TROY — Miami County Special Investigator Billie Ray recently celebrated 50 years in law enforcement.
Ray, of Lewisburg, began his career on Aug. 28, 1969, as a deputy sheriff for the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, fulfilling a lifelong dream at just 21 years old.
“My dream as a kid was to be a law enforcement officer,” Ray said. “I can remember getting a cap gun back in the day, and it was my pride and joy. I would run through the hills behind our house, and I was always the sheriff and apprehended the bad guys — that’s how I grew up as a child.”
Originally from Cookville, Tennessee, Ray said his family moved often due to his father’s career as a professional chef.
“(My dad) went where the work was; a lot of times, we would be down in Tennessee, and he would be up in Ohio working because the wages were higher up here,” Ray said. “My folks moved up here, back and forth, and during my 12 years of school, I went to 13 different schools. That’s how often we moved.”
By the age of 16, Ray had already graduated from Milton-Union High School and had received a scholarship to go to Middle Tennessee State University. Ray said he considered attending college to earn a teaching degree, but just couldn’t shake his interest in law enforcement.
“When I graduated from high school, I worked at West Milton Lumber and then-Sheriff Chester Paulus was a cabinet maker and would come in to the lumber company often,” Ray said. “I was only 16 at the time, and I used to bug him about becoming a deputy. He would tell me I wasn’t old enough, and I’d have to wait.”
Ray eventually left his job at West Milton Lumber for a similar position at Troy Lumber. It was here, as a 21-year-old, that he got his first break into the law enforcement arena.
“In July of 1969, a Sergeant Morris, whose son I went to school with, stopped by the lumber yard and saw me there,” Ray said. “He asked if I was still interested in becoming a deputy, I told him I was, and he said, ‘Well, Chet’s got an opening; you better get up and see him right away.’”
Ray said he did just that and was hired, nearly on the spot, with his first day scheduled for two weeks later. As for how his family felt about his career choice, Ray said it did not take anyone by surprise.
“When I graduated from high school, I had tried to enlist in the Army Airborne — I wanted to become a Paratrooper,” he said. “So, my parents knew I would definitely be doing something of that nature — serving the public.”
Ray said he was not accepted into the Army because of a unique birth defect.
“I was born with a busted eardrum and at age 19, it caused me to fall unconscious, and I ended up at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Dayton,” he said. “It took them a week to figure out what was going on, but it turned out I had a tumor on my brain the size of a golf ball, which was due to all the problems I’d had with my ear while growing up.”
Ray said the doctors told him he would need surgery promptly and that, without it, he would likely die. However, surgery came with its own risks, including the possibility of becoming paralyzed or not making it through the operation.
“The surgery ended up going well, and the tumor was not malignant, but I was left totally deaf in my right ear,” Ray said. “That always concerned me about whether I’d be able to serve as a law enforcement officer with some hearing loss, but I have adapted very well to being deaf on one side.”
Ray said he has not felt significantly restricted by his hearing loss, and he now wears what is called a “BAHA,” or Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid. The BAHA is a surgically-implanted device that works by transmitting sound waves using bone conduction.
Throughout his career, Ray has worked in several capacities. In 1976, a new Miami County Sheriff was elected, which led to Ray’s termination.
“Back in the day, if a new sheriff coming in wanted to bring some of his people, they could just fire you,” he said.
Ray, with help from a local attorney, filed a lawsuit, which he won, subsequently allowing him to be reinstated. However, the suit took around six months to conclude, which pushed Ray to find work elsewhere while it was being settled.
“During that time, I stayed sworn in and worked with the park district, which kept my law enforcement intact,” he said. “Once the lawsuit was settled, I was reinstated, but chose to resign because I felt the new sheriff was going to give me a hard time.”
Ray said he went to work for Darke County Sheriff’s Department for a few months as a deputy, returning to Miami County soon after to serve as chief for the Covington Police Department, where he stayed for about two years.
“I liked working in Darke County, but Miami County was my home, and I was hoping to get back on at the Sheriff’s Department eventually,” Ray said.
In 1979, Ray began working as chief probation officer in Miami County until 1987 when he went to work full time for the park district as administrative assistant to the director. In 1990, Ray finally returned to the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.
“Sheriff Cox was kind enough to hire me back, and I stayed with him until he passed, then I was sworn in under Sheriff Duchak and am still sworn in under him,” Ray said.
Prior to Sheriff Duchak’s election to Sheriff, he and Ray worked as partners in the detective section of the department, Ray said.
“For 10 years, I worked as a plain clothes detective for the Sheriff’s Office, and Duchak and I worked a lot of cases involving burglaries, homicides, and different crimes,” he said.
According to Ray, he and Duchak worked on the first homicide case in Miami County to be solved using DNA analysis.
“There was a breaking-and-entering at the VFW on LeFevre Road and the canteen manager was killed,” Ray said. “We arrested the guy that did it and got him convicted. We did a search of his apartment and found a hat with material on it which we were able to send to the lab for DNA processing to connect him to the victim.”
In 2000, Ray retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 30 total years in law enforcement. He did, however, remain sworn in, and was asked by Miami County Clerk of Courts Jan Mottinger to serve as an investigator.
Ray is currently a special investigator/manager within the automobile title department for the Clerk of Courts. He said his favorite part of any law enforcement position is helping his fellow citizens.
“I enjoy serving my county and country,” Ray said. “Serving the public, and helping people through difficult times; that’s what it’s about. I really honestly feel that we are public servants.”
Ray currently lives in Lewisburg with his wife of 20 years, Patricia. He has five children and 10 grandchildren. Looking to the future, Ray said he plans to bid farewell to his long-lasting career and spend more time with his family.
“My wife would like me to retire. We both realize, number one, that we’re getting older and, number two, that at a certain time in law enforcement you have to realize that it’s for the younger people,” he said. “It’s not that I can’t do the job; I enjoy doing what I do, but I never dreamed I’d go 50 years. Probably in the near future, I will be retiring, and I’m hoping that we’re still healthy enough to be able to enjoy life and do the things that we want to do.”
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