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Norwalk Police Seeks Answers In 1971 Fatal Shooting Cold Case

Norwalk Police provided this sketch of a suspect in an unsolved murder from 1971.
Norwalk Police provided this sketch of a suspect in an unsolved murder from 1971. Photo Credit: Donna Christopher
Norwalk Police continue to seek suspects in the 1971 fatal shooting at this gas station.
Norwalk Police continue to seek suspects in the 1971 fatal shooting at this gas station. Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department on Facebook
Norwalk Police have a variety of suspect names in connection with the homicide.
Norwalk Police have a variety of suspect names in connection with the homicide. Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department on Facebook
Norwalk Police seek answers in solving the cold case.
Norwalk Police seek answers in solving the cold case. Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department on Facebook

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Police Department continues to investigate a cold case from  45 years ago involving the shooting death of Earl Collins, 50, at a Mobil gas station on East Avenue.

Officers responded to the shooting at the Ludlow Service Station at 219 East Ave. at Winfield Street at 10:27 p.m. March 12, 1971.

Officers found Collins on the ground by the front doorway suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest.

A 17-year-old witness had just stepped into the gas station to get change for cigarettes when a black male fired a gun and Collins fell to the ground, according to police.

The shooter then took the money from the 17-year-old's hand, put the gun to the teen's stomach and pulled the trigger, police said.

But the gun did not fire, and the shooter and a second black male fled on foot north onto East Avenue, according to police.

Collins was hospitalized and died four days later.

Several teenage witnesses who had just left a dance at Christ Episcopal Church walked past the service station, and saw the handgun and robbery, police said.

After a shot was fired, they ran north to the other side of the train tracks but one went back to see what happened, according to police.

The group said three men ran past them and got into a car parked at the Norwalk Gas Company, 215 East Ave., which was between the East Norwalk train station and O’Hara’s gas station at Fitch Street, said police. The car sped off north on East Avenue.

The 17-year-old witness at the gas station described the suspects as:

  • Suspected shooter: 19- to 20-year-old black male, 6 feet tall, thin build, short afro-style hair, a goatee and wearing green work pants with a dark green waist-length work jacket.
  • Suspect at doorway: 19- to 20-year-old black male, 6-foot-1 with a stocky build of 200 pounds, with short afro-style hair.

The group of teenage witnesses reported these descriptions:

  • Black male, under 20, husky build, wearing a black leather coat with large afro-style hair.
  • Black male, 6-foot-1, with thin build wearing a short dungaree jacket.
  • Puerto Rican male, 5-foot-10, wearing light-colored clothing, possibly a white turtleneck and brown leather jacket.

The vehicle was described as dark green possibly a Chevelle or Malibu, with an orange license plate, possibly from New York.

One witness identified James Wrentz Jr., 20, as the male standing at the doorway, police said. He was arrested March 17, 1971, and charged with first-degree murder and robbery with violence. But on Oct. 7, 1971, the charges were nolled.

The case remains unsolved. A number of suspect names have been developed during the investigation but probable cause has not been established to make any arrests.

Anybody with information is asked to contact Lt. Art Weisgerber at 203-854-3028 or aweisgerber@norwalkct.org

Anonymous tips can be sent through the Norwalk police website at www.norwalkpd.com or texted with “NPD” into the text field, followed by the message and sending it to CRIMES (274637).

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