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A series examining nearly 100 unsolved murders in the region

Dog track regular had habit
of picking up hitchhikers

B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call
2001 Times-Call Publishing Co.

   LONGMONT Dairy salesman James H. Stribling changed jobs in the spring of 1960, moving from his room at the Carlton Hotel in Longmont to Loveland.

     Stribling, 59, loved dog racing, and his address change did little to change his passion for the running of the greyhounds. In fact, he visited Cloverleaf Greyhound Park frequently enough that many of the window clerks and security guards knew him by name.

     His luck, however, ran out on May 23, 1960 the same day he bought a new wallet.

     On that Monday, Stribling drove his 1949 Fraser to Cloverleaf, where he reportedly ran into a 23-year-old soldier using the name Carl Torning.

      Tickets later found in his pocket indicated Stribling lost $6 on the fourth race that night. No one will ever know how much he won.

     Also unknown is how and why his bullet-riddled body ended up in a ditch south of Lafayette the next day.

      In the dead man's pockets were the losing fourth-race tickets and the new wallet, still in its package.

     The wallet he had been using was gone, but two $100 bills were found in the watch pocket of his trousers.

      His car was found in downtown Denver a few days later, but police said it contained no evidence of foul play.

     Authorities at first believed Stribling may have been the target of a so-called hit, or as the Daily Times-Call said the day his body was found, a "gang rub-out."

    It certainly looked that way.

    One of the .22-caliber bullets that killed Stribling entered his upper-left chest and lodged in his heart, while the other four bullet wounds were grouped in an eight-inch pattern lower in his chest.

    Other evidence indicated Stribling may have been killed elsewhere and his body dumped. There was no blood on the ground where he was found, and investigators reported no signs of a car pulling over near the area of U.S. 287 where he was found.

     The only clue to Stribling's violent death was a man calling himself Carl Torning, the stranger he met at the dog track.

     But Carl Torning was not his real name, and he didn't bring any closure to the case. Police said they had established that Stribling and Torning had driven to Denver in Stribling's car earlier that Monday, but the two had returned to the dog track separately that night.

     It turned out that Torning was an AWOL soldier, according to news reports at the time. He was captured by military authorities but never charged in the Stribling case. His real name was never released.

     Prosecutors and investigators from the Boulder County District Attorney's Office questioned him extensively, but found no evidence linking him to the murder.

      Tom Gardener the operator of the Carlton Hotel in Longmont, where

Stribling had lived said Stribling had a habit of picking up hitchhikers.

     Gardner said he had warned Stribling, who he described as an "ideal roomer" who always paid his rent on time, about the dangers of the practice.

      Stribling, however, had told Gardner he felt no concern about picking up strangers.

     "I warned him it was a dangerous practice," Gardner said, "but he told me most of those fellows are all right."

     Unfortunately for Stribling, one of those hitchhikers was apparently not all right.

If you have information about this case or any part of the series, call B.J. Plasket at 303-776-2244, Ext. 451, or e-mail him at bplasket@times-call.com.