Florida cops: Aspen resident may have talked about 1974 murder
The cold case investigation into a nearly 50-year-old Florida murder prompted an unusual news release to Aspen area media this week.
“Investigators believe persons living in Aspen may have information that could help solve this case,” the release says.
The investigation centers on the murder of 24-year-old James Norris of San Francisco, who flew to Citrus County, Florida, on the west-central coast in October 1974 with a large amount of cash to buy “Columbian grade marijuana that was not at the time available in California,” according to the release.
Norris sent a postcard to his family from Inglis, Florida, north of Tampa the day he flew in, and wasn’t seen again until a bulldozer operator unearthed his bones in Dixie County in April 1976. Norris wasn’t identified until 2011 thanks to advances in DNA technology, according to the release.
“The investigation shows that Norris traveled to Citrus County, Florida to purchase marijuana from an organization operating in that county,” the release states. “The investigation uncovered the names of members of that organization.”
One of those names was a man Florida investigators believe has been a long-term resident of Aspen since the 1980s, said Dana Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It’s not clear when the man moved here, she said, but investigators “suspect he’s talked (locally) about the murder within the past 10 to 30 years,” she said
“We believe a witness to this murder moved to Aspen and has been discussing this murder with residents there, or with his friends there,” Kelly said. “He was part of the drug organization in Citrus County that was at the center of the investigation.”
Kelly declined to provide the name of the man, but said he is now in his late 60s or early 70s.
“Because our case is active, we can’t share other details about him or how James Norris was murdered,” she said.
Norris apparently flew to Florida from San Francisco under the alias Richard Gunning with the cash to purchase the marijuana and sell it back in his hometown, according to an online story from Project: Cold Case.
A different FDLE spokeswoman said in 2020 that new leads in the case “center on a group of purported marijuana dealers Norris was meeting, and their connections to Citrus County,” according to the story.
Aspen Police Sgt. Rick Magnuson, who supervises the agency’s investigations unit, and Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said this week they hadn’t been contacted in connection with the Florida investigation.
Anyone with information about the Norris murder or a possible Aspen suspect can call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at 850-410-7001.
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The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead in trying to close a gaping hole in the investigation of crimes in the upper Roaring Fork Valley by purchasing license plate-reading cameras likely to be used at the chokepoint entry and exits to Aspen.