Man Released 35 Years After Killing Warren County Deputy

Published: Nov. 8, 2017 at 8:39 PM CST
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WARREN COUNTY (November 8, 2017) - On December 7th, 1981, Warren County Sheriff's Deputy George Darnell was shot to death when he was responding to a call about something suspicious in a neighborhood.

TV6 covered the investigation and a community mourning the loss of the beloved deputy.

"He got along with everybody, seemed like everybody liked George," one person said.

Another said, "All the kids in these little towns are sure going to miss him."

Chief Deputy Bruce Morath was working for a local newspaper at the time when he was told to head out to the scene.

"The first person I saw was one of his grandsons. He ran up to me and says, they killed Grandpa George."

David Wolfbrandt was later convicted for the murder of Darnell.

Wolfbrandt was stealing fuel and loading it illegally into a tanker truck when Darnell approached him.

"A lot of people would say George was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Morath.

Wolfbrandt was sentenced to 70 years in a state prison, but he didn't serve his entire sentence. Instead, he was released on parole in October of this year, just 35 years after committed the brutal murder.

"You have a murderer, who the family thought would die in prison, " said Andrew Doyle, the Warren County State's Attorney.

Doyle told TV6 that Darnell's family filed many petitions to keep Wolfbrandt in jail, but to no avail. That's because at the time of his conviction, no one served their full sentence in prison. According to Doyle, they only had to serve approximately 50% of whatever their sentence was.

More than a decade had passed before laws were changed. Now, anyone convicted of murder is required to serve their entire sentence.

"I definitely think it's a miscarriage of justice," said Doyle.

Morath said, "There are several people who would say he paid 35 years, that was enough. No. I really disagree with that."

The 63-year-old convicted murderer was released from Centralia Correctional Center. He must report to a parole officer for the next three years.

In 2014, a section of Highway 67 near the scene of the shooting was named in honor of Deputy George Darnell.