Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The man accused of murdering a Cold Spring officer in 2012 has been cleared of any charges. Authorities say evidence shows a second suspect, who committed suicide before being questioned, would have been arrested in the officer’s death.
Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker was killed on Nov. 29, 2012 in the parking lot of Winner’s Bar, after responding to a welfare check of a man who was apparently suicidal.
That man, Ryan Michael Larson, was later arrested by police in connection with Decker’s death. Larson always maintained his innocence through the investigation.
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office announced they had completed the active portion of the investigation.
Authorities say they did have sufficient probable cause to arrest Larson, but sufficient evidence was not discovered to charge him. He has been cleared of any involvement in the case.
A second suspect, Eric Joseph Thomes, committed suicide on Jan. 2, after fleeing investigators to avoid being questioned in Decker’s death.
Investigators said they compiled evidence that would have resulted in the arrest of Thomes for the murder of Officer Decker. One of those pieces of evidence was that witnesses recalled a black van with a loud exhaust seen leaving the scene. Thomes did have a van, but it was dark green.
Thomes’ Friend Speaks Out
Yovonne Ketcher, a close friend of Thomes, says there was no way Thomes was involved.
“He was a good neighbor and we miss him,” Ketcher said. “He kept saying, ‘Why are they looking at me just because I had a loud exhaust?’”
In the first weekend of November, Thomes borrowed a 20-gauge shotgun from Ketcher’s live-in boyfriend so he could take his young son deer hunting. Ketcher said she went to Thomes’ home and got it back from him – two weeks before Decker’s murder.
Ketcher said Thomes would have no idea where it is, because the shotgun was buried under her boyfriend’s clothes, because he was moving in.
The BCA declined to comment Tuesday, but has said the shotgun was linked to Decker’s murder.
Ketcher said she is speaking out because she wants people to know the truth about Thomes, saying Thomes’ family and friends also want the truth for Decker’s family.
“It’s a tragedy and we’re all very sorry about what happened to Officer Decker, but at the same time, we all want the truth to come out,” Ketcher said.
They say there is no known connection between Thomes and Larson related to this incident.
Thomes was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Stearns County in 2011 and had a few other speeding and traffic violations. It was reported that Decker was one of two officers who had stopped Thomes for possible drunken driving in the past.
The case remains open.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at 877-782-5683 or the BCA at 877-996-6222.