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A suspected burglary in 1977 ended with a man dead in his Woodinville home. The case is still unsolved

Fred Wills keeps the same phone number just in case the King County Sheriff's Office closes his father's case and needs to reach him.

WOODINVILLE, Wash. — Billy Wills was found dead in his Woodinville home 45 years ago.

A suspected burglary turned deadly when he was attacked by one or multiple suspects and shot on Feb. 15, 1977.

"From what I know, at the time, my father, he had the flu and he was spending time in the house and he told us the day before, he says, you know, I get these phone calls from people and I pick up the phone and there's nobody there. They hang up," Billy Wills' son, Fred Wills said.

Investigators told Fred that someone may have been casing the house by calling to see if anyone was home.

Credit: KING 5
The Wills' former family home

"They figured that my dad got up that morning, went out to get the mail and while he was doing that, they called and there was no answer," he said.

Fred said his dad went back into the house and took a nap.

"All of a sudden, the door gets knocked down and unfortunately, he got his gun out and they ended up having a confrontation," Fred said.

The gun Billy used to defend himself was the one he was killed with.

The house was located at 15700 Mink Road Northeast in Woodinville. 

Credit: Fred Wills
Photo of Billy Wills

When KING 5's Unsolved Northwest team asked the King County Sheriff’s Office for more information, they received a picture of the house and a short synopsis of the crime. They knew they needed more.

The University of Washington Library has an extensive collection of microfilm. Unsolved Northwest Producer Kendra Gilbert tracked down old newspaper articles from the now-defunct Northshore Citizen and the Seattle Post Intelligencer. 

In the articles, it revealed that it took 911 operators over 10 minutes to track where the call was coming from. 

Credit: KING 5

Investigators also thought there were multiple suspects involved. This is based on the fact that right before Billy's 911 call got cut off he said, "there are burglars in my house."

Original investigator on the case says authorities know things that 'they're not telling anyone'

As the Unsolved Northwest team was going over the articles, one name kept showing up. 

Retired Lieutenant Richard Kraske was an investigator with the King County Police Department, specializing in violent crimes and serial killers.

Over the years, Kraske took on cases like Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, as well as the 1977 death of Billy Wills.

"There's an innate curiosity, I think in all of us, that we want to know the final chapter on these kinds of things," Kraske said.

Kraske said that with the limited technology they had in the 70s, closing cases was harder to do. There was no DNA evidence, no electronic storing of case information, etc. 

When asked why this case hasn't been closed, Kraske said there is a whole list of possibilities.

"How do you close it? You file it and forget it. Go back to some of those cases. When was the last time it was checked if it's a closed case? Unless you've got a cold case squad, and that's a specific assignment, that thing probably hasn't been touched since the day it was put in the file."

Of the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, only 7% have dedicated cold case units. The King County Sheriff’s Office does not.

"I mean, there are things that happened that they're not telling anyone," Kraske said.

Kraske explained the importance of keeping some information from the public. He said the information that will provide what they call a "polyclue," that only the police and perpetrator know, would be hidden.

"If those were redacted and taken out, why couldn't other information be put out to the public?" He asked.

Fred Wills and his search for answers

It’s been 45 years since Fred lost his father.

"I kept my same phone number when I left there so that they knew how to get ahold of me. Hopefully, something someday will happen," Fred said.

Even though many years have passed, the wound still hurts.

"Most likely, the people that did it are gone, but it would be nice to answer some questions in our minds that bug us every day," he said.

Credit: KING 5
Newspaper clipping detailing Billy Wills' death

Even though they do not have a dedicated Cold Case unit, the King County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate this case. If you have any information about the murder of Billy Wills, you’re asked to give them a call at (206) 296-3311 or, leave a completely anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at p3tips.com. 

Missing person cases, murders and other mysteries are solvable. To submit a tip to the KING 5 Unsolved Northwest team, click here or fill out the form below.

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