Cops work to solve cold ‘murder’ case
November 26, 2010
When Coalville rancher Bill Ercanbrack was mysteriously shot and killed October 28, 1976, some investigators believed it was a hunting accident.
That theory was soon ruled out and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office recently reopened the cold case because they believe someone in the county knows what happened. Nobody was ever arrested in Ercanbrack’s death.
"That was a possibility because it was deer season," Summit County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dean Carr said in a telephone interview.
But Ercanbrack was shot with a small rifle, not the kind typically used for killing game.
"The circumstances surrounding the scene didn’t indicate that it would be a stray bullet from a hunting rifle. People don’t go hunting with those kinds of small-caliber weapons," Carr said.
Ercanbrack was returning from a drive to Salt Lake City when he was shot outside his home near Chalk Creek Road.
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"We had witnesses who passed him both ways in Parleys Canyon. They saw his truck going down to Salt Lake and they saw his truck coming back," Carr said. "He drove up to his gate. It appears he got out of his truck and had opened the gate when he was shot in the back He died almost instantly."
Carr says Ercanbrack was murdered.
"In this close-knit community everybody knew everybody. Everybody knew what everybody else was doing," Carr said. "This wasn’t a hit that was brought in out of Chicago or anything like that. There is no doubt in my mind that it has local overtones."
Blaine Ercanbrack said his father was 47 years old when he was shot and killed.
"We’ve gotten over it for the most part. It’s just one of those things that is always there. You just wish that feeling would go away," Blaine Ercanbrack said in a telephone interview. "If we could find out who and why they did what they did, me and my brothers and sisters would feel a lot better."
Blaine was 16 years old when his father was shot. His siblings were between the ages of 14 and 22.
"Why and who are our biggest questions," Blaine said. "They have given us a little bit of hope. They’ve reopened it and they are following some leads. We’re hoping that somebody just might stumble onto the story and maybe somebody will come forward at this point in time and say something."
The deputies in the 1970s conducted a poor investigation into his father’s death, Blaine said.
"We’re seeing more being done 34 years later than we did probably the day it occurred," he added.
Carr said investigators did not spend enough time probing the death.
"I’m frustrated because an adequate investigation was not done at the time," Carr said. "Back in the ’70s we weren’t in the dark ages of law enforcement. We had really good investigators back in that day. They just didn’t dig. "
The gunman might have been across the street when he shot Ercanbrack.
"The individual who shot him was standing across the road and had placed the gun on a fence post that had a v-shape at the top. He was able to rest the barrel of the gun in that v-shape. That’s probably where the shot came from," Carr explained. "The possibility exists that it was a contract killing This is a lay-in-wait kind of situation. There were bushes and that kind of stuff that kept the individual out of sight. Somebody driving up the road like Bill Ercanbrack was driving wouldn’t have noticed anybody."
Ercanbrack was involved in a land dispute at the time, Carr said.
"Mr. Ercanbrack was well known and quite popular. He also had his share of enemies," he said. "He was a divorced individual and was quite popular with the women. So there might have been a jealousy thing."
Today investigators are searching for two people Ercanbrack had a confrontation with about a year before he was shot.
"Mr. Ercanbrack had a run in with a couple of young men who were trespassing on his property during the deer season. They had cut some fences while they were hunting and he found their vehicle on his property. He took the coil wire out of the truck and in the snow they were able to track him down and they confronted him with guns," Carr said. "[Ercanbrack] lured them into going to his home on the pretext he was going to give them their coil wire back and then he got the drop on them with a gun. Those are people of interest to us obviously."
The men received trespassing citations but investigators have found no record of the case in the County Courthouse.
"We need that person who has direct knowledge of what happened," Carr said. "We’re hoping that by going public with it that somebody will come forward and get us off of dead center."