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Paul Douglas Barnett has been Sheriff of Gilliam County since 1981 following his election to the office in November 1980. He was born on Dec. 27, 1950 in The Dalles.
After Barnett graduated from Condon High School, he served for two years in the United States Air Force in the early 1970s, spending some time in Vietnam.
He came back to Condon in 1972 to run the family's 3,500-acre wheat ranch for a short time. After his father died he moved to the Eugene area to attend Lane Community College.
Barnett was hired as a Corrections Officer in Polk County, where he worked in 1973 and 1974 before moving back to Condon. He ran for Sheriff in 1976 against Volney Thomas, but was defeated. Thomas retired in 1980 and Barnett ran for Sheriff again, this time winning the election.
Barnett runs a department with two resident Deputies - one in Arlington and the other in Condon. Gilliam County has less than 2,000 people and is spread out over some 1,200 square miles.
Barnett and his wife, Candy, have four young children.
Joseph A. Blakely was appointed as the first Sheriff of Gilliam County, taking office in 1886 after the county was established on Feb. 25, 1885 from a portion of Wasco County.
The county was named for Col. Cornelius Gilliam, a veteran of the Cayuse Indian War. The first county seat was located in Alkali, which is now Arlington. During the general election of 1890, however, voters chose to move the county seat to Condon, which was known to the early settlers as Summit Springs. A brick courthouse built in Condon in 1903 was destroyed in a fire in 1954 and the present courthouse was built on the same site in 1955.
The county covers 1,223 square miles and has only 1,800 residents. It is located in the heart of the Columbia Basin wheat area. The economy is based on agriculture and the average size of a farm in Gilliam County is 4,200 acres. Wheat and barley rank as the top crops in the county. Raising cattle ranks second followed by sheep.
The County offers a variety of climates and atmospheres with elevations of nearly 3,000 feet near Condon dropping to 385 feet at Arlington, which is only 38 miles away. Hunting, fishing and tourism are important secondary industries.
Blakely, the county's first Sheriff, had two brothers who were Sheriffs. William Blakley, who spelled his name different from his brothers, was Sheriff of Umatilla County from 1902 to 1920 and James Blakely was the second Sheriff of Crook County, serving from 1884 to 1886.
Joseph Blakely spent the first two years as Sheriff of the new county until E.W. Sanderson was elected in 1888 and served until 1890.
In 1890, William L. Wilcox was elected Sheriff after spending time as a state legislator in 1888. He resigned in March 1902. Wilcox was born in Washington County and was a businessman and rancher in Gilliam County.
Tom G. Johnson became Sheriff in July after winning the election, spending four years as Sheriff of the county before Ray M. Rogers was elected to the office. Born on Dec. 17, 1874, near Corvallis, Rogers served two consecutive two-year terms. He was a Deputy Sheriff in the county for four years prior to his election. He graduated from Oregon Agriculture College and after leaving the Sheriff's Office, he was a cashier at the Condon National Bank for 12 years.
George Elmer Montague, a native of Junction City, Kansas, was elected to two terms following Johnson, serving as Sheriff of Gilliam County from 1911 to 1915. Montague was a farmer who owned a ranch near Arlington. While serving as Sheriff, he headed up the investigation of two murders the killing of Virgil Hart by Bob Morgan and the murder of Cora Myers Grider by her husband, Wayne Grider.
John William "Will" Lillie was elected to three, two-year terms, serving as Sheriff of the county from 1915 to 1921. After leaving Gilliam County, he was a Deputy Warden and later Warden under Gov. W.M. Pierce at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Lillie became warden after leading a posse to track down three convicts who had escaped from the prison after killing two guards and another prisoner.
Montague was back as Sheriff for four years after Lillie left, serving again as head of law enforcement in Gilliam County from 1921 to 1925 followed by M.V. "Mel" Logan, who was Sheriff from 1925 to 1933.
Frank Edward Bennett was elected to four, four-year terms beginning in 1933 and ending in 1949. He was born in Goshen in Lane County on Sept. 7, 1882 and later moved to Gilliam County. His education ended in the eighth grade because there was no high school in the county at the time. Before he was elected to the Sheriff's post, he hauled freight and owned the first truck in Gilliam County. He hauled wool from April to July each year and wheat from July to late fall.
