Crime

Margaret Decker's will leads to double-murder/suicide in La Plata County?

Did a dispute over a will left by Margaret Decker, seen here, lead to a double murder and a suicide involving members of her family?

That's the working theory of La Plata County authorities looking into the deaths of Billie Decker, Robert "Duke" Decker and Wiilliam Klatt Decker, with William suspected of killing the first two before hanging himself.

According to an obituary published by the Durango Herald, Margaret died at her Hesperus home on April 6 at age 89. She moved to the Durango area when she was only ten years old, ultimately graduating from Durango High School before marrying a local boy, Bill Decker, in October 1941. The two became ranchers, with Maggie, as she was known, in charge of cooking for the crew. And while she lost Bill in 1980, she still had her two kids -- William, who settled down in La Plata, New Mexico, and his younger sister, Billie, who put down roots in Durango.

A celebration of Maggie's life was reportedly held at Redmesa Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 5 -- but in the month or so that followed, something went terribly wrong between William, 69, and Billie, 67. And according to a La Plata Sheriff's Office spokesman quoted by the Herald, the bad blood was fueled by William's unhappiness over the distribution of Maggie's will. Law enforcers aren't certain when precisely this situation came to a head -- Thursday or Friday of last week, probably. But what's known for sure is that at about 1:40 p.m. on June 8, deputies arrived at the Deckers' farm, located south of Redmesa but about a half-mile north of the Colorado-New Mexico border. There, they found William in a barn. He'd hanged himself, but not before presumably leaving notes that led them to the body of Robert Decker, Billie's forty-year-old son, in a shallow grave on the property.

Robert had been shot, and his corpse also showed evidence of blunt trauma to the head. One of his feet could be seen protruding from freshly dug dirt.

Next, authorities headed to Billie's Durango home -- and their worst fears about her were soon realized. She, too, was dead, having been strangled in addition to suffering blunt head trauma.

There's little suspense about who was responsible, given that William died after Billie and Robert. Their grim ending couldn't be further removed from the description Billie offered of Maggie in the obituary. "She was a free spirit with a generous heart, quick wit and keen sense of humor," she said.

And she certainly didn't deserve the sort of legacy that followed her death by mere weeks.

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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Jerod Reeves admits to sawing fingers off dead shooter in murder-suicide to get gun."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts