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Appleton cops inspect bar plumbing in murder case

  • Associated Press
  • March 9, 2014 - 10:35 AM

APPLETON, Wis. — Law enforcement officials say they have exhausted all efforts to recover a handgun thought to be used in the shooting of a 25-year-old man in an Appleton nightclub, including taking apart some of the club's plumbing system.

Chong Lee, 28, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and possessing a firearm as a felon in the death of Joshua Richards, of Green Bay, at Luna Lounge on Dec. 8.

Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider said Appleton police made significant efforts to find the gun.

"We'll keep following up on any other leads at this point, but for the information we have, we've pursued it as far as we could," she told Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1kFLfi0).

Joe Thor, a friend of Lee, told police that Lee said he ran to the nearby Shark's Club and flushed the gun down the toilet, court records said.

Investigators examined all 22 billiards tables at the downtown pool hall and the bar's plumbing system.

"Police pulled the contents of our sewage storage pit and found a cellphone," Phil Moore, manager of the bar, told Post-Crescent Media. "I personally don't think (Lee) ever brought the gun down here. I don't think there's any way a gun traveled through those pipes."

The bar's plumbing system funnels to a 2-inch pipe before entering the city's wastewater treatment system, Moore said.

Chris Shaw, Appleton's utilities director, said he doesn't think the gun could be flushed and travel through the sewers.

"A heavy solid is very difficult to move through plumbing," Shaw said. "Anything heavy that gets flushed, like diamond rings, don't travel very far and are often located within the building where they were lost."

Schneider said the absence of the weapon doesn't cripple the case.

Prosecutors have already laid out pieces of their case during pretrial hearings: video footage that police say puts Lee at the scene, interviews with eyewitnesses who say he was the shooter, admissions to friends that Lee "point-blanked" Richards and accusations of making jailhouse pleas to witnesses to not testify against him.

© 2014 Star Tribune