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CRIME

Ranch inheritance dispute blamed for 3 deaths

A Colorado man unhappy that he was being evicted after his mother died and left her ranch to her 40-year-old grandson apparently killed the grandson and the grandson's mother before killing himself, Durango police said Monday.

Police spokesman Dan Bender said police received a suspicious phone call from a farm about 30-miles southwest of Durango on Friday and found 69-year-old William Decker hanging from a rope in the barn. Notes left at the scene led them to the body of his nephew, Robert Decker, in a shallow grave on the property. Autopsy results indicate Robert was shot and beaten.

Police rushed to the home of Robert Decker's mother in Durango where they found her dead. She was identified as 67-year-old Billie Decker. An autopsy indicated she was strangled and beaten.

Bender said William Decker was apparently unhappy after his mother, Margaret, died in April and left her ranch to her grandson.

"She apparently thought the world of her grandson," Bender said.

Bender said William Decker had been served with an eviction notice and ordered to be off the property in 10 days.

Sylvia Nelson, of Lakewood, is Margaret Decker's sister and William Decker's aunt. She declined to comment Monday on the police investigation, saying the family knows what happened, and discussing it publicly wouldn't serve any good.

"It's a profound loss," Nelson said. "We've got to move on."

According to records filed with La Plata County officials, the 280-acre ranch property at that address was valued at just over $20,000 last year.

The coroner said William Decker climbed a ladder, put a noose around his neck, shot himself and then fell from the ladder.

According to Margaret Decker's obituary in The Durango Herald (http://bit.ly/MvMRoO), Margaret and husband Bill Decker started ranching at Vallecito but soon after made their permanent home south of Hesperus, where they raised sheep and crops.

"Maggie was always busy raising two children, cooking for crews, being a farmer and irrigator and helping at sheep camp," her family was quoted saying after her death. "She lived 67 years at the ranch and wouldn't live anywhere else."

Bill Decker died in 1980. At the time of her death, Margaret Decker was survived by her two children and a sister, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"It's a horrendous thing that has happened," Nelson said. "It has gathered us closer together."