After Bennett's four terms were up, Harold A. Stinchfield was elected as Sheriff until 1953. He was the nephew of Malcolm Keys, Sheriff of Wheeler County for 30 years.
Stinchfield was followed by a man who ended up serving seven consecutive terms as Sheriff of Gilliam County. Volney Thomas, who also was a cousin of Sheriff Keys, was elected in 1953 and served until 1981. However, Keys served more terms as Sheriff than Thomas.
Thomas was born in Fossil on Feb. 29, 1920. He spent some time in the United States Marne Corps in the 1940s after graduating from Wheeler County High School. Thomas is involved in a number of local clubs, including the Condon Elks, American Legion, Masons and Eastern Star.
Thomas ran against an opponent in each of the seven elections he was involved in, including five opponents the first time he ran. Prior to running for Sheriff, he was a logger and owned a cattle ranch.
When Thomas first came to office, the population of Gilliam County was nearly double what it is today because of an Air Force Base located in the county, which later closed. The Sheriff's Office was a one-man operation with the help of reserves.
In his 28 years with the Sheriffs Ofrice, Thomas saw only one murder trial. There had been one other murder in the county, but the suspect committed suicide before the trial.
Paul Douglas Barnett, Gilliam County's current Sheriff, was elected to the position in 1981.
Body In The Barn
Volney Thomas didn't know what to make of it at first. Here was the body of LeRoy Wine, an elderly Gilliam County farmer, partially buried in a pile of hay in an old, mn-down barn 3 1/2 miles north of Olex, with two bullet wounds and a short piece of rope tied around one leg.
The veteran Gilliam County Sheriff had seen some strange things in his nearly three decades of law enforcement, but this had to be one of the strangest.
Wine had been reported missing Sept. 25, 1977. But few people in Gilliam County suspected any foul play since both his pickup truck and his young, 17-year-old companion, Richard Bernard Dahl, also were missing. The two had been close friends ever since Wine's wife left him to return to her hometown of Moses Lake, Wash., an incident which only fueled the growing romors about an intimate relationship between Wine and Dahl.
But on Oct. 15, two teenage boys hunting for birds found Wine' s body in a pile of hay inside an old barn and rushed to the home of Dolores Weatherford to repoff their startling find. Weatherford called Thomas with the news. Within 30 minutes, the Sheriff arrived at the scene. He found that Wine had been shot once in the shoulder and once in the back of the head by someone wielding a shotgun. That was a lot easier to explain than the small piece of rope still tied around Wine' s leg.
The investigation immediately turned to Richard Dahl. Both he and Wine's pickup truck were still missing, and Thomas figured there had to be a connection. He was right.
Investigators discovered Dahl, who had previously worked as a farm hand in California before hiring on at Wine's farm, had been stopped by an Oregon State Patrol trooper on Sept. 26 on Interstate 80 west of Arlington. Dahl was cited for having defective tail lights and no registration on the vehicle he was driving -- the old pickup truck belonging to LeRoy Wine.
Dahl was released, pending a court appearance. He never showed up in court, but police in Long Beach, Calif., arrested Dahl in mid-October on an OSP warrant. He was flown to Portland on Oct. 21, 1977. Sheriff Thomas arrived in Portland the following day to take Dahl back to Gilliam County to face a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of LeRoy Wine.
The investigation revealed Dahl had killed Wine in an apparent fit of jealous rage. Wine, who reportedly accused Dahl of abusing and molesting his son, told Dahl he was going back to his wife who had left him sometime earlier to return to Moses Lake.
During his trial in Gilliam County Circuit Court, the prosecution contended Dahl had shot Wine in the shoulder the night of Sept. 25, 1977, while Wine was sleeping in his bed, then followed the wounded farmer outside where he finished the job by firing a shot into the back of Wine' s head.
He then tied a rope around Wine's leg, attached it to the bumper of Wine' s pickup and dragged the body about 400 yards to the old, abandoned barn where he cut the rope and buried Wine in the haystack.
A 12-member jury convicted Dahl of first-degree murder on Feb. 9, 1979. Judge Gordon W. Sloan on April 2, 1979, sentenced Dahl to life in prison. Two days later, Sheriff Thomas personally escorted Dahl to the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem to begin his prison term.
Dahl was later released on parole. At last report, he was working on a ranch in Klamath County.
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