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Volusia County cold-case investigation leads squad to search old well in Glenwood
Investigators hope to solve 1974 homicide of James Aslinger of DeBary
By Pat Andrews
posted May 1, 2013 - 6:25:26pm
A tip that came in after the Volusia County Sheriff's Office formed a cold-case squad last year resulted in the search of a well in Glenwood that began April 27 and continued May 1.
Weary investigators and firefighters called it a day at around 3:30 p.m. May 1; the search will be resumed.
Investigators would not say what they were searching for, but cold-case investigators Ralph Henshaw and William Maxwell said the tip drew their attention to an old well on a dirt road, just off Grand Avenue in DeLeon Springs, in conjunction with the first cold case they reopened and featured in February. They said they believe if they find what they are looking for, it may solve the case.
They wouldn't confirm if it's the weapon they are looking for.
The case is the homicide of James Aslinger of DeBary, who was found dead May 27, 1974, just days short of his 31st birthday, outside a burned-out house on Benson Junction Road, not far from his residence.
The well in Glenwood was connected to a house that was torn down around 1980. Some of Aslinger's wife's family lived in it at the time of the homicide. The wife is now also deceased.
The well is still there however; it was overgrown with brush. Sheriff Ben Johnson, who was a deputy at the time of Aslinger's death, helped the investigators find it. Fire services cleared an area around it for the search.
Archived news accounts just after the shooting reported that Aslinger was shot three times in the side with a handgun.
No viable leads came forth as to who shot Aslinger, or why, so the homicide moved into the cold-case files.
Aslinger's case was the first cold-case mystery the new squad featured on Facebook and social media in February. The Beacon reported on it at that time.
Cold-case investigators Henshaw and Maxwell form the nucleus of the squad. They are both seasoned investigators, each with double-digit years working for the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, both of whom came out of retirement to investigate cold cases. They are unpaid volunteers.
"There are a lot of people out there who know things, but aren't saying," Henshaw said. Using social media and the Internet is helping bring in leads. He and Maxwell now have an "idea" as to the motive, Henshaw said, but can't comment on it.
Henshaw knew Aslinger slightly.
Aslinger was a heavy-equipment operator for the county's road-and-bridge department. Henshaw used to see him and sometimes have morning coffee with him at the Big Rig Restaurant on the truck route in DeLand.
Sheriff's Office Investigator Richard Graves is working the homicide with the two cold-case investigators.
Like an archaeologist, at the well May 1, Graves sifted through loads of trash brought up by a team of four Volusia County firefighters who rotated turns being lowered into the well. Each could only descend for a half-hour at a time, dressed in protective gear and an oxygen mask, to protect their health. A cadre of co-workers — special-operations firefighters, specially trained in rescue operations, backed them up.
Late in the afternoon, Graves was fighting off discouragement, but vowing to return to finish the job.
The firefighters, as engrossed in the case as the investigators, vowed to continue to work with them.
Henshaw said, "The family deserves a closure to this, and we've got a murderer walking around here free."
The perpetrator "just got away with it so far," he added.
Read more in the May 5-8 Midweek edition of The Beacon. To subscribe to The Beacon online, click here. For a list of newsstand locations, click here. To have the print edition mailed to your home twice a week, send your address via email to email@example.com.
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