MORGAN -- The year 2011 was a busy one for the small Morgan County Sheriff's Department with its one investigator and the lone county attorney.
It was a year marked by the investigation and prosecution of a county official, the uncovering of the county's largest marijuana grow, the discovery of the body of a murdered teenager and the investigations of a murder-suicide and of a public figure for burglary of prescription medication.
In his 15 years with the sheriff's department, which has 10 sworn officers, Sheriff Blaine Breshears hasn't seen a year as busy as 2011.
"It was a unique, busy, interesting, and challenging year," he said of his first year as sheriff. "We've had incidents like this in the past, but not this many, and not as compacted."
"It was uncharacteristically busy," Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris agreed. "I was starting to wonder if there was something to the Mayan calendar end-of-days theory."
Breshears said being short-staffed and lacking manpower was the biggest challenge of 2011. But, he said, his department came through.
"I appreciate my guys stepping up and doing what was needed, things they don't normally do on a day-to-day basis," Breshears said. "We have great deputies. I can put a lot on them."
County Detective Bill Wentland said employees drew on their knowledge, skills and training.
"We did the best we could with what we had, kept a sense of humor, and hoped for the best."
While the county drew heavily on its own search and rescue, GPS, firefighter, and EMS resources, help from outside agencies and volunteers was invaluable.
Help came from the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter, the U.S. Forest Service, the Weber County Sheriff's Office, the Weber/Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Utah Highway Patrol.
"We pushed our resources to the limit," Wentland said. "(Without) the assistance of several other agencies and specialized units, we could not have provided the service that we did."
Farris said the county's relationship with Weber County agencies "is our most prized resource. They are always willing to assist our local law enforcement. Weber County Attorney's Office is the same."
Farris said that in the case of Garth Day, the former county administrator now in federal prison, Morgan employees handled all the legwork before the federal government took over the case.
"The feds were handed the case on a platter."
It has not been easy for county employees to deal with some of the things they have seen this year. For those situations, Breshears said, debriefing teams are essential. For those employees who need it, additional counseling is available through their county benefits.
"It has been a challenge for this to be my first year, a baptism by fire," he said. "My wife would tell you that any hair I had left is now gray."
Wentland said the county has done everything possible to help employees.
"We are all human and some of these incidents were very hard to deal with emotionally," Wentland said. "I have been on some very nasty crime scenes in my career and I have been affected emotionally by them.
"It was a tough year to get through. We were pushed to the limit on resources and it wore heavily on our mental and physical abilities."
The year has taught Wentland and his department to always be ready for anything.
"I don't want anybody to go through what we have had to endure this past year," Wentland said. "Times like these are not particularly a bad thing; every community will experience times of turmoil which will test their fortitude and teach them that no one is exempt from adversity and disaster. What we learn from this and how we prepare for the future is what is important."
Farris said the county could have prevented some of the Garth Day case "had a previous county council followed the advice of their county attorney to not create a position called 'council administrator.' It would have saved the county a lot of money, embarrassment and resources."
If he has learned anything over the past year, Breshears said, it is to trust your instincts. This was especially true when the county treasurer started finding inconsistencies that led to the investigation of Day.
"If somebody says something is not right, don't blow it off," Breshears said. "Really look at it."
After Morgan deputies discovered a mobile meth lab in 2007, Farris was cross-designated as a special assistant U.S. attorney.
The appointment expired in 2010, but Farris was quickly reinstated as a federal prosecutor for the Day case.
"Now that that matter is resolved, I was recently notified that they planned to let my designation expire again," Farris said. "I am counting the days until our next federal case and my next appointment."
In the future, Breshears hopes to be able to hire more deputies for backup and to ease scheduling woes.
Farris said he has had more calls about the Garth Day case than any others.
Breshears, however, said the local emotions surrounding the murder-suicide of Grant and Marilee Wadman were unique and tough to deal with.
"It was close to home. We knew them," he said. "It impacted the community directly."
* A criminal investigation into the actions of former county council administrator Garth Day begins shortly after his resignation on Aug. 4, 2010. Ultimately, he is charged with 43 criminal counts, mainly of financial improprieties using county funds. On April 11, 2011, the case goes federal with six felony counts. Day pleads guilty to all counts June 26, 2011, and is sentenced to 48 months in federal prison.
* On Aug.17, 2011, near Porterville, law enforcement uncovers the county's largest marijuana grow, with 3,000 to 4,000 marijuana plants.
* On Oct. 18, 2011, the body of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen, missing from North Ogden, is found in Morgan County.
* On Nov. 17, 2011, relatives find the bodies of Grant and Marillee Wadman in their Porterville home. The sheriff's department says it is a murder-suicide and later identified Grant Wadman as the shooter. County officials had responded to domestic situations involving the couple in the past.
* On Dec. 7, 2011, Morgan High School drill team instructor Josie Foster pleads guilty to burglary and possession of a controlled substance.
* On Feb. 10, 2012, wreckage of a Cessna 210 and the bodies of Deleray Madewall and Jennifer Sebesta are located.