guy (Cooper) struck me as a con,” he said. “He was the kind of guy who was outwardly pleasant but you had a feeling that he had something else on his mind, like how to get something from you.”
When Cooper showed up at Skeeters, police say he lied about owning a recoding studio in Atlanta. He told Surber he was planning to open a recording studio in South Mississippi.
Police said the man also lied about owning a large home in Long Beach and having lots of money.
Shortly after Cooper mentioned his interest in visiting South Mississippi casinos, Surber agreed to show him around.
Surber was known to carry a lot of cash on him.
Tracking the victim
Authorities later tracked Surber’s whereabouts the day of his killing.
After the two left Skeeters, they arrived at a Biloxi attorney’s office around 4:30, but the attorney wasn’t there so the two men spoke to an employee before leaving the business.
From there, police said Surber drove to an Ocean Springs home, where Surber had left another of his vehicles, a Toyota 4-Runner. Surber had called a friend to say he was picking up his vehicle because he had someone with him who could follow him home.
Authorities believe Surber was killed shortly after he arrived at his home on Linda Circle in Ocean Springs around 5 p.m.
Friends found Surber’s body near the front door of his home a couple of day’s after his death.
An autopsy showed he died of stab wounds to the back.
Tripp is among those who are hoping the FBI’s involvement and additional reward money will help lead to an arrest.
“It’s just a matter of finding somebody who is willing to talk,” Tripp said.
To report information, call your local FBI office, Ocean Springs police at 228-875-2211 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898, text CSTIP plus your message to 274637 or log on to mscoastcrimestoppers.com.