NEW PORT RICHEY — Nine months after James William Earl was gunned down in front of his Shady Hills-area home, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office continues to search for the 32-year-old’s killer.
The trail to his killer or killers, however, has gone cold.
Earl, a Navy veteran who served tours in Afghanistan and was a member of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, was shot and killed some time around 12 or 12:30 a.m., Jan. 16. He had just become engaged to be married at the time of his killing and was the father to two children.
Leads received by sheriff’s detectives to date have failed to result in any arrests, and the Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Oct. 15 to try and generate fresh tips from the public.
Detective Samantha Gutierrez, who is leading the investigation, said it is not clear whether Earl’s motorcycle club membership is related to his killing.
“We’ve followed up on many tips and leads that we’ve received but we have not been able to exclusively determine that his affiliation with the Pagans is the cause of his death,” Gutierrez said. Earl was a Sergeant at Arms with the Pagans and went by the nickname of Vein because of his medical background, the detective said.
Earl was known as Scrappy when he was a member of another motorcycle club, Gutierrez said.
Earl was training to become a mechanic at the National Aviation Academy in Clearwater, Gutierrez said, and had class at some point earlier in the evening on the day of the shooting.
“I would say that the person or people involved had some knowledge of his schedule or his comings and goings from the residence,” she said.
In addition to the using the media to attract new leads, detectives hope increasing the reward for information leading to an arrest will bear fruit. Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay initially posted the reward money at $3,000. That amount was increased to $5,000 in August and is now up to $10,000.
The victim’s family has added $2,000 and the Florida Sheriff’s Association added $5,000.
Informants can remain anonymous when contacting Crime Stoppers with information. Gutierrez insisted that any tips can be helpful, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
“I don’t have to talk to people who have information, specifically,” Gutierrez said. “But I’d just like to know the information and how they know the information so at least I can follow up on it and see if it’s a viable lead in the case.”
While the killing cannot yet be directly linked to Earl’s affiliation with motorcycle clubs, it may be hampering detectives’ abilities to gather leads and make an arrest, Gutierrez said.
“Historically we don’t always have the best relationship with members of clubs or people that may have knowledge of a crime of this nature,” she said.
Earl’s murder was the second involving a Pasco County motorcycle club member in the span of about a year. About 13 months prior, Paul Anderson, the president of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club, was shot and killed while sitting in his truck at a State Road 54 red light near the Suncoast Parkway on the afternoon of Dec. 21, 2017.
“Obviously when you have two members of motorcycle clubs who are killed in the county you have to take it as a theory that there is a possibility they are related,” Gutierrez said. “But I think from the beginning we’ve maintained an open mind that we don’t know they’re related. We haven’t necessarily received any information that’s confirming that they’re related.”
Individuals with information related to the shooting death of James William Earl are asked to contact Crime Stoppers by calling, toll free, 800-873-TIPS or going to www.crimestoppertb.com.