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89-year-old ex-lawman man denies 1935 killing

SAINT IGNATIUS, Mont. -- An 89-year-old retired detective of the Spokane, Wash. police department, says he had nothing to do with the killing 54 years ago of another lawman.

Clyde Ralstin's name surfaced in the re-opened investigation of the Sept. 14, 1935, killing of George Conniff, town marshall of Newport, in Washington's Pend Oreille County.

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'It's all hogwash,' Ralstin said, waving his hand-carved willow cane to emphasize the point.

Ralstin said he had nothing to do with the slaying and, 'I don't even recall it.'

'This whole thing is just hearsay from guys that stray from the truth so easy,' he said.

Ralstin was a Spokane detective at the time of the killing, committed when Marshal Conniff surprised three men burglarizing a Newport creamery.

Conniff was shot four times with bullets from a .32-caliber handgun - the same gun that former Spokane police officer Dan Mangan claimed last April was dropped into the Spokane River.

Mangan said he saw his partner Ralstin toss the weapon into the river, and claimed he and his partner had been ordered by a supervisor to dispose of the gun after being told 'Ralstin was in trouble.'

A rusty handgun, appearing to be a .32-caliber, was found in the river just behind the Monroe Street Dam in downtown Spokane last month when the water level was lowered.

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Pend Oreille County Sheriff Tony Bamonte, who believes the gun is the murder weapon, dusted off the old investigative files of the Newport killing last year while researching a master's thesis. The files listed Ralstin as a possible suspect.

News publicity about the case led to Mangan coming forward with the story of the gun, and Conniff's survivors have appealed to Ralstin to confess.

'We appeal to your sense of humanity to tell us what really happened,' they said in a letter to Ralstin.

But Ralstin has been tight-lipped, refusing to talk to Bamonte and telling Conniff's survivors through his attorney that he is innocent.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review and Spokane Chronicle, Ralstin and his wife said he is innocent.

'The Lord and I know that I never was in that town of Newport, that I never set foot there,' said Ralstin, who moved to Montana in 1970.

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