Newly hired Marion County sheriff’s department investigator Wilma Mueller has been interested in the law and investigations since her youth when she read “Nancy Drew” books and later true-crime books.
Since earning a bachelor’s degree in social work from Bethel College in 2003, Mueller has put that interest to work with Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services.
“During my almost eight years with SRS, it was always the investigative piece that I liked best and also learned I had a natural feel for,” she said.
Mueller has worked the past six years in the SRS office in Newton, primarily working with families in Marion County. When she saw Sheriff Rob Craft was searching for an investigator, she decided to apply.
“Given my love for the law and investigations, it seemed like a star worth reaching for,” she said.
In her time with SRS, she established relationships with many community agencies, law enforcement, and court officials in the county.
“I have great respect for Marion County’s court system, its law enforcement officers, and its citizens,” Mueller said. “Everywhere I went in the county with my previous employment, I was impressed by the helpfulness and friendliness of Marion County’s citizens. I never felt like an outsider.”
Continuity will be an advantage of having a dedicated investigator, Craft said. Mueller will share in the day-to-day duties of the department, but investigations will take priority.
In 2005, Mueller became certified as a forensic interviewer, for which she improved her skills of investigating sexual abuse. Some of the same skills apply to all investigations, she said.
“I think for any investigation it is critical that the interviewer know how to conduct the interview,” Mueller said. “Especially with sexual abuse, because it is important to uncover as much evidence as you can while not re-traumatizing the victim.”
Another essential skill is the ability to observe and analyze, she said. Assertiveness, persistence, and open-mindedness are some of the traits of good investigators, she added. Mueller said she looks forward to training to improve her knowledge and skills.
She will join the department Friday. For training, she will ride with other officers on patrol and work with them on investigations. Later, she will go to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.
Mueller has lived in Halstead the past 22 years, and she was a reserve police officer five years. She is married to Dan Mueller, and they have five grown children and 14 grandchildren. They are making arrangements to move to Marion County in the future.