By AMANDA KIMBLE
EASTLAND COUNTY (September 7, 2016) – Law enforcement officials across several counties are mourning the loss of one of their own.
Eastland County Deputy Kenneth Maltby, 72, died as the result of an automobile accident in Eastland County, where he had served with the sheriff’s office since May 2014. According to investigators with Texas Department of Public Safety, Maltby, a Desdemona resident, was killed just after 8 a.m. Wednesday when his vehicle was involved in a crash at the intersection of FM 570 and FM 2214 in Eastland.
His death dealt a blow to the people who knew him, as Maltby’s career touched many lives. He served with departments in the cities of Dallas and Stephenville and in Comanche and Eastland counties. He also touched the lives of others as a narcotics commander.
Born in Texas City, Maltby went to school, at least for some time, in De Leon. His law enforcement career got its start in the 1970s as a criminal intelligence officer with the Dallas Police Department.
He made his mark on the local area when he joined the Stephenville Police Department. According to fellow law enforcement official Donnie Hensley, retired, Maltby joined the force following the death of Stephenville Police Chief Mike Watkins in the early 1980s. His successor, Chief Doug Conner, appointed Maltby.
Hensley said the duo reorganized the department, and Maltby was made captain over the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) and patrol operations.
“Maltby was a good cop,” Hensley said.
Lt. Don Miller, who has worked with the Stephenville Police Department since 1978, recalls Maltby as a no-nonsense supervisor. They worked together on the toughest of beats from the early 1980s until the early 1990s. Maltby was Miller’s commander in CID and also supervised him on a multi-county narcotics task force.
The Tri-County Narcotics Task Force included Erath, Comanche and Hamilton counties. It later expanded to include Parker, Palo Pinto, Young and Jack counties and became known as the Cross Timbers Narcotics Task Force.
“He was probably the best supervisor I ever had,” Miller said.
The task force was a busy unit. Miller said narcotics trade was wide open in the 1980s. It was even heavier in rural Texas where most of the drug labs were located. A single bust took hundreds of pounds or more of the dangerously addictive drug off the streets, and Miller said Maltby was intent on doing things by the book.
“He made sure we were all well-trained and held us all to professional standards,” Miller said.
His former narcotics officers are coping with the loss by leaning on each other, making telephone calls across the country and sharing the news of the commander’s passing.
“We share a lot of memories and want to make sure everyone knows we’ve lost a good commander,” Miller said, adding many are planning to attend the pending funeral.
Meanwhile, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant recalls a man with a good sense of humor, saying there was time when Maltby served as his superior.
“He was a super good guy,” Bryant said. “I really enjoyed the time I worked with him at Stephenville Police Department, especially when he served as acting chief.”
Bryant joined the city’s police force in 1988 and served until he was elected sheriff in 1997. During that time, Maltby was responsible for putting patrol officers, including Bryant, on the back of motorcycles.
“It was a great PR (public relations) tool,” Bryant said. “It not only made working traffic a lot easier, it also made us more accessible. It was easier to get around the small streets in residential neighborhoods and the citizens like seeing us there, and it was something really cool for the kids, too.”
After leaving Stephenville, Maltby served with the Comanche County Sheriff’s Office. He joined the department in 2005, the same year Sheriff Jeff Lambert was elected, and stayed there until April 2014.
Lambert, who called Maltby a brother, had a hard time talking about the loss. But, Lambert opened up when asked about Maltby’s sense of humor.
“He was quite a bit older than me and quite a bit older than most of the deputies,” Lambert said. “We lovingly referred to him as papaw. He was one of the funniest men I ever knew and had the privilege of working with.”
During his time Comanche County, Maltby’s name was associated with a number of arrests and investigations, including the 2013 murder of one-time Air Evac Lifeteam Flight Nurse Amber Lowery, which gained the attention of media across the country.
Investigator Clint Cole with the De Leon Police Department, formerly with Comanche County, worked with Maltby for several years.
“(This is) Just the worse news you can get,” Cole said. “Losing someone so close is always hard. He was a mentor and close friend to me, and I loved him dearly.”
David Ray Mathis, who led De Leon EMS for years, agreed. He called Maltby a hero, close friend and great officer who responders could always count on.
Lambert and everyone who knew him agree Maltby was one of a kind.
“There will never be another one like Ken,” Lambert said. “You would be hard pressed to find another man like Ken, on a personal or professional level. There will never be another man like Ken Maltby.”
Funeral arrangements and any other details will be posed by The Flash when they become available.