SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – At the bottom of a dirt road a few miles north of Coalville, a Summit County rancher was gunned down. It was originally thought to be a hunting accident. Then detectives focused on a land and water dispute. No one has ever been arrested in connection with this case. Now, the case is open again and two veteran investigators are trying to solve the mystery of who killed William Ercanbrack.
Bill Ercanbrack was a farmer, a rancher, and a landowner here in Summit County, known for his work ethic and well-respected in the community. All that makes the mystery surrounding his death more baffling. Why would anybody want him dead?
"This is the place he was killed, next to the gate," says Bill Ercanbrack, Junior. The rugged farmer and rancher chokes back the emotion as he recounts the day his father was killed.
“It’s been a long time but it’ll always be there – the emotion,” he says, his eyes welling up. “It’ll always be there."
"I was in total shock that the father we grew up around our whole entire life had been killed,’ says Blaine Ercanbrack, the younger son who was 16 years old when his father was gunned down.
For 34 years, the family has been tortured by two questions:
"Who and why would somebody do something like this?" says Blaine.
Summit County Sheriff’s investigator Mike Wilkinson came out of retirement to work the case that for decades had been cold.
"It would appear there was somebody that laid in wait for bill across the street," he explains as he points to the exact spot where the gunman stood when he shot Ercanbrack.
It was about noon on October 26, 1976. Ercanbrack had gotten out of his truck to open the gate to his road. From behind a juniper bush 294-feet, 8-inches away came one shot. It hit William Ercanbrack in the middle of his back.
“Nobody deserves to be shot in the back," says Bill Junior.
"Shooting a man in the back? Why?” says Blaine, straining to hold back his emotions. “What coward would do that?"
Investigators are focused on two trespassers who encountered Ercanbrack a year before the murder. William had fond their truck parked on his property. He knew someone was poaching dear on his land. He disabled their truck by taking the coil wire out of the engine. Wilkinson recounts what happened next.
“They were armed and he wasn’t. He went back to his house under the guise of getting the coil wire and he got a bigger gun than they had."
William called the county sheriff who lived nearby. The men were cited for trespassing. Wilkinson and his partner say they’ve turned the Coalville courthouse upside-down. They find no record of the incident. To find them, someone has to come forward.
"Coalville is a small place,” says Summit County Sheriff David Edmunds. “Coalville was an even smaller place 40 years ago, so I have long believed in this particular case that there’s somebody in the community that knows something about this," he says.
For family members, a lead that solves this case would be a long awaited relief.
“It would be nice if they’re come forward after this long,” says Bill Junior. “It would never bring our father back. For me and my brother and my sisters it would help."
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