Police suspected foul play in a Ransom County death. For months, the community believed it was a suicide
MILNOR, N.D. — An investigation into the shooting death of a Ransom County man was shielded from public knowledge for months while a potential killer was on the run and the family of the 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 investigators believe he may have been linked to the February death of 34-year-old William Galusha at the home they shared 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 died from an apparent suicide.
Galusha’s family members in Nebraska agreed.
Those close to Galusha, who knew him 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.
Also missing was Galusha's roommate, Wedge. "He shut off his phone and did not leave one cottonball in the house," said Galusha’s sister, Ami Galusha-Eckstrom.
But many in Milnor still thought Galusha's death was a suicide. Despite pleading with police to be transparent, the family was told to keep quiet by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the county’s prosecutor and sheriff’s office.
"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, a town in southeastern North Dakota.
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 killed himself after a shootout with police in southern Missouri, according to authorities there. More than 30 shots were fired in the exchange in which he eventually took his own life.
Police said they tried to stop Wedge for drunken driving. Missouri authorities had previously interviewed Wedge 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 publicly about the case.
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,” he said. “We are going to exhaust every avenue we possibly can."