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Police say missing man found alive and well

  • Associated Press
  • May 12, 2014 - 9:20 PM

JANESVILLE, Wis. — A missing Janesville man turned up alive in northern Wisconsin on Monday, easing fears that he would be the third person to mysteriously turn up dead in the city this month.

Investigators have been scrambling since 28-year-old Clayton Courtney allegedly told his roommate on May 4 that he had killed three people that night. Since then, Courtney's girlfriend and an elderly woman have both turned up dead. Police are calling Courtney a suspect in his girlfriend's death but haven't ruled whether the elderly woman's death was a homicide.

Fears were mounting that Gerald Hockensmith might be dead, too, after he was reported missing on Wednesday. But Janesville Police Chief David Moore told reporters at a news conference Monday that surveillance footage from a northern Wisconsin bank showed Hockensmith alive and well just hours earlier.

Moore declined to say exactly where Hockensmith was found. He apparently left for northern Wisconsin on short notice and it's unclear how long he planned to stay there, the chief said.

"We were doing the math," Moore said. "We had an individual in this community who said he'd killed three people. It is with some relief that we know Mr. Hockensmith is still alive and with us."

Detectives still have plenty of work to do. Moore said Courtney's roommate has changed his story, saying Courtney said he killed three people but didn't say he did it all in one night and offered no time frame. Now they're piecing together Courtney's background over years, the chief said.

"We still take Mr. Courtney at his word that he's killed three people," Moore said.

Police arrested Courtney on May 4 after his roommate's girlfriend called 911 and said Courtney was "going crazy," tearing apart the kitchen and fighting with her boyfriend. Officers arrived to find the roommate, Michael Clark, stabbed in the shoulder and foot and the kitchen splattered with blood, according to a criminal complaint.

Courtney tried to flee but officers caught him after a short foot chase. They found a steak knife in Courtney's coat and a rock in his pants pocket, the complaint said.

Clark told The Associated Press that Courtney was his best friend and had been living with him for three months, paying $300 a month in rent.

He said he wasn't trying to mislead investigators, and that they apparently misunderstood what he had tried to tell them. He said he told them that during the fight, Courtney told him he had killed three people and that everyone was going to die that night. Police apparently thought he told them Courtney said he had killed three people in one night.

He still doesn't understand what drove Courtney to tear apart the kitchen and attack him, he said.

"He's always known I'd do anything to help him," Clark said. "What he did, I just don't understand."

Officers found Brittany Cross, Courtney's 21-year-old girlfriend, dead behind a former furniture store the next morning. She died of a blunt-force injury to the head.

On Friday, officers found 75-year-old Mary Coulthard's body in the Rock River. An autopsy revealed she had drowned. However, Moore said Monday that further results show she suffered an injury before she entered the water. He wouldn't elaborate, saying only that the wound was significantly different than Cross' injury.

Courtney faces multiple charges, including attempted homicide, in connection with the stabbing incident but hasn't been charged in Cross or Coulthard's deaths. His attorney, Megan Reed, didn't immediately return an email message.

Janesville, a blue-collar city of 63,500, is about 40 miles southeast of Madison.

© 2014 Star Tribune