The shotgun used in the murder of Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker has been recovered and a person of interest in the murder has been found dead.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 2, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents were attempting to conduct a follow-up interview at the Cold Spring home of 31-year-old Eric Joseph Thomes.
BCA superintendent Wade Setter said Thomes was identified as a person of interest in Decker's murder after a December news conference to announce a $100,000 reward in the case.
While trying to make contact, Thomes ran way and entered an outbuilding on his property. BCA agents and Stearns County sheriff's investigators tried four to five hours to make contact, but Thomes refused to come out.
Shortly before 7 p.m., agents and investigators entered the building and found Eric Thomes dead of a suicide by hanging.
A 20-gauge shotgun was recovered from a separate property and crime lab analysis determined the shotgun was the weapon used to kill Officer Decker on Nov. 29, 2012. Decker, 31, was shot and killed behind Winner's Bar in Cold Spring while responding to a report of a suicidal man.
FOX 9 has learned Officer Decker and Eric Thomes had met before. Thomes was arrested for drunk driving in August, not long after leaving Winner's Bar. He was arrested by Decker and the same partner Decker had the night he was murdered – Greg Reiter.
Still cautious, Superintendent Setter said it would be premature to call Thomes the presumptive suspect in Decker's murder and said "we are a long way from concluding (the investigation)."
Investigators are asking the public to identify any activities or notable actions taken by Thomes between the week prior to Officer Decker's murder and Thomes' death on Wednesday. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Stearns County sheriff's office at 877-782-5683 or the BCA at 877-996-6222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
"We have not excluded anyone as a suspect in this case," Setter said.