CROSS CITY, Fla. – The 1974 homicide of 24-year-old James Norris in Dixie County remains unsolved nearly 50 years later, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is asking for help to crack the cold case.
Norris’ murder is believed to be one of the oldest active homicide cases in Florida and is Dixie County’s oldest case.
Norris’ remains were found on April 16, 1976, when a bulldozer operator came upon skeletal remains while cutting through the woods off U.S. Highway 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.
The results were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS), which provides technology, forensic services and investigative support to resolve missing person and unidentified remains cases.
Norris was listed in the NamUS website’s Missing Persons section as missing in Florida approximately 18 months and 100 miles from where the skeletal remains were discovered. NamUS also noted that Norris’ family had placed their DNA on file with the California Department of Justice for use as a comparison.
Their DNA profiles were sent to UNT for comparison, and the university confirmed that the remains were Norris, and an active homicide investigation was initiated. In April 2011, Norris’ family members flew to Florida to claim his remains.
According to investigators, on the morning of Oct. 4, 1974, Norris, who lived in San Francisco, arrived on a commercial flight to Miami. He was traveling under the alias Richard Gunning.
Investigators said Norris was carrying a large amount of cash with the intention of purchasing Colombian-grade marijuana that was not available in California. The investigation has uncovered the names of members of the organization in Citrus County where Norris planned to buy the marijuana.
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.
Investigators believe persons living in Citrus County, Panama City and Miami may have information that could help solve this case. Again, Norris might have been known to these people as Richard Gunning.
The Norris family has established a Facebook page and a website sharing information about the search for their loved one. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/WhoKilledJamesNorris and www.whokilledjamesnorris.com for more information.