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Family, friends remember Big Horn County sheriff killed in crash

Posted at 9:34 AM, Nov 20, 2023

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 Monday.

“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 Monday.

King, 55, was killed Sunday in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 212 near the Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument. According to the Montana Highway Patrol, King was driving a private vehicle, not a patrol car, when he collided head on with a semi trailer.

Troopers said Monday they don't believe speed or alcohol were factors.

On Monday afternoon, Big Horn County commissioners appointed Undersheriff Jeromie Middlestead as interim sheriff.

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.

Mark Denny, Darrell King's brother.

The list of King's accomplishments could fill a novel. He was a U.S. Marine who served in 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 10 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.

Update 5:20 p.m.

Big Horn County commissioners have appointed Undersheriff Jeromie Middlestead to take over following the death of Sheriff Darrell King.

Middlestead will serve in an interim role until a permanent sheriff is named, according to the county. That person will serve until Dec. 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.

HARDIN - Big Horn County Sheriff Darrell King was killed in a two-vehicle crash late Sunday afternoon.

The fatal crash happened at about 5 p.m. on U.S. Highway 212 near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. King's mother, Lucille Yarlott, confirmed to MTN News on Monday morning that her son was killed in the crash.

According to the Montana Highway Patrol, King collided with a semi-trailer head on near milepost 2. King was driving a private vehicle, not a patrol car.

Troopers do not believe speed nor alcohol or drugs played a role in the crash, which is under investigation, according to a news release from Sgt. Jay Nelson.

King, 55, was sworn into the sheriff's position in January 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 and served in Operation Desert Storm.

King worked as a prosecutor in the 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.

King's death was noted on Facebook by the Daniels County Sheriff's Office, which posted:

My office sends its condolences to the friends, family, and colleagues of Big Horn County Sheriff Darrell King. I had the pleasure of meeting him and he was a very kind man who wanted to make a difference in his community. Rest easy Sheriff, we have it from here.

U.S. Attorney for Montana Jesse Laslovich issued a statement about King's death late Monday morning:

“I was saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Big Horn County Sheriff Darrell King, who was a key partner to our office and all of our federal law enforcement agencies. On behalf of all of them, I offer our sincerest condolences to his family. His family should know that federal law enforcement held Sheriff King in the highest regard, and we will honor his legacy of kindness and diplomacy by working collaboratively with all of our partners to keep the people of Big Horn County, the Crow Tribe and Northern Cheyenne Tribe safe.”

Montana Highway Patrol Col. Steve Lavin also issued a statement Monday afternoon:

“I was saddened to hear of this recent tragedy and loss amongst the law enforcement community. Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Sheriff King and the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office.”

According to state law, Big Horn County commissioners must appoint an interim sheriff and the position will appear on the ballot in November 2024.

King leaves behind a wife and one child.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.