Who killed Walter Halferty? FactFinder 12 revisits SW Kan. cold case from 1986

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 10:28 PM CDT
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Along a lonely stretch of southwestern Kansas highway in Morton County sits a set of grain elevators and a small weigh station. Inside, yellowed by more than 30 years of country air and Kansas sun, is a flier offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who murdered Walter J. (Walt) Halferty on Dec. 21, 1986.

Jay Halferty remembers his father as "very carefree."

"You never met a more carefree guy than my dad," Jay said.

Walt's widow, Billie Sue Jackson, remembers her husband's laughter.

She remembers a simple time with the family in southwest Kansas, a time when people didn't lock doors to their homes or vehicles.

Jay and his younger brother, Jeremy, remember "a really great childhood," up until the point the unthinkable happened, a tragic collection of split seconds that unfolded at the family home just north of Elkhart.

Jackson recalls hearing a car pulling into the family's driveway at about 5 or 6 a.m. on Dec. 21, 1986. Walt went to the door.

"There was a conversation between he and whoever, and we heard popping noises," she said.

At the time, Jackson didn't know what the noise was. She soon learned whoever had come to the door started shooting.

Walt was chased from the front door of the home, past the kitchen and into the hallway. The unwanted visitor kept shooting at him.

Then 14-year-old Jay witnessed some of what unfolded from his bedroom at the end of a hallway. Walt made his way to the back of the house, slammed his bedroom door shut, and tried to load a gun.

"I jumped on the other side of the bed toward the wall and got down," Jackson said. "He was scared. He never said a word."

The unknown man with the gun continued firing through Walt's bedroom door, hitting Walt twice.

"It was so fast, it was so fast," Jackson said.

Jay remembers hearing a vehicle drive off and looking out the window. In his bedroom, Walt lay unconscious. He later died in an operating room, never able to tell his wife what happened, leading up to the shooting.

"I just can't say enough about how much was taken away from us," Jackson said.

Who shot Walt, and why?

Three decades later, there are still no quick answers to those questions, even in Elkhart, a town where Jackson said, everyone knows everyone.

She said the investigation was initially "very unprofessional" until the Kansas Bureau of Investigation stepped in.

The KBI declined to comment on the murder case, as it remains open. They did send an investigator out when FactFinder 12 visited Elkhart with Jay Halferty.

That investigator and Jay regularly stay in touch. They provided FactFinder 12 with the same poster that's been hanging inside the co-op since 1986, the one offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Walt Halferty's killer.

"We just want to know why," Jackson said.

Throughout the course of the investigation, there have been tips naming possible suspects, but nothing ever led to an arrest. Police and the Halftery family hope someone out there will come forward with a piece of the puzzle that can solve the crime.

Anyone with information on the near-34-year-old cold case should call 1-800-KS-CRIME.