Tallahassee, Florida - April 20, 2011 -
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Tallahassee Regional Operations Center and the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office today announced the skeletal remains of a deceased male originally found in Dixie County 35 years ago are those of missing person James Norris. Norris, a San Francisco resident, was 25, when he traveled to Florida and then disappeared. Investigators believe Norris was murdered and are seeking assistance from the public in finding his killer.
“The cold case team solved the mystery of who this man is, and now we need to solve the crime,” said Special Agent in Charge Don Ladner. “It’s time we brought some answers to James Norris’ family and we encourage anyone with information about his activity in Florida to contact us.”
“This being the oldest unsolved homicide in Dixie County, it is nice to know that the forensics that took place back then has allowed modern technology to bring closure to the family,” said Dixie County Sheriff Dewey H. Hatcher. “We hope that our office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can move forward and bring further closure for the Norris family through this homicide investigation.”
Norris flew from California to Miami on Oct. 3, 1974 and had planned to purchase a large quantity of marijuana. Norris’ last contact with his family was via a postcard, which was postmarked from Inglis, Fla. on Oct. 4, 1974. Norris also used the alias of Richard Gunning when traveling.
Norris’ remains were found on April 16, 1976 in Dixie County near the Taylor County line and close to U.S. 19. Authorities investigating at the time conducted an anthropological examination which determined the remains were those of a male and that he had been deceased approximately two years. The remains were kept in the custody of FDLE.
In 2009, FDLE’s Cold Case Team reopened the case and sent a sample of the remains to the University of North Texas where scientists were able to extract DNA and obtain a DNA profile. Investigators then turned to the National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NAMUS), an online U.S. Department of Justice system used by law enforcement, medical examiners and the public to enter information on unidentified deceased persons and missing persons to solve cases. A search of missing person entries yielded James Norris as a possible match to the Dixie County remains. NAMUS indicated that Norris’ mother had placed her DNA on file with the California Department of Justice so that it would be available for comparison if Norris should ever be found. Cold case team members had Norris’ mother’s DNA sent to UNT where it was used to positively identify the Dixie County remains as those of James Norris.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact FDLE Special Agent Mike Kennedy at (850) 410-7450.