Former Geary Co. Sheriff, Commissioner Remembered

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

GEARY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Members of law enforcement and other agencies in Geary County are remembering a lifelong resident who served his community for more than 40 years.

Former Geary County Sheriff and commissioner Bill Deppish passed away Saturday July 27, 2013 at the age of 80.

In the early 1970s Bill began working as a Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy for the Geary County Sheriff’s Department. By the late 1970s, he began working full-time for the Sheriff’s Department as Marshall and Fire Chief for the town of Milford.

Deppish eventually began working as a regular deputy for the Sheriff’s Department and in 1984 he ran for Sheriff of Geary County taking office in 1985. During his tenure he implemented an addition to the Geary County Detention Center, served as Geary County Fire Chief and oversaw several high-profile cases, some of which gained national attention.

One of the cases from the 1980s was turned into a TV movie called "Murder Ordained." Tom Bird, a Lutheran minister from Emporia, and his secretary, Lorna Anderson, began a love affair. Bird's wife was later found floating beneath a bridge in what looked like a car accident. But a state trooper became suspicious about the lack of skid marks and blood stains on the bridge.The official investigation stalled until Lorna's husband was also murdered by a masked man when the family stopped on K 177 in Geary County. Bird was tried for murder in Geary County but was acquitted. He was later convicted in Lyon County for his wife's murder. Lorna Anderson pleaded guilty to soliciting the murders of her husband and of Sandy Bird, the wife of Tom Bird. She was released from prison in 2007 after 21.5 years behind bars. Tom Bird was paroled in 2004 after 20 years in prison.

Another high-profile cases during Deppish's tenure as sheriff included the building of the Oklahoma City bomb by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh stayed at the Dreamland Motel in Grandview Plaza, rented a Ryder truck in Junction City and built the deadly bomb at the Geary State Fishing Lake off of US-77 inside the rental truck before driving it to Oklahoma City and detonating it.

Deppish was also sheriff when Christopher Wilson, 11, was killed by his neighbor's Rottweilers in a horrific attack in 1996. Wilson and his little brother were waiting for the bus in rural Geary County when the dogs got out of their pen and started chasing the little boys. The dogs were being trained to be attack dogs. Wilson managed to get his brother up into a tree but he didn't make it and was killing in front of his sibling and a school bus full of children which had arrived during the fatal mauling. The dogs were caught and put down. Their owner was convicted of second degree murder.

As sheriff Deppish also served at Geary County Rural Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director for the County. He served in various offices of the Kansas Sheriff’s Association including president and on the Training and Education Committee of KSA.

Deppish was one of the founding members of Sundown Salute, a major annual July 4th celebration that attracts thousands to Junction City each year.

Current Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf was hired by Deppish, who acted as Wolf's mentor. Wolf says Deppish started the process to modernize the department.

"Bill did a lot of good not just for the Sheriff’s Department but for the community as a whole. He was very instrumental in getting the rural fire department to where it is today. He was also instrumental in lots of activities within the community," Sheriff Wolf told WIBW.

In 1999, Deppish retired as Sheriff to take the office of Geary County Commissioner in 2000. He served two terms until 2008 and then continued work at Wal-Mart until October 2011.

He also served as president of the St. Xavier’s School Board and was a member of St. Xavier’s Church. He was also a huge K-State fan.

"The biggest thing about Bill is that he was such a community-minded person. He loved Junction City/Geary County. He was always involved in something. He was one of the co-founders of Sundown Salute way back in the 1970s when it first started and he saw to it that it was carried through and look where it’s at today with concerts and a three day event," said Jeanette DeMars with the Geary County Sheriff's Department.

"Law enforcement and fire department work were just his life. I think a lot of people are unaware of how much his family sacrificed for his service. He was gone a lot. He rolled out in the middle of the night for a call and was asleep at different times of the day to catch up when he could. He was just a very dedicated individual," she added.

A funeral mass for Bill Deppish will be said 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 31st, at St. Xavier’s Catholic Church.

The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, July 30th, at St. Xavier’s Church with a vigil to begin at 7:30 p.m.

Memorial contributions for Bill Deppish may be given to St. Xavier’s Schools, P.O. Box 399, Junction City, KS 66441 or Friends of Geary County Rural Fire Department, 236 E. Eighth St., Junction City, KS 66441. Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home, Junction City, is handling arrangements.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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