Six years after a homeless man was found beaten to death in West Palm Beach, a 43-year-old man from Knoxville, Tenn., is facing first-degree murder charge in connection with the crime.
Christopher Michael Hice was booked in the Palm Beach County jail on Wednesday. He waived arraignment and pleaded not guilty before Circuit Judge Kirk Volker on Thursday. His next hearing is June 29 at 8:30 a.m.
The arrest was made by Knoxville Police Department Violent Crimes Unit investigators along with the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County investigators.
He also is a suspect in a 2018 Knoxville murder.
On Feb. 9, 2017, the body of Frank Fini, 49, of Riviera Beach, was found behind an Asian Accents store on the 500 block of Belvedere Road just west of Dixie Highway. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that he died from blunt-force trauma injuries.
Hice's last local address was a homeless shelter on 45th Street in West Palm Beach. Investigators said he fled to Tennessee after he accused Fini of stealing money.
On Feb. 23, Hice's mother, Carolyne Sue Hice, told West Palm Beach police Hice left the state because he heard he was wanted for murder.
One witness told investigators he was sleeping behind A&M Liquors on the 700 block of Belvedere Road, near Georgia Avenue, when Hice woke him up and bragged about hitting Fini.
He followed Hice to Fini's location and observed Fini lying flat on his back but still breathing.
A woman later told police that Hice bragged about the beating death. They were staying at the group shelter.
She said she took a bus ride to Tennessee with Hice, during which time he spoke about beating a man to death with his bare hands.
In October 2021, city police investigators traveled to Knoxville after obtaining a warrant to collect Hice's DNA. Investigators spoke to Hice about the 2017 homicide.
He told them that he was living in his car around the time of the incident and had gone into a program in West Palm Beach but denied having any involvement in Fini's death.
On June 22, 2022, a forsensic scientist determined the left-hand fingernail clippings, swabs from the right hand of Fini and swabs from the left hand of Fini contained two contributors. Frank Fini was an assumed contributor and Hice cannot be excluded.
A probable cause warrant was signed but he wasn't arrested until a year later.