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St. Croix County investigation continues in 1993 William Clapp murder case

A member of the Washington County Water Recovery Team tosses a replica long gun to determine how far the firearm would have traveled if tossed by the killer after leaving the Clapp farmhouse murder scene 19 years ago. Photo by Jon Echternacht1 / 2
A water recovery team from the Washington County, Minn., County sheriff's department combs the pond on Junior Clapp's farmstead searching for evidence in his murder on April 25, 1993. Photo by Jon Echternacht2 / 2

The cold case investigation into the murder of William S. "Junior" Clapp 19 years ago took another step Thursday evening, April 12.

The water recovery team from the Washington (Minn.) County sheriff's department along with St. Croix County deputies conducted a search of the hay slough on Clapp's farmstead.

The crew worked in coordinates searching the pond for evidence. One theory is the shotgun used to kill Clapp could have been tossed into the water as the gunman left Clapp's farmhouse.

The farmhouse no longer exists, but the pond is almost identical from 1993 era photos, said Cary Rose, St. Croix County investigator.

About 14 law officers were involved in Thursday's hunt for evidence.

"They worked the edge of the pond closest to the house," said Rose, "but turned up nothing significant. The plan is to have the team return in the future to work deeper into the pond."

Clapp, 76, was found with a gunshot wound to the back of his head, slumped over the table in his farmhouse kitchen on April 25, 1993.

The Star-Observer of April 29, reported Clapp called the home of Jack Larsen, his neighbor, the night of the murder. 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 table bleeding from a head wound. Larsen tried to talk to him but Clapp couldn't communicate -- all he could do was moan, the report said.

Clapp was pronounced dead at the scene. The medical examiner confirmed that Clapp died from a gunshot wound at 2:25 a.m.

Former Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said it was difficult for investigators to determine if anything was taken from Clapp's home because he was a bachelor farmer who "collected a lot of things."

John Shilts, 50, the current sheriff, was on patrol at the time and the first one called to Clapp's farmhouse. "It came in as a fall and head injury," he recalled recently. "Clapp was at the table and the neighbor was holding a towel over the wound. When I took a look at it, I knew it wasn't a head injury from a fall."