MILNOR — An investigation of a Ransom County man's death was shielded from public knowledge for months while a potential killer was on the run and the family of a man found shot to death in his home had to keep silent.
Now that the man who was the focus of the investigation, 42-year-old Barry Wedge, died in a Missouri police shootout Saturday, May 4, it has emerged that state and local law enforcement officials believe he may have been connected to the February death of 34-year-old William Galusha at their home in Milnor.
"Never in a million years would I have believed it," said Galusha's friend Naomi Gregor of her reaction when she first heard that her former longtime boyfriend and best friend was found dead from an apparent suicide.
It's a sentiment Galusha’s family members in Nebraska echoed when asked about the death.
Those close to Galusha, whom they describe as an outgoing, funny farm boy, learned just days after his death that investigators believed someone may have killed him.
Investigators didn’t find a gun in the home, and according to his family and police, his new pickup truck was gone.
Bill's roommate, Barry Wedge, was also missing.
"He shut off his phone and did not leave one cottonball in the house," said his sister Ami Galusha-Eckstrom.
But many in Milnor still thought Bill's death was a suicide. Despite pleading with police to be transparent, the family was told to keep quiet by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the county’s sheriff’s department and prosecutor.
"If we put it out there now every little old lady who watches 'Dateline' is going to be blowing up our tipline. We will not be chasing the leads we need to," Galusha-Eckstrom said police told the family.
The confusion led to more pain for the family, who traveled from across the country to attend Galusha's memorial service at a church in Milnor.
Galusha-Eckstrom recalls the minister describing in detail how her brother used a rifle to shoot himself in the head to a church full of friends and co-workers.
This past weekend, more details started to emerge. Wedge took his own life after a shootout with police in southern Missouri, according to authorities in that state. More than 30 shots were fired in the exchange in which he eventually took his own life.
Police say they tried to stop Wedge for drunk driving. He had previously been interviewed by the Missouri authorities about Galusha's death.
"I had a feeling he would do this. I knew he would be guilt-stricken," Gregor said.
Ransom County Sheriff Darren Benneweis acknowledged the investigation for the first time Monday, May 6.
"Foul play could be expected, yes," Benneweis said. “We don't run to the media all the time, every time we have something going on. We are spending the time investigating the case.”
Galusha's family had nothing but good things to say about the hard work of the Ransom County Sheriff's Office, but they want to know why the sheriff and county prosecutor did not let them talk about the case publicly.
Benneweis said Wedge's death does not close Galusha's case, but it does create some new challenges.
"We are not going to close the case; we are going to exhaust every avenue we possibly can," he said.
With information about the investigation now public, Galusha's family and the community may get closure in the tragic case.
“When I heard that he took his own life, I felt in a way that my prayer was answered and that maybe that’s the only justice I’m going to get,” Galusha-Eckstrom said.
Ransom County prosecutor Fallon Kelly said more information may be released Tuesday.