Last will dispute suspected in deaths

Autopsies complete after three bodies discovered Friday

Evidence in an ongoing La Plata County Sheriff’s Office investigation indicates William Klatt Decker, 69, killed his sister, Billie Decker, 67, and his nephew, Robert “Duke” Decker, 40, sometime Thursday or Friday and then took his own life.

The suspected double killing-suicide was triggered by an inheritance battle, said Dan Bender, the public information officer with the Sheriff’s Office, in a news release issued Sunday evening.

Two men’s and the woman’s bodies were found Friday afternoon in two locations, the Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.

Sheriff’s deputies found William Klatt Decker hanging in a barn at a farm near Colorado Highway 140, about a half mile north of the Colorado-New Mexico border and about five miles south of Redmesa, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday.

Deputies were checking the Deckers’ rural house after receiving a call from a separate agency about 1:40 p.m. Friday reporting suspicious activities, Bender said.

While completing a welfare check on the rest of the property, investigators found the body of Robert Decker, in a shallow grave on the property a short time later, Bender said in a news release.

The discovery was made based on information from notes found at the scene.

The body of Robert Decker, Billie Decker’s son and also a resident of the farm, was found with a foot “protruding from freshly dug dirt,” Bender said in a news release.

Based on information found at the farm, Sheriff’s Office investigators asked the Durango Police Department to conduct a welfare check on Billie Decker at her home in Durango on Riverview Drive.

Officers discovered Billie Decker dead in her home when they arrived, Durango Police Lt. Ray Shupe said Friday.

Autopsies completed during the weekend indicate William Klatt Decker climbed a ladder, put a noose around his neck, shot himself and then fell from the ladder, the news release said.

William Klatt Decker’s death came after Billie Decker and Robert Decker were killed, Bender said in a Sunday news release. Autopsies indicate Robert Decker was shot with a handgun and died from blunt trauma to the head, and Billie Decker died from strangulation and blunt trauma to the head.

Because Billie Decker’s death took place within city limits, the Durango Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office are completing separate investigations, but they are working closely, Bender said.

Authorities do not believe there are other victims in the case.

William Klatt Decker was unhappy about the inheritance distribution after the April death of Billie and William Decker’s mother, Margaret Decker, Bender said in a Sunday news release.

According to Margaret Decker’s obituary in The Durango Herald, Margaret and husband Bill Decker started ranching at Vallecito but soon after made their permanent home south of Hesperus, where they raised sheep and crops.

“Maggie was always busy raising two children, cooking for crews, being a farmer and irrigator and helping at sheep camp,” her family was quoted saying after her death. “She lived 67 years at the ranch and wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

Bill Decker died in 1980. At the time of her death, Margaret Decker was survived by her two children and a sister, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation, and it asks anyone who may have information about the deaths to contact Sheriff’s Investigator Joe Gabbard at 382-7020 or Durango Police Department Detective Burke Baldwin at 375-4734.

scook@durangoherald.com

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