Widow Heartbroken After Commissioners Decide Against Naming Jail After Late Sheriff

Tuesday, June 22nd 2021, 9:46 pm
By: Jordan Tidwell


Current Pawnee County Sheriff Darrin Varnell recently suggested naming their county jail after the late Sheriff Dwight Woodrell. 

However, the county commissioners decided against the idea and Sheriff Woodrell's widow said the family is heartbroken. 

Twenty years ago this October, Woodell was shot six times and killed while responding to a burglary call. 

"He wanted to build a new jail, he wanted to make sure people felt safe where they lived," said Woodell’s widow, Karen Woodrell Gardner. 

Gardner said Woodrell was a great man. He had four kids, and this year would have been a grandpa. She said Varnell asked her in February if the family would be okay with renaming the county jail after Dwight. 

"To me it was just something to honor his legacy and his ultimate sacrifice," said Varnell. 

Gardner said it was very touching and emotional and the family thought it would a great way to honor the 20th anniversary of Woodrell’s murder. 

But she said the county commissioners decided not to move forward with the resolution. 

"They didn't even hear the resolution or vote on anything, they just had a discussion about it and said it's not fair to the county workers, it's not fair to the citizens of Pawnee county, it's not fair to the Pawnee tribe," she said.

Gardner said this has been heartbreaking for their family and they feel like Dwight’s service to the county has been overlooked. She said she tried to see if she could start a petition to get it on a ballot but was told she's not able to. 

"At this point it's just up to the county commissioners, they are the only ones that have any say or control over what actually happens to it," she said. 

Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton wrote a letter of support, asking the commissioners to rename the jail after Woodell. 

Gardner said she has felt the support from everyone in the community. 

"We didn't just lose our husband, and father, and son and brother that day," she said. 

News On 6 called the county commissioners office for comment but have not heard back.