Cops think someone in South Florida may have info on 1974 cold case

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The 1974 homicide of 24-year-old James Norris in north Florida’s Dixie County remains unsolved nearly 50 years later, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is asking for help to crack the cold case.

Detectives said Norris’ murder is believed to be one of the oldest active homicide cases in Florida and is Dixie County’s oldest case.

According to authorities, Norris, who was from San Francisco, flew to Miami on the morning of Oct. 4, 1974, traveling under the alias “Richard Gunning.”

Police said Norris then traveled to Citrus County to purchase a large amount of Colombian-grade marijuana from an “organization” as that specific type of marijuana was not available in California at the time.

On the afternoon of Oct. 4, 1974, Norris mailed a postcard to his family from Inglis, Florida, in Levy County on the border with Citrus County. That was the last contact his family had with him.

“This area was a smuggler’s paradise back then: the Levy, Dixie and Taylor County coastline was largely unpoliced, partly due to the remoteness of the location but also because the pervasiveness of corruption in local government and law enforcement facilitated the operations of an enormously lucrative criminal industry,” one of Norris’ siblings stated on a website that was set up after his disappearance. “In short, it was the Wild, Wild West of the Eastern US. In 1973 the biggest marijuana bust in US history at the time – 9 tons – went down just miles from where Jimmy was murdered.”

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According to investigators, Norris’ remains were found on April 16, 1976, when a bulldozer operator came upon skeletal remains while cutting through the woods off U.S. 19 in northern Dixie County, near the Taylor County line.

The remains were unidentified for another 35 years until an FDLE special agent recognized that DNA testing advances might help identify the homicide victim. In 2010, the University of North Texas, where the remains were sent for testing, was able to obtain a DNA profile, but it was not enough to enter into CODIS.

Advances in DNA finally allowed authorities to identify those remains in 2011 as those of Norris.

Investigators believe persons living in Citrus County, Panama City and Miami may have information that could help solve this case; Norris might have been best known to these people as Richard Gunning, they said.

In addition to the website linked about, the Norris family has established a Facebook page in hopes of solving the case.