HARDIN — The patrol cars stretched one after another, a fitting procession as the body of fallen Big Horn County Sheriff Darrell King was escorted back to Hardin on Monday, November 20, 2023.
King died in a two-vehicle crash on Sunday (see below).
“You couldn’t ask for a better son, a better brother, a better father. He was one of the greatest men I ever had the privilege of knowing,” said King's brother Mark Denny at Bullis Mortuary in Hardin.
Denny says his older brother was his mentor and a man who made it his mission to make the world a better place.
“He always wanted to find a way to help the community and when he said he was going to run for sheriff, we all agreed he would be the greatest sheriff ever,” Denny said.
The list of King's accomplishments could fill a novel. He was a U.S. Marine who served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.
“He was proud of that. He was proud to be a military man. And like I said, he wore it on his sleeve everyday,” said Denny.
Crow tribal elected senator Pat Alden Jr. says that’s partly why King was elected, as the community knew he would get the job done.
“He’s been instrumental on the law enforcement side in curbing the issues of lack of law enforcement in the county and the reservation,” Alden Jr. said.
Alden says King was also one of the community’s biggest cheerleaders, even sending processions of patrol cars to accompany Hardin High School teams whenever they would win.
“Once volleyball came, he had over ten squad cars, law enforcement escorting them into town. Things like that, a phone call away. He loved his community and wanted to get involved,” said Alden Jr.
Darrell is survived by his parents Lucille and Oliver, his wife Mary and his two daughters, Kateri and Delphine but he was a friend to anyone who knew him
“He didn’t make friends, he made family. So everyone that got to know him eventually became a brother, sister, mother, and father,” Denny said.
It’s a loss that will take time to heal.
“He cared for everyone. And the legacy he leaves, I mean it’s going to be hard to fill. And I think that’s why it hurts so much," said Denny.
Big Horn County commissioners appointed Undersheriff Jeromie Middlestead to take over following the death of King. Middlestead will serve in an interim role until a permanent sheriff is named; hat person will serve until December 31, 2024.
In the November 2024 election, Big Horn County voters will select a new permanent sheriff to serve the remainder of King's four-year term, according to the county.
(1st REPORT) Big Horn County Sheriff Darrell King died in a two-vehicle crash on Sunday, November 19, 2023.
According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the crash happened at about 5 p.m. on U.S. Highway 212 near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, which is just east of Crow Agency.
King's mother Lucille Yarlott confirmed to MTN News on Monday morning that her son died in the crash.
King, 55 years old, was sworn in as the Big Horn County Sheriff in January 2023 after being elected last year.
Yarlott said her son spent most of his career in law enforcement after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
King worked as a prosecutor in Lame Deer, Yarlott said, and was also employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the La Paz County Sheriff's Office in Arizona during his career.
The Montana Highway Patrol on Monday released the following information:
As part of the investigation, it was determined that a commercial motor vehicle collided head-on with a passenger vehicle being driven by Sheriff King, which was not a Big Horn County vehicle. He was pronounced deceased at the scene. Speed and impairment do not appear to be factors in the crash, which remains under investigation.
There is no word at this point on whether anyone else was injured in the crash.