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A sheriff's car blocks the driveway leading to William Clapp's rural Roberts home as deputies investigated his death April 29, 1993. Star-Observer file photo
A sheriff's car blocks the driveway leading to William Clapp's rural Roberts home as deputies investigated his death April 29, 1993. Star-Observer file photo

Junior Clapp murder case is cold but not forgotten

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news River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

It has been nearly 16 years since William S. "Junior" Clapp was killed in his rural Roberts home, and while the case has gone cold it is not closed.

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"We have two investigators, Cary Rose or Jim Mikla, assigned to it. When anything comes up in connection to the case, they look into it. The case remains open," said Sheriff Dennis Hillstead.

Clapp, 76, was found with a gunshot wound to the back of his head, slumped over the kitchen table in his Roberts farmhouse late on April 25, 1993. The case is one of four and possibly five unsolved homicides that occurred in the county.

"There is at least one person out there, and possibly two, who know what really happened," Hillstead said. "It's a long time to keep a secret."

Star-Observer reports in the April 29, 1993, edition said Clapp called the home of Jack Larsen, his neighbor, the night of the homicide. He got Larsen's mother on the phone and asked for her son. When Jack got to the phone the line was dead.

Larsen said he phoned Clapp back three times, but couldn't get through. It took him about 10 minutes to get to his neighbor's house.

He found Clapp semi-conscious at the kitchen table bleeding from a head wound. Larsen tried to talk to him but Clapp couldn't communicate - all he could do was moan, the reports said.

The St. Croix County medical examiner said Clapp died at the scene from a single gunshot wound.

One report said Clapp and a grandniece attended a banquet at Roberts Congregational Church and left about 9:30 p.m. in separate cars the Saturday night of his death.

Bill Clapp, a nephew who lived a quarter-mile away, said there was no sign of forced entry into his uncle's house.

"We believe the shooter was known to the victim," said Hillstead. Clapp, a bachelor farmer who raised beef, hogs and horses on his 65th street farm not far south of I-94 freeway, was well-known in the area. He regularly brought a team of horses and a stagecoach to parades and the J.R. Ranch rodeo. He also conducted hayrides at his farm and during events in Hudson.

He served many years as a constable for the town of Warren and retired in 1992 to tend his farm and the horses he loved.

"There were not a lot of things for DNA," said Hillstead, who was serving as Woodville chief of police at the time. DNA forensic technology was not available at the time and there wasn't much at the scene, the sheriff said.

"It was difficult to determine what may or may not have been disturbed," Hillstead said, because Clapp was a bachelor farmer who "collected a lot of things."

The sheriff said the rumor that persisted was Junior had a lot of money stashed in his house, which could be one motive for the murder.

"Someone may have tried to force him to disclose where the money was," Hillstead said.

Another possible motive may have been revenge, the sheriff said.

"We have interviewed dozens and dozens of people; some are 'persons of interest.' A few years ago we had a John Doe hearing and subpoenaed people and asked questions; some took the Fifth (Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination) and refused to answer," he said.

(In a John Doe hearing, individuals can be subpoenaed to testify before a judge, the district attorney and law officers to obtain information without a public hearing.)

Hillstead said the bottom line is there is no probable cause to make an arrest in the case.

Other unsolved homicides

Jane Neumann, 30, Hudson, Nov. 22, 1993: The death of Jane Neumann, who was killed in the town of Hudson is considered an unsolved homicide by the sheriff's department even though a St. Croix County civil jury in 1997 found that her husband, James, was responsible for her death.

A criminal jury needs a unanimous decision; a civil jury only requires a majority, said Hillstead. Criminal charges have never been filed in the case.

George Cigan, 44, River Falls, Aug. 2, 1998, was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Hwy. 35 about one-half mile south of Glover Road on the east side of what was then a two-lane road.

Reports said Cigan was struck from behind and his body was found in a cornfield 30 feet from the roadway.

Nathaniel Smith, 20, Prescott, Sept. 6, 1998, was killed in a hit-and-run accident on County Y south of Baldwin. The Star-Observer of Sept. 10 said Smith's body was found about 4 a.m. on County Y in the town of Rush River. He was either lying on the road or crawling on the road when he was struck, the sheriff said.

Severed head, Oct. 19, 2002: Another unsolved homicide that could have occurred in the county involves a severed head discovered by a group of Boy Scouts off Andersen Scout Camp Road in the town of St. Joseph.

Hillstead said the information and DNA of the victim is in a national database, but there hasn't been a match. The facial features of the skull were reconstructed by a forensic anthropologist.

Hillstead said the head most likely belongs to an indigenous South American Indian woman. "It could possibly belong to an illegal alien or undocumented worker," said Hillstead.

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