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State looks into unsolved Clapp murder

A sheriff's squad car blocks the driveway leading to William Clapp's rural Roberts home as deputies investigated his death on April 25, 1993. Star-Observer file photo1 / 3
Investigator Cary Rose2 / 3
A map published in the Star-Observer shows the William Clapp home in relation to the surrounding area.3 / 3

The investigation of St. Croix County's most prominent cold case is about to heat up a little more.

The murder of William S. "Junior" Clapp at 2:35 a.m. April 25, 1993, from a single gunshot wound at his rural Roberts farm house remains unsolved and the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Special Assignments Bureau will aid the sheriff's department in the continuing investigation.

DCI cold case experts are expected to meet with sheriff's personnel Feb. 28, said Investigator Cary Rose, who along with Jim Mikla has taken over the investigation of the nearly 20-year-old case.

"The DCI contacted us late last fall and are very much interested in pursuing the case," said Rose during a discussion in his government center office last week.

"Essentially, we will be starting from the beginning, as if it were a new case and going over all the evidence with the DCI experts," Rose said. "We have interviewed people over the years and there is some new information to follow up."

Rose said there was limited technology available to the sheriff's office in 1993. This time around Rose said, "We will process everything for DNA and go from there."

The investigator will go through the procedure to get transcripts of several John Doe hearings that have been held over the years in regard to the case.

Rose agreed that the Clapp homicide is probably the most prominent cold case in the county.


Clapp, 76, was found with a gunshot wound to the back of his head, slumped over the table in his farmhouse kitchen, early reports said.

The Star-Observer of April 29, 1993, said 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.

Clapp and his grandniece attended a banquet at Roberts Congregational Church Saturday evening. They left in separate cars about 9:30 p.m. He died early Sunday.

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."

His estate was worth more than $600,000 and was divided among his relatives.

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."

Four sheriffs have held office since the incident. Ralph Bader was at the helm when the incident occurred followed by Paul Burch and Hillstead and Shilts.

Clapp was born in Roberts and farmed for nearly 50 years. He kept beef cattle, hogs and horses on his 600 acre farm. He was well known for giving sleigh rides to friends and kids in the neighborhood during the winter. He also had a team of horses that pulled a stagecoach and participated in summer festivals throughout the Midwest including the North Hudson Pepper Fest and the JR Ranch Rodeos in the town of Hudson.

"The thing about Mr. Clapp is he was so well known. I grew up in Hudson and I remember as a kid going down to Second and Vine streets and catching a ride on the stagecoach he drove in the parades. I don't think he charged for the ride. A lot of kids, who are now in their 40s and 50s, remember Mr. Clapp and his stagecoach," Rose said.