Deputy at center of alleged murder cover up fired

Deacon Zelch (left) is the son of Vernon Zelch (right). Until Monday, Vernon was a Crawford County Sheriff's deputy.

A local sheriff's deputy was fired following a News 4 investigation looking into whether he had improperly interfered with a murder case involving his son.

In November, News 4 broke the story about a family who said they had to wait way too long for justice because of corruption and cover-up in their community. The news of the deputy's firing is so welcome to the family because it was something for which they had hoped.

“The first thing I did was call dad and explain to him that even though it doesn't fix anything, that we are getting closer, that even though we were ignored, things are changing now,” said Kayla Tolliver.

Tolliver’s brother, Edward Hillhouse, went missing from Crawford County in April 2016, but for months, she says, law enforcement officers did nothing.

Only after a task force from a separate county got involved was a body discovered on the property of Deacon Zelch. Zelch was finally charged for Edward’s murder a year and a half after it happened.

Deacon Zelch is the son of Vernon Zelch. Until Monday, Vernon was a Crawford County Sheriff's deputy.

The News 4 Investigation in November asked why did it take a separate agency to come to justice and did Vernon Zelch interfere with the case? Now, there is a big update.

The Crawford County Sheriff tells News 4 back in November, just days after the story aired, that he launched an internal investigation and placed Vernon on paid administrative leave. As a result of the investigation, the sheriff told News 4 Vernon was terminated from the sheriff's office Monday.

The sheriff declined to comment any further.

Though he's not on the job, Vernon didn't appear to be home when News 4 visited Wednesday.

Kayla says she's just glad to hear Vernon is no longer on the force. She believes Edward, who would have turned 30 in just a few days, has made a difference.

“Even though this was not the way that Crawford County should have changed, at his loss, I think this will be good for the next victims or family members, so he's extremely proud of us,” Kayla said.

Deacon Zelch's murder case is ongoing.

Kayla says if there is proof Vernon Zelch interfered in the case, she wants him charged too.

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