Walter R. “Bud” Ellett — known to some as “the quintessential lawyer” — died Wednesday.
Ellett, who had been battling prostate cancer, was 84.
He joined the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office in 1985 and served as the chief deputy over the criminal division for three district attorneys.
During a 15-year-period, Ellett oversaw the prosecution of some of Utah’s most infamous killers, including Mark Hofmann, who murdered two people with home-made bombs; Roberto Arguelles, who kidnapped and killed three teenage girls and a school janitor; and Richard Worthington, who fatally shot a nurse during a standoff at Alta View Hospital in Sandy.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Ellett hired him in the 1990s and acted as his mentor. Ellett also helped Gill during his run for district attorney.
“He was one of the kindest, most generous person I have ever met,” Gill said, adding that Ellett took people under his wing and helped them no matter who they were. “He cared about everyone from clerk to attorney.”
In turn, Ellett earned “incredible respect” from judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and citizens because of his many years of experience, Gill said.
Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Robert Stott said Ellett’s “image and example” to young prosecutors in the office will be a lasting legacy. “He was the mentor in how to be a generous, civil, caring attorney who is seeking justice,” Stott said.
Kent Morgan, a trial attorney for Dyer Law Group and former assistant chief district attorney, said: “Bud’s talent was letting people do their job and only interfering when they were clearly making mistakes. He set the example to be decent and hard working on everything he did.”
After retiring, Ellett was appointed a temporary judge in the 3rd District Court and also served on the West Valley City court bench, his obituary states.
Ellett served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and as a legal officer during the Korean War on the USS Sitkoh Bay and the USS Kearsarge. He was in private practice for 30 years.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Claudia, three children and two grandsons.
Aside from his family, Ellett’s greatest joys were sailing on the Great Salt Lake, wearing designer suits, playing cards and slots in Wendover, and buying and driving new cars, according to his obituary.
Funeral services will be held at noon Monday, Feb. 20, at the Little Cottonwood Stake Center, 6120 S. Glen Oaks St. (855 East). A viewing will be held Feb. 19 from 5-7 p.m., at Jenkins-Soffe Mortuary, 4760 S. State St., and on Feb. 20 at the stake center from 10:30-11:30 a.m., prior to the service. Interment will be at Murray City Cemetery.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in Ellett’s name to Caresource Charitable Foundation, 801-266-7200.