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July 30, 2014

Cold Spring case: Gun found, man questioned in case killed himself, police say

A man investigators sought to question in the case of the Nov. 29 killing of Cold Spring Officer Tom Decker killed himself Wednesday, investigators said at a press briefing Friday. Investigators also found the .20-gauge shotgun that lab experts say was the one used in the killing.

Investigators went to the rural Cold Spring home of a man identified as Eric Joseph Thomes, 31, on Wednesday afternoon, and he fled to a nearby building, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Wade Setter said. Investigators tried to make contact with him and after several hours went in and found him hanging, Setter said.

Eric Joseph Thomes

Setter said the gun was found at a different time at a property that Thomes had access to. Setter said Thomes had been questioned previously in the case and his answers were not consistent.

He stressed that the investigation is far from over with lots of leads left to follow, and investigators are seeking the public’s help in reconstructing what Thomes has been doing and saying the last six weeks.

Setter said a black van believed to have been at the crime scene has been recovered. Setter would not comment on several driving while intoxicated arrests on Thomes’ record. WCCO reported that Cold Spring police made three of those arrests.

WCCO said Thomes was a regular at Winner’s Bar in Cold Spring not far from where Decker was shot.

In recent weeks, there have been few details released publicly as investigators sought a suspect and a weapon in the killing of Decker, 31. A $100,000 reward was offered, but Setter would not comment on whether that will now be claimed.

Setter said investigators had been working the case around the clock and he stressed that it was a very important case for the law enforcement community.

Meanwhile, the original suspect in the case, Ryan Michael Larson, told the Star Tribune in an interview before the news conference that he thought authorities had identified a new suspect.

“It’s sounding that way to me. It’s been a long night. My phone has been very busy. I just hope it ends for everybody,” Larson told the paper.

Larson, who has maintained his innocence since the beginning of the case, was released from jail for lack of evidence.