BELMONT — More than two years after a pair of deaths, a fire and a manhunt gripped an Allegany County community, prosecutors said the case is heading to a trial.
Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, appointed as special prosecutor in the case, reported the murder charges against William J. Larson Jr., 19, are proceeding despite multiple delays.
Larson is accused of murdering his parents, William Larson Sr., 67, and Lisa Larson, 49, on Nov. 5, 2019, at their home on Courtney Hollow Road in the town of Clarksville near Obi.
On Nov. 21, the younger Larson allegedly lit a fire on a pool table in an attempt to cover up the deaths, later fleeing from law enforcement after firefighters discovered the bodies.
He was indicted in November 2019 on two counts of second-degree murder, a class A-1 felony; third-degree attempted arson, a class D felony; two counts of concealment of a human corpse, a class E felony; and three counts of tampering with physical evidence, a class E felony.
“We are now on the trial calendar with Judge (Terrance) Parker working our way toward trial on the murder charges,” Baker said.
The case has been delayed several times — first in February 2020 due to the passing of Allegany County First Assistant District Attorney Thomas Fuoco. In mid-March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic closed down much of the court system statewide for roughly a year. Only in late March of this past year did cases resume, while full court staffing did not return until the summer.
Baker added that a new private attorney recently took over Larson’s defense from the Allegany County Public Defender’s Office, with more delays expected as the attorney goes through evidence presented during the discovery phase of the case. Baker described the level of evidence turned over as “voluminous.”
Baker said he offered to Allegany County District Attorney Keith Slep to take over the prosecution after Fuoco’s death.
“It’s not an uncommon thing among DAs’ offices,” Baker said. “Weedon Wetmore from Chemung (County) came in and did a major homicide for me a few years ago when I had a conflict. We help each other when needed and when we can. Keith has covered a number of special prosecutor cases for me over the years both felony and misdemeanor.”
Baker is being assisted by Steuben County ADA Joseph Pelych.
A hearing in the fall led to a ruling that Larson’s statements to police, which were played in court in November 2019 during a preliminary hearing, would be allowed into evidence.
In the interview, Larson told investigators he killed his father, Larson Sr., but he claimed the elder Larson killed Lisa Larson in their home.
In the recording, Larson said he was awakened Nov. 5 by his father “ripping the door off” of his bedroom, his father was high on methamphetamines and had already killed Lisa Larson. With the elder Larson attempting to leave in a Chevrolet Blazer with a box of family valuables, the son claimed he fired a warning shot at the vehicle, striking the dashboard and windshield. He said he then fired a second shot, killing his father.
The preliminary autopsy report for the elder Larson indicates he was shot in the torso, as well as stabbed in the right lower chest, the middle of the left side of the chest and in the left flank. The cause of death was listed as multiple injuries. The autopsy report for Lisa Larson indicates she died from a single stab wound to the left side of her chest, which severed the pulmonary artery and aorta. She was also shot in the right leg.
Following the discovery of the bodies and contact with law enforcement by firefighters, Larson reportedly fled into the woods on foot. A manhunt, lasting until nightfall, involved dozens of state troopers, tactical teams, environmental conservation officers and forest rangers. Various techniques were used in the search, including K-9 units, a helicopter with infrared imaging equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles. Just before dark, Larson was picked up walking along a nearby road and was charged a few hours later.
Larson was housed in a juvenile holding facility until he turned 18 in 2020. He was then transferred to the Allegany County Jail.
He was charged by state police on Nov. 11 with first-degree possession of dangerous contraband in prison, a class D felony, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a class A misdemeanor. The charges stem from an incident reported July 31 in the Allegany County Jail.
Baker did not offer specifics on those charges, but said that case will head to a grand jury for potential indictment in the near future.