Former Miller County Sheriff Abbott dies following COVID battle

Lake Sun Staff
Abbott served the people of Miller County for 16 years, guiding a department that had been beleaguered by mismanagement and scandal.

Former Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott has passed away after developing complications related to COVID-19. 

Abbott served the people of Miller County for 16 years, guiding a department that had been beleaguered by mismanagement and scandal. 

Abbott took over the Miller County Sheriff’s Department in the aftermath of a civil suit filed by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon that ultimately removed then-Sheriff Tom Russell from office. Paul Plank was appointed interim sheriff and Bill was elected in April 1999 in a special election to finish the term. He then ran for the 2000 Primary and general elections.

The allegations against the former sheriff, employees and inmates led to an investigation that spanned 10 months, beginning in December 1998 when the judges of the 26th Judicial Circuit requested the Miller County Sheriff’s Department and Jail be investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol, Water Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The probe turned up allegations of abuse, sexual misconduct, criminal activities and mismanagement of the Miller County Jail.

As a result, five former jailers, one inmate-jailer-trusty and a former deputy were charged with crimes by the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

Allegations of missing evidence, drug use, sexual escapades and a jail out of control were leveled against the department. A picture of disorder and lack of management unseated the sheriff and sent inmates back to jail and jailers to jail to do time for their crimes.

After those arrests in spring 1999, Russell was charged in a civil petition by the state for not upholding the responsibilities of his office.

Russell was elected to his first term as sheriff in 1996. By February 2000, Russell was out of a job and the sheriff’s department was restructured. Abbott is credited with rebuilding the sheriff’s department and regaining the public’s trust. 

Abbott helped establish the Mid Missouri Drug Task Force during his tenure in office. 

Prior to serving as Miller County Sheriff, Abbott was with the Missouri National Guard for 22 years where he held a variety of positions including Armory Sergeant for the 135th Maintenance Unit. 

In 2019, Abbott was appointed to the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund Board of Trustees by Governor Mike Parson, also a former sheriff. 

Abbott, of Tuscumbia, is survived by his wife, Linda and four children. 

Miller County Sheriff Bill Louie Gregoire described Abbott as a wonderful man who loved his community and family. “My staff and I will miss him, and our prayers are with his family,” he said in announcing Abbott’s death.  

Service arrangements were not yet available.