Four months after Cold Spring police officer Thomas Decker was shot and killed in an alley, his widow, his ex-wife and two of his brothers are haggling over who should control the money donated to his family.
Stearns County District Judge John Scherer has scheduled a Monday morning hearing to sort out the dispute that centers on an undisclosed sum contributed by the public to a series of banks after Thomas Decker’s death.
Widow Alicia Decker is asking the court to give her half the donated money, while the officer’s four young children divvy up the other half, or 12.5 percent each. Ex-wife Rebecca Decker, who has custody as the children’s mother, argues that Alicia Decker and each child should receive 20 percent of the donated funds.
A mediation hearing to quell the dispute last month “unfortunately and quite sadly, was not successful,” the ex-wife’s lawyer, Andrew Steil, wrote to the judge. Steil insisted that Rebecca Decker is “deeply saddened” to have to go to court but that she “has no choice but to make sure the children receive their equal share of the memorial funds.”
Among the other issues pending is whether donated money should be used to cover travel expenses so Thomas Decker’s children can travel to Washington, D.C., in May when the slain officer’s name will be added to a national memorial.
In a flurry of court documents, Alicia Decker says she was singled out in the officer’s will as his personal representative. They were married nearly 14 months before he was shot.
Steil argues that because the memorial funds flowed in after the officer’s death, they are not part of his estate.
The court documents reflect the heated acrimony between the two women, with the ex-wife insisting that Thomas Decker had been married to Alicia Decker for such a short time that “the children barely know her, have not asked to see her since Decker’s death and are unlikely to have a relationship with her in the future.”
Steil, who declined to answer questions about the dispute, went on to say in court papers that the widow “lacks the sophistication” to oversee the funds.
Insisting that she has been able to “regain as much normalcy as possible” since the “shocking nature” of Thomas Decker’s death, Alicia Decker initially said that she was ready to take control of the money and that she is “extremely concerned about the security of ... so many funds coming from so many sources with no one in charge of it all.”
She has since changed her stance, agreeing to let an independent trustee manage the funds. The widow says she is sad that she’s been unable to visit the children since the officer’s funeral. She accuses the ex-wife of blocking her calls and relaying a “nasty” message to quit calling.
Two of the officer’s brothers, Eddie Decker and Larry Decker, also filed court papers, volunteering to serve as trustees who would ultimately allocate the funds to the four children.
“Without blaming either Alicia Decker or Rebecca Decker, the fact is that their relationship has never been good and regretfully appears to have gotten ever worse since our brother’s death,” they state in an affidavit.
They go on to argue that Alicia Decker has a conflict of interest, even though her “intentions are good,” and that if she becomes the trustee, it will “result in further disputes with the children’s mother.”
Alicia Decker opposes the brothers’ involvement, saying “the money will be used as a trade-off for visitation time.”
Thomas Decker, 31, was shot in the head Nov. 29 in a dark alley behind a Cold Spring bar on Main Street as he responded to a call about a potentially suicidal man living upstairs.
The investigation is still ongoing, according to Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokeswoman Jill Oliveira. “We’re still in the process of working through the investigation and hope to be moving along to the next phase soon,” Oliveira said.
Ryan Larson, the initial suspect who lived over the bar, was jailed but released because of insufficient evidence. He awaits sentencing May 7 after pleading guilty to an unrelated felony charge in Wright County, where he’s accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend.