Constable William Wathen

Constable William Wathen

Boone County Sheriff's Department, Nebraska

End of Watch Sunday, October 3, 1937

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William Wathen

Constable William Wathen and Sheriff Lawrence Smoyer were shot and killed while investigating a farmer's report of two suspicious men hiding behind haystacks in his meadow, 23 miles northwest of Albion.

The two men opened fire when the officers approached them. Sheriff Smoyer died at the scene and Constable Wathen succumbed to his wounds five months later.

In 1965 a monument was erected as a tribute to both officers on the spot where they were killed.

The case remained unsolved until October 2017 when the child one of the suspects contacted authorities and provided additional details of the crime. Authorities determined there was enough evidence to try both suspects had they still been living. Neither suspect was ever charged in the slayings, although Nebraska authorities went as far as obtaining an arrest warrant for one of them in 1938. But by then, the suspect had pled guilty to an unrelated bank robbery in Colorado and was sent to prison. Under the law of the time, he could not be extradited to face more serious charges in Nebraska.

Constable Wathen was survived by his wife and two daughters.


  • Age 54
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Incident Date Thursday, June 17, 1937
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Deceased

suspicious person

Most Recent Reflection

View all 7 Reflections

Constable Wathen is a distant cousin of mine. I am proud to be able to call him cousin, but even prouder for his service to his community. It saddens me that William's family - as well as the family of Sheriff Smoyer - never received justice for the murders. I consider both men as American Hero's.

Jennifer M. Wathen
2nd cousin 3x removed

March 22, 2019

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