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Even with billboards, leads slim in murder

For four months, a $25,000 reward has gone unclaimed.

The large reward has been advertised on billboards throughout Pinellas County and into Manatee County. Yet no one has produced the information needed for an arrest and conviction in the murder of Gary Noordhoek.

"We got just a few calls, mostly people loosely associated with him or someone he knew," said sheriff's Detective Mike Madden. "Some people called and said they didn't even realize he'd been killed, that he was dead."

Billboards featuring a photograph of Noordhoek, 38, were donated by Eller Media in June. The reward and a solicitation for information also were on the billboards. One billboard remained recently along U.S. 41 near Palmetto. Noordhoek owned a strip shopping center in Manatee and lived in Ellenton.

The Largo real estate agent and property owner was found shot to death June 28 in a friend's apartment at a Seminole warehouse. Noordhoek often stayed at the apartment instead of driving to Manatee. According to Madden, Noordhoek was last seen alive about 10 p.m. June 25 when he left a friend's house in Tampa.

Missing were his watch, a money clip and cash, but detectives have not established robbery as a motive. His credit cards were strewn on the floor.

Detectives determined that Noordhoek had some business and personal conflicts. Madden described as "a person of interest in the case" a former girlfriend to whom he had given $20,000. She considered the money a gift, he said, but Noordhoek viewed it as a loan and wanted it back. The woman has refused to cooperate in the investigation.

Authorities hoped the billboards and reward might lead them to a suspect.

"We got nothing of the least little bit of value or interest," Madden said.

Donated billboard space has been used in other murder cases in an attempt to solicit information. Several years ago, a billboard depicting a handwriting sample led to the arrest and conviction of Oba Chandler, who murdered three Ohio women and dumped their bodies in Tampa Bay.

Madden said billboards in other Pinellas cases have not resulted in substantive leads or an arrest, but authorities consider the advertising a valuable tool.

Anyone with information about the Noordhoek murder is asked to call sheriff's detectives at 582-6200.