Family, Friends & Fellow Officers Remember...

Deputy Sheriff Thad Dewitt West

Ector County Sheriff's Office, Texas

End of Watch Thursday, February 27, 1958

Leave a Reflection

Reflections for Deputy Sheriff Thad Dewitt West

UPDATE 11-2-2016

Deputy West's name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on May 13th, 2017. Approx. 59 years after his death.

richard v dickson
Ector County Sheriff's Office

November 3, 2016

The Ector County Sheriff's Office is actively seeking relatives of Thad West to aid in the addition of Deputy West to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Please call the Ector County Sheriff's Office at 432-335-3050 Ext. 2083 with information

Sgt. R.V. Dickson
Ector County Sheriff's Office

June 29, 2016

A Sunny Day 1958
(1986 words)
The winter of 1957/1958 in Odessa, Texas was a cold and bitter one, especially with the wind. But that time of year folks in these parts are thinking about summer. It’ll warm up about the end of March and things’ll be good again. Not like up north where their families came from and warmth doesn’t hit till June.
Folks in this part of the world think about work and hot summer nights when they do get a day off. Ya folks around here work, that’s just what they do. That’s why you find the kind of people here that would take a hard day’s work for a hard day’s pay over a life where you could go fishing and hunting but not have a steady income. Sure some of them dreamed about a place where they could make good money and go fishing and hunting anytime they wanted, but those places don’t exist. You can have one or you can have the other, but you can’t have both.
My Daddy loved it in Odessa, there was work here. Not just some work but lots of work and my daddy was a work addict. Most daddies in Odessa loved to work; cause if they didn’t love to work there wasn’t much else to keep them here.
Odessa brought lots of folks from all over the world just for that reason, work. That word brought in some of the finest people that ever drew a breath, people that raised roofs on houses and churches and businesses and raised fine families that can be found here still, yep working and working hard.
That word also brought another kind to town then as today. Those that wanted what work had to offer. Not good solid jobs and opportunities, but victims and people to take advantage of. Where a good liar, thief and cheat could hide in amongst those that worked and give all the appearances to the folks back home that they were “making it” instead of “taking it”, like they’d always been known to do.
Times in the country were hard but that time in Odessa was as big a time as ever. Things were booming like they do here ever so often. New schools were being built, home construction was up and of course the oil field was on a roll. My Daddy was helping build Permian High School and in a few months I’d be added to the population figures.
A young fellow named Thad West had made his way to Odessa in 1940 when he was stationed at Midland Army Air Field. Thad was born in Franklin County, Alabama, July 17, 1917 to William and Mary Jane West and had three brothers and two sisters. West Texas was a far cry from Franklin County up in the Northwest part of Alabama where a young fellow could hunt or fish till he was plumb sick of it. There were trees and lakes and creeks everywhere.
Thad, like lots of folks flying in to Midland Airfield these days, must have thought West Texas was an ugly, ugly place on first sight. Thad was a military policeman with the 90th Service Group and had no doubt spent a little time in Odessa, cornering drunken airmen at the local watering holes that Odessa was notorious for then and now. Odessa was a fun place to police in for Thad, there was plenty of work to do for the young adventurous policeman. After the Air Corp, Thad spent four and half years at the Odessa Police Department and had risen to Detective Captain. Thad had married Opal Lynn Ellis on September 4, 1942. Thad and Opal had three little girls by their sides while Thad made their living at the Odessa Police Department. Thad like most policemen then and now worked a second job to help makes ends meet. He had a little garage where he did front end work on cars, just off of West County Road. Folks thought of Thad as an easy going man who was smart. He could carry on a conversation with a doctor one minute and turn around and make the laborer who’d walked up part of the same conversation.

