Tin Star Comes Home To Deputy’s Daughter
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WATER VALLEY – A story seven years in the making came full circle last month when a treasured tin star worn by a former Yalobusha County lawman came home from California.
The story starts in 2015 when a California badge collector and retired law enforcement officer reached out to the Herald seeking information about a century-old Yalobusha County sheriff’s badge that turned up in Claremonth, Calif. a year earlier. Jack Bushey has a passion for collecting old law enforcement badges and has a large collection that he maintains in his personal museum in California. Bushey was interesting in finding out the history of Yalobusha County badge that could have been worn by multiple deputies during its span of duty.
What sparked his curiosity was several distinct indentations that could have been made by shotgun pellets. The story was published in Sept., 2015, seeking the help of the public to help provide information. The story was also published on the Herald’s Facebook page.
During the weeks that followed, several of the late Loyd Hughes’ family members reached out. The badge looked like the same one Hughes had worn during his service. It appeared to be the same silver badge Hughes was wearing in 1964 when he was shot in the line of duty following an incident where four men were “joyriding” on a bulldozer being used in road construction. Hughes and another man were shot with a 12-gauge shotgun – and doctors removed 43 birdshot from Hughes.
Former sheriff Lloyd Defer, who has since passed away, also helped link the badge to Hughes.
“When I met him in 1970 he was wearing a silver badge,” Defer told the Herald. “ I can remember him driving a 1970 model Plymouth patrol car.”
After that the story went cold and the badge story was forgotten by everyone. Well almost everyone, Heather Hughes Muirhead, the daughter of Hughes never gave up hope that one day she would have her father’s badge. It almost haunted her.
“It broke my heart that it couldn’t be mine,” Muirhead explained.
And for the next seven years the badge was on display in the museum with a narrative about the 1964 incident that had permanently scarred it.
A Facebook Post Goes Viral
Strangely, the seven-year-old Facebook story about the badge went viral in September. Jack Gurner shared the original post, sparking renewed interest in the story. Dozens more shared the post and hundreds of people commented. Most were not aware that the story was seven years old.
The renewed interest in the badge prompted Muirhead to reach out to Bushey.
“I thought, there is that damn badge again, it won’t leave me alone.” Muirhead explained. She started an email dialogue with Bushey explaining that her dad was also her best friend. She noted that her dad’s sister lived in California years ago, a possible explanation for how the badge made it across the country. She also wrote Bushey about the story she heard for years, when her father was shot with birdshot.
“I was his last baby, and he was my very best friend. I took care of him for many years until his passing and was there when he took his last breath. He has always been my hero throughout life. It would mean so much to me to have that piece of his history,” she wrote Bushey.
Bushey wrote back that his worst fears have come to fruition – she wanted her dad’s badge. He explained that it was not unusual to field requests from family members or law enforcement agencies asking for a badge from his collection.
“With few exceptions, I do not entertain the return of badges,” Bushey wrote. “You are one of the few exceptions. How can I not give your Dad’s badge to his daughter, especially with the unique story?”
Bushey and Muirhead then exchanged phone numbers and worked out a deal. She would purchase the vintage badge from Bushey, which would allow him to purchase another badge for his collection.
Muirhead patiently waited for the badge and told no one until it arrived. She brought it to the Herald office – the story had come full circle.