Eight months after police officer Tom Decker was murdered in Cold Spring, his killing remains unsolved.
Police investigators haven't said publicly whether they're any closer to closing the case, even though a man who killed himself after police sought to question him possessed the shotgun police say was used to kill Decker.
But family members for one of the initial suspects, Ryan Larson, say police have told them they're wrapping it up. Meanwhile, Larson has spent his time trying to clear his name. He has a file several inches thick with documents and articles about the case.
Larson said the arrest has taken a psychological toll. He moved from Cold Spring because he said he didn't feel comfortable walking around town. But he still lives in the area and feels as if he is constantly under suspicion.
"The only time I really go out is midnight trips to WalMart," Larson said. "The occasional disk golf game at a park where it ain't too busy... because I can't go out in public. I just feel like everyone's looking at me."
Decker, 31, was shot and killed Nov. 29, 2012. Police arrested Larson the night of the shooting, but released him a few days later because investigators said there wasn't enough evidence to file charges.
In January, police questioned a man named Eric Thomes, whom they identified as a person of interest. Thomes, who lived on the outskirts of Cold Spring, had already repeatedly been interviewed by police.
When they arrived on his property, Thomes fled into a building where he hanged himself, police said. During a search of a property police say "Thomes would've had access to," officers found the 20-gauge shotgun they say was used to kill Decker.
After Decker was killed, the investigation into his death gripped and disappointed the community. For weeks, discussion of the case was all over town.
But these days, residents are not hearing much about it anymore.
"I think people have moved on," said Cold Spring resident Roger Thomes, no relation to the Eric Thomes. "You don't hear much about it. People are wondering what's going on, but nobody knows ... It's not a daily conversation by any means. It's just that people talk."
“The down side is the arrest made early on -- the guy who in all probably was not involved. That's kind of a tough situation for him because that tends to follow him around.”Nick O'Hara, former state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension superintendent
While a sense of normalcy has returned to Cold Spring, Larson describes a life of seclusion, tired of feeling like a suspect.
"The last time I heard from any authorities as far as speaking with me, contacting me about the investigation was November 30th of 2012," he said.
That's the day after Decker was killed. Larson said he's contacted authorities for updates about the case, gleaning few details.
Larson's father, Kenneth Larson, said he asked Capt. Pam Jensen, an investigator with the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, for details on the investigation at the end of May.
"I wanted to know what was going on with this case, how come it wasn't closed and settled," the elder Larson said. "And (Jensen) had told me that everything was taken care of, that it would take a week, week and a half and all the paper work would be done and Ryan [would] not be a suspect anymore."
That's different from what Jensen is saying publicly.
"We haven't put out any new information to the public yet on it," Jensen said. "There's nothing that I can really comment on."
Former investigators say that in some cases, police close a case without anyone knowing exactly what happened.
"It's not unusual for a case to be resolved within a high degree of certainty, but not necessarily, absolutely resolved to a 100 percent certainty," said Nick O'Hara, former superintendent of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. "And I think that's the Decker case."
O'Hara, who also worked for the FBI for more than 30 years, said deciding when to close a case is a value judgment investigators and prosecutors make. In the Decker case, he said, everything points to Thomes -- the person of interest who killed himself in January.
"I don't know that anybody has any serious hang up about was this the guy that did Officer Decker or not," O'Hara said. "The down side is the arrest made early on -- the guy who in all probably was not involved. That's kind of a tough situation for him because that tends to follow him around."
O'Hara said it would be unusual for law enforcement to apologize to Larson -- even though that's exactly what Larson said he would like.