By 1956 though the lure of self employment and not taking orders from anyone, anymore sent Thad to Eugene, Oregon to try his hand at business. But by 1958 Thad was back in Odessa for that word…Work! Thad came back to Odessa to get busy on earning a living and left Mama and the girls back in the cold of Eugene till school was out and they could follow him back. It would be plenty nice and warm in West Texas by then.
They didn’t have a place for Thad back at the OPD, but the new Sheriff, Slim Gabriel did and Thad was hired as a detective for Slim on January 15th. Thad was glad to be back in Odessa. He loved the work for sure, but missed his girls. Slim was a hands on kind of sheriff and was known for knowing things as soon as they happened and for solving crime. Slim’s Ector County Sheriff’s Office kept up with things, so when Mrs. Sara Allen the supervisor over at the Child Welfare Office called about a couple trying to sell a baby girl, Slim was on top of it. He put Thad on the track and by the end of the day Thad had found a car that witnesses had described, over off the alley behind 511 N. Dotsy, just about 3 blocks from where Thad was staying at 410 McKinney. It was Mrs. Frank Matthews' apartments back behind her house. It was one of those days in West Texas that made you think you woke up in a different world, a warm and bright sunny day, totally opposite of the cold and bitter weather Odessa and the rest of the state was experiencing that year. Thad thought how nice it was to be back in Texas as he got out of his car and squinted at the bright sunshine on his face, and walked to the apartment.
Thad knocked on the door by the back alley, closest to the car but didn’t get an answer, so he went to the house and talked to Mrs. Matthews. Thad asked Mrs. Matthews about the car and the occupants of the apartment and she told him that there was a couple there by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Ledbetter and they had a young girl about 4 and a little baby girl. She said that the man was quite a bit older than the woman and she had her suspicions. Thad knew immediately he was on the right track. Mrs. Matthews told Thad that she knew that they were there inside the apartment, so Thad went back and gave that determined “police knock” on the door of the apartment.
A pretty little 18 year old girl named Patricia Ledbetter answered the door with a little girl by her side. Thad stepped in to talk to her and hadn’t been there anytime till her 36 year old boyfriend came out of the bathroom with a gun, shooting at Thad as he ran for a window to escape. Thad’s only words to him were No, No, No. Later Justice of the Peace Gene Nobles would pronounce Thad dead with a gunshot wound to the heart.
That set off one of the largest manhunts that Odessa has ever seen, before or since. Folks that knew Slim Gabriel could only imagine what kind of determination he had in leading over 100 law enforcement officers from 2 states to find the suspect, but everyone knew what the outcome would be. Bob McAlpine, a young motorcycle officer searched the area south of town, out where the chemical plant is now. Most everyone was searching that area because the killer’s car was found near a stock tank out that way.
So 15 hours later when Deputies Clyde Ray and Dave Collier knocked on the door at 208 East Pecos, the last street south in Odessa and G.F. “Jack” McMichael decided that he’d rather shoot it out with law enforcement than surrender, about ten officers out by the back fence were glad he did. As McMichael bolted out the back door he was ordered to stop, but he didn’t and the officers fired and McMichael went down. McMichael died like a rabid dog in the dirt of that backyard on Pecos Street. His pistol a 38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, hammer cocked and ready was found underneath his still twitching body. The fatal shot was delivered by a shotgun blast from Deputy, Howard Williams of the Ector County Sheriff’s Office. Officer Ben Miller recalled responding to the scene just after the smoke had cleared. Seems McMichael was an ex-convicted who’d done time in prison at Fort Leavenworth before he’d returned to Odessa with Patty Ledbetter. Odessa American reporter Jimmie Cotton must have been on the scene as he clearly described the events in the February 28th issue of the OA.
It took the girls a while to make it back down to Odessa as their train was delayed in Phoenix due to bad weather .Services for Thad were held on March 3rd 1958 at the Belmont Baptist Church in Odessa and Thad was laid to rest at the new Sunset Memorial Gardens. A donation bucket was placed at the courthouse to help the family out and by March 4th the contributions had grown to $1,500.00. One particular figure in Odessa, Pinkie Roden was seen dropping five one hundred dollar bills into the bucket himself. The Southwestern Bell employees and the First National Bank employees also took up donations as did the Odessa P.D. The Ector County Senior Bar Association came up with $100.00 and directed District Judge Paul McCollum to convey their deepest sympathy .Opal got another $1,000.00 from Thad’s life insurance policy as a deputy.
I took a trip to 511 N. Dotsy that is now abandoned and for sale and spoke to a neighbor who’d lived there for over 20 years, he had no idea who Thad West was or what had taken place there that day years ago. The old apartments out back are filled with junk and stray cats now and all memory of February 28th, 1958 is gone.
Our town has memorialized our five officers who were taken in these modern times, but what about Thad West? I’ve asked nearly one-hundred people that simple question; do you know who Thad West was? A few deputies had the answer but no one else.
So today February 28th, 2011 I just wanted folks in town to know the answer to the question, Do you know who Thad West was? Because, Thad Dewitt West, was Bill and Mary Jane’s boy from over in Franklin County, Alabama, who died in an alley apartment on Dotsy Street trying to protect a little baby girl he didn’t know, in the rough West Texas oil town of Odessa on an unusually bright, sunny day back in 1958.
Folks should also know that the spirit of Thad West still lives in the hearts of Odessa law enforcement officers to this very day. They should know that anyone of our officers and deputies would still gladly step into that little apartment and take a bullet if need be to protect a little baby girl that they don’t know, now 53 years later. But it’s not just them, loved ones like Opal and kids just like the West girls let them do it and are proud they do it and it’ll always be that way, no matter what.
If you get a chance, Thad and Opal are buried right behind the chapel at Sunset Memorial Gardens in the Love section, stop and say thanks or you could just thank Thad in person, that’s him right there behind that badge that says Deputy, Ector County, State of Texas.

R.V. Dickson

Sgt. RV Dickson
Ector County S.O.

December 25, 2015

Your heroism and service is honored today, the 54th anniversary of your death. Your memory lives and you continue to inspire. Thank you for your service. My cherished son Larry Lasater was a fellow police officer murdered in the line of duty on April 24, 2005 while serving as a Pittsburg, CA police officer.

Time never diminishes respect and your memory will always be honored amd revered.

Rest In Peace.

Phyllis Loya
Mom of fallen California Officer Larry Lasater, Pittsburg PD, eow 4/24/05

February 27, 2012

Thanks for your nine years of services, Thad.


February 27, 2012

Today on the 50th anniversary of your death, we pause and say a prayer and remember your dedication and sacrifice.
Rest in peace DS, you are not forgotten.
Chief John Roelandts (retired)
Deborah Roelandts (911 retired)
Oconomowoc Wisconsin

Chief John Roelandts (retired)
Town of Oconomowoc

February 27, 2008

Deputy Sheriff West,
On today, the 50th anniversary of your murder, I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice-not just for your community, but also for our Country when you served in the U.S. Army. And to your family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.



February 27, 2008



February 21, 2008

May you Rest in Peace.

February 27, 2007

Deputy West, you are not forgotten, RIP brother.

Pecos Police Department
Pecos Texas.

September 23, 2005

Create an account for more options, or use this form to leave a Reflection now.