JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
A man authorities say murdered his sister and nephew last week in La Plata County had been under investigation since at least April for possession of child pornography.
He also was being evicted from his home by his nephew, they said Monday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized items from William “Klatt” Decker’s home in April, said Dan Bender, spokesman with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, which assisted with the search.
“I know they seized items that were related to child pornography from his house,” Bender said.
In a statement released Monday, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said charges had not been filed in the case. It can take several months to analyze evidence and determine whether to present a case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible filing of charges, he said. The status of the investigation was unknown Monday.
Decker, 69, killed his sister, Billie Decker, 67, and his nephew, Robert “Duke” Decker, 40, on Thursday or Friday before killing himself, authorities said.
Klatt Decker was upset that his mother, Margaret “Maggie” Decker, who died in April, left her 750-acre ranch to her grandson, Duke Decker, and not him, Bender said.
Both men lived in separate homes on the ranch about 30 miles southwest of Durango in the 400 block of Colorado Highway 140, just north of the Colorado-New Mexico line.
“I guess (Maggie) thought the world of her grandson, and she left the farm to him rather than to her son,” Bender said.
According to friends, Duke Decker and Klatt Decker didn’t get along.
Duke Decker served his uncle with eviction papers a couple of weeks ago, giving him 10 days to vacate the property, Bender said.
“He had his belongings all boxed up to leave,” Bender said. “I think that added to the resentment and pressure that he may have felt.”
Authorities said Klatt Decker shot Duke Decker with a handgun and hit him over the head with a blunt object. He then buried Duke Decker in a shallow grave near a river a short distance from the house.
He also is suspected of strangling his sister and causing blunt-force trauma to her head. Her body was found Friday afternoon at her house in the 200 block of Riverview Drive in Durango.
Authorities received a “suspicious” phone recording Friday afternoon. They responded to the ranch to find Klatt Decker hanging from a rope around his neck in a barn. An autopsy indicated he climbed a ladder, put a noose around his neck, shot himself with a handgun and fell from the ladder.
Authorities were unsure who was killed first, Duke Decker or Billie Decker. A note found at the ranch directed authorities to Billie Decker’s home and the location of Duke Decker, said Ed Phippen, an investigator for the Sheriff’s Office.
There was no mention of the pending ICE investigation, he said.
Billie Decker was a longtime Durango resident who once worked as a beautician and as a bartender at the Diamond Belle Saloon on Main Avenue, said Thelma Ogston, her next-door neighbor and friend of 50 years.
“It was a shock and very heart-breaking,” Ogston said. “If I could see Klatt, I’d just like to pull his hair out.”
Klatt Decker and his sister inherited money when their father, Bill Decker, died in the 1980s, Ogston said. Both received the same amount, and it was enough for Billie Decker to buy her house in Durango, she said.
Klatt was living in California, and it was unknown how he spent his money.
“Klatt was not left completely out,” she said. “He just got his inheritance when his dad died.”
His mother also allowed her personal belongings to be split between her two children, according to her will, which is signed March 30, 1998, and filed in District Court.
Duke Decker was liked in the family, said Christine Gillen, a longtime family friend. He was divorced and tried living in different towns before moving in with his grandmother on the ranch, she said.
Klatt Decker moved back to the ranch about five years ago.
“That wasn’t really a good thing,” Gillen said. “(Klatt Decker) felt like because he was the oldest and the son, he should be the one to be willed the ranch. But Maggie said he was never really interested in it when he was growing up.”
She described Klatt Decker as intelligent, well-read and able to stand his ground in any argument.
Klatt Decker appears to have a relatively clean criminal record in Southwest Colorado. He was arrested about 11 p.m. Nov. 9, 2004, for driving while ability impaired near West Second Avenue and Seventh Street in Durango.
He did 24 hours of community service with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Vista, Calif., close to where he was living at the time.