SALT LAKE CITy — A headstone was dedicated Wednesday at the site of a previously unmarked grave in Kentucky for a Utah State Corrections officer killed in the line of duty 62 years ago.
On June 1, 1955, officer Edwin J. Fisher was fatally stabbed in the boiler room of the Utah State Prison. William Walter, 21, of Stockton, California, who was serving a sentence for burglary, admitted to the crime.
"Although not a model prisoner, Walter was not a known troublemaker. He worked in the prison mattress factory, located in the same building as the boiler room," Robert Kirby, a member of the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial Committee, wrote in his book, "End of Watch."
"Walter said he didn't know why he killed Fisher. He remembered going into the boiler room and seeing the officer behind the desk, but that he subsequently 'blacked out' and could not remember anything until he saw Fisher on the floor. Walter admitted that he stole the murder weapon, an 8-inch boning knife, from the prison butcher shop several months before," according to the book.
But at trial, Walter claimed he killed Fisher in self-defense after Fisher forced him to be his "errand boy" and fetch him coffee and other items.
An unconvinced jury, however, convicted Walter and sentenced him to life in prison. In 1971, he escaped from medium security and fled along the Jordan River, according to Kirby. Two days later, he was rearrested in Layton. In 1979, Walter was transferred from state prison to a federal corrections facility in Victorville, California, where he remained until his death in 2013 at age 80.
According to the book, Fisher did not marry, did not have children and lived alone in Murray. He had worked as a boiler engineer in the prison for three years before being killed. The Covington, Kentucky, native came to Utah after serving in the U.S. Navy. His body was eventually returned to Kentucky for burial.
For 62 years, Fisher's body laid in an unmarked grave in the Frankfort City Cemetery until a member of the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial discovered the unmarked grave earlier this year.
On Wednesday, members of the committee and Utah Department of Corrections honor guard unveiled a headstone at his Kentucky gravesite.
At the time of his death, Fisher was believed to have been the first corrections officer killed in the line of duty. It was later discovered that Matthew Burgher, the warden of the Utah Territorial Prison, was killed while trying to stop an escape in 1876.
Over the past 141 years, five corrections officers have been killed in the line of duty in Utah.
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