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Taney County Prosecuting Attorney William Duston has died at age 49.

A man who overcame a childhood tragedy, became a lawyer and fought for justice for thousands of area residents has died.

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney William Duston died at age 49 on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 following a battle with cancer. Duston overcame a devastating family tragedy in his teens to become a prosecuting attorney hailed by coworkers for his honesty and integrity.

“​​It is with extremely heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Prosecuting Attorney William ‘Dub’ Duston on May 17, 2023,” the Taney County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Mr. Duston served the citizens of Taney County with passion and dedication. This is a truly devastating loss for our office and the county as a whole.”

Duston was the lone survivor when his mother mortally wounded his father and killed his two sisters in the morning hours of Dec. 1, 1991, before turning the gun on herself. 

He recalled the incident during a 2018 interview with the Branson Tri-Lakes News where he talked about his mother shooting him before taking her own life. He said he crawled to a phone and dialed 0 for the operator because he couldn’t dial 911 before passing out and waking to find first responders surrounding him.

“I would not have survived if not for the selfless actions of local law enforcement officers who walked into an uncertain situation to save my life,” Duston said. “The willingness of those officers to respond in such a manner has remained with me to this day, and I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to serve with the law enforcement community to protect the interests of victims of criminal behavior.”

After recovering from his injuries, Duston moved in with a friend’s family and graduated from Branson High School in 1992. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in American History from Middle Tennessee State University, a Master’s Degree in History from James Madison University, and a second Master’s Degree in International Relations from American University in Washington, D.C.

During his time at American University his ambitions changed from becoming a history professor to becoming an attorney, and he obtained his law degree from American. 

Duston worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Taney County before going to criminal defense with Hollister-based law firm of Allman, Ingrum, and Wilson, P.C. 

He became the city of Branson’s city prosecutor in 2006 before becoming Branson’s city attorney in 2009, a role he held until being elected Taney County Prosecuting Attorney in 2018 to replace Jeff Merrell, who did not run for re-election. Duston was unopposed for re-election in 2022 and sworn in for his second term on Dec. 30, 2022.

Duston spoke about how he saw the role of the prosecutor in 2018: “The core function of the prosecutor is to seek justice. It’s not about convictions. It’s about seeking justice. To do that, you’ve got to be there every day, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to listen, you’ve got to be willing to make some hard decisions and take some criticisms.”

The prosecuting attorney position for Taney County will be filled on an interim basis until a formal appointment is made by Missouri Governor Mike Parson, but no person has been appointed by press time. When Parson names his choice to fill the position, they will serve the remainder of Duston’s term as Taney County Prosecuting Attorney.

Duston is survived by his beloved wife Charlie and their two children. Funeral arrangements had not been finalized by press time.

Look for remembrances from friends and colleagues about William Duston in Wednesday’s Branson Tri-Lakes News.

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