20 Years After Mayor and Wife Killed, Neighbor Confesses
Nov. 29, 1995
LAKE CITY, Minn. (AP) _ Twenty years after a small-town mayor and his wife were shot to death, a former next-door neighbor has come forward and confessed he murdered them when he was 14 to see what it was like to kill.
John Claypool, 34, kept the secret until his conscience could bear it no longer, investigators said.
``Thanks to the Almighty for giving John Claypool the guidance and resolve to do what was right and come forward, ending the years of doubt, uncertainty and frustration,'' Nick O'Hara, supervisor for the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said Wednesday.
Claypool was jailed and was expected to plead guilty to second-degree murder in the slayings of Wilmer and Verona Strickland, who were found dead in their house on Dec. 21, 1975, in this town about 60 miles southeast of Minneapolis.
Under state guidelines, Claypool could serve about 10 years in prison.
Authorities said he told them he was high on marijuana and drunk the night of the killings. ``And he was curious to find out what it was like to kill somebody,'' said County Attorney James Nordstrom.
Claypool went to his neighbors' home around 2 a.m. and told them he was locked out of his house. When they let him in, Claypool shot Strickland with a .22-caliber rifle, then went to a bedroom and shot Mrs. Strickland at close range as she huddled between a bed and the wall, police said.
The Stricklands' son was dropping off Christmas presents when he found the bodies.
Claypool was one of the original suspects in the case, but there was never enough evidence to charge him, authorities said.
The unsolved killings were assigned to a ``cold case'' unit in 1993. On Oct. 16, authorities trying to refocus attention on the case offered a $25,000 reward.
Rochester Police Sgt. Jack LeClair, a member of a task force working on the case, said he believes that when the case was reopened, Claypool became worried and decided to confess.
Residents of Lake City, a picturesque town of about 4,400 near the setting for the first book in the ``Little House on the Prairie'' series, were relieved that the case was solved.
``It was a very big shock to the community at the time,'' Police Chief Robert Schmidt told the Post-Bulletin of Rochester. ``It has been an issue that's been talked about yearly, it's never been dropped. It's always been on the minds of all the citizens.''