Originally created 05/23/00

'Most Wanted' suspect cooks for show's host



In a bizarre twist, a cook at a restaurant who made a steak for America's Most Wanted host John Walsh while he was in Jacksonville filming recently was arrested Saturday night after being featured on the television show.

"Nothing surprises us at America's Most Wanted," show spokesman Avery Mann said Sunday.

Mr. Walsh was a guest on the Fox TV show Cops and also filmed America's Most Wanted while in town, and the shows aired back-to-back on WAWS TV-30 Saturday night.

Asgar Ali, 31, was working as a cook at American Cafe at The Jacksonville Landing when Mr. Walsh went into the restaurant for dinner May 6, according to Scott Ballard, general manager of American Cafe.

Mr. Walsh was accompanied by Sgt. Michelle Cook and Officer Russell Johnson, both of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, who were being featured on Cops with Mr. Walsh.

The group shared an appetizer platter and ordered dinner. Mr. Ali was working in the kitchen and prepared Mr. Walsh's steak, Mr. Ballard said.

Of course, neither knew about the other, he said.

Several Jacksonville residents called in with tips after seeing a profile of Mr. Ali, who was wanted in Orlando in connection with an alleged attempted homicide and burglary with a weapon, police said.

Indianapolis police are also interested in questioning Mr. Ali in connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend's cousin, police said.

Mr. Ali was arrested Saturday night in Jacksonville on charges of giving a false name to police after they questioned him, and was being questioned by Indianapolis and Jacksonville police yesterday, said Homicide Sgt. Randy Justice of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Mr. Ballard said Mr. Ali was working in Jacksonville under the name Jose Torres, and restaurant officials had no idea he was wanted.

Mr. Ali also worked part time as a prep person at the nearby Jocks and Jills restaurant in the Landing.

In another odd coincidence, Sgt. Cook and Officer Johnson took two cameramen from both shows to dinner at Jocks and Jills just before the two shows aired.. They left the restaurant and went upstairs to watch, because the television sets at Jocks and Jills were on various sports channels.

"The two restaurants, in all of the city that we eat at, and he works at both of them," Sgt. Cook said. "It's something that you can be standing right next to a murder suspect and you don't even know it.

". . . I am so amazed. You can't script better television than that. You almost can't script a better capture than that."

Sgt. Cook said the whole thing left her dumbfounded and amazed, but coincidences like these are not rare to those who work with Mr. Walsh.

"It's kind of scary, it really is," added Jennifer Nicholes, manager of Jocks and Jills, on learning about the arrest.

Mr. Mann of America's Most Wanted recalled another recent odd event, in which a woman was touring the show's studio in Washington the same night her brother was by coincidence being profiled for the March kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl in Gilchrist County.

Mr. Mann said the woman was a big fan of the show, but had not been close with her brother and had no idea he was wanted. She did, however, notice the similarity of the artist rendering.

James Paul Johnson, 38, was arrested and charged with kidnapping, committing a lewd and lascivious act and sexual battery on a child younger than 11.