Eight months after he was arrested and then released in connection with the murder of Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker, Ryan Larson's name has finally been cleared.
"It was a big step for me today," Larson told FOX 9 News in an exclusive interview.
Detectives with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension announced Tuesday they believe the person who pulled the trigger is the man who took his own life as police came to question him, Eric Thomes.
Until Tuesday, Larson was the only publicly-identified suspect in the case. Although he is obviously relieved to know he has been cleared in the case, he told FOX 9 News he believes the damage to his reputation has already been done.
Just type the name Ryan Larson into Google and it's easy to see his point, especially since the BCA, the Stearns County sheriff, and the county attorney still refuse to answer several important questions:
- What was the motive?
- Where is the evidence?
- Why did it take so long to clear Larson?
Vindication came to Larson as he begins to start a new life in a new town in Wisconsin, beginning his first day of work in 8 months. When his phone began ringing, the cloud of suspicion was gone.
"It was emotional for me and my family," he said.
Larson did not get a call from detectives, and there was no press conference in Cold Spring. Instead, the BCA issued a press release stating there was "no information that Mr. Larson participated in Officer Decker's murder."
The new culprit is a dead man. Eric Thomes hung himself last January when detectives tried to interview him after finding the shotgun used in Decker's death at a neighbor's home. Investigators still decline to comment on his motive.
"They know more than they're telling," Larson said.
Decker and his partner, Greg Reiter, had arrested Thomes a year earlier for drunken driving. Thomes was recently divorced and had just lost his job, but no one knows what exactly transpired behind Winner's Bar that cold night in November when a young cop's life was taken.
Larson was arrested in his apartment above the bar, which is where Decker was headed to perform a welfare check prior to his death. Larson told FOX 9 News he believes detectives knew he was innocent after releasing him from jail without charges, but he claims they allowed him to twist in the wind as his life fell apart.
"I couldn't finish school, couldn't get a job, couldn't leave the house," he recalled, explaining that the experience caused depression and anxiety. "It caused tension with my family."
So, Larson spent eight months trying to solve the crime himself -- but even though he was the only publicly-identified suspect, detectives wouldn't talk to him. In fact, they told him to stop calling.
Now that he is looking at a clean slate, he is wondering why he had to wait so long.
"For them to make a mistake like that and not correct it," he said. "They had to have known."
The kicker in the case is that the Stearns County attorney plans to keep the case open, and secret, for now. That means the media and the public will not see the evidence, reports, or get a sense of how the investigation was handled despite several signs that it didn't go well. As for the $100,000 reward in the case, the BCA says at this point, no one will be claiming it.