Dustin Boyd, who grew up on a ranch, will assume the duties of Coryell County district attorney in January.

GATESVILLE — Dustin Boyd’s journey from cowboy to criminal prosecutor has meandered from West Texas to East Lansing to South Sudan to Coryell County, where he will take office as district attorney in January.

Boyd grew up on the sprawling, 160,000-acre McElroy Ranch in Crane and Upton counties. He worked cattle on horseback, herded sheep on a motorcycle and attended school in nearby Crane, where he played football, basketball, golf and ran track.

“I was blessed to grow up on a ranch,” he said. “I love the outdoors.”

If Boyd’s childhood sounds like a chapter from a western novel, maybe it was because he grew up in the same ranch house that was the boyhood home of legendary Texas writer Elmer Kelton, whose father managed the McElroy Ranch.

“Elmer was a neat guy,” Boyd said of the author who died in 2009 at the age of 83.

“Elmer said he was not much of a ranch hand, and neither was I,” said Boyd with a smile. “Not a good cowboy.”

Boyd left the ranch after graduating from Crane High School in 1993. After a summer in Austin working as a sergeant-at-arms in the Legislature, he enrolled at Howard Payne University, where he lettered in football as a freshman.

After a year in Brownwood, Boyd transferred to Texas A&M University to study political science. He graduated in 1998 and moved to San Antonio to work and save for law school.

While shopping for a law school, Boyd liked the look and feel of the campus of Michigan State University, which he said “reminded me of A&M.”

In addition to earning a law degree there in 2003, Boyd also received a certification in social work from the Michigan State graduate school.

While at Michigan State, Boyd met and married Jennifer Jund of Gatesville. The couple lives near Gatesville with their daughter Barrett, 6, and son Braxton, 4.

Boyd practiced civil and criminal law with Corbin & Associates before starting his own practice with Kinsey, Lee and Boyd with offices in Copperas Cove and Gatesville.

In 2007, he took a leave from the firm to travel to Africa as a legal adviser for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan.

After years of devastating civil war in Sudan, the Republic of South Sudan was created just last year as the result of a six-year U.N. peace process of which Boyd was a part.

“I was there to help guide and direct the civilian law enforcement in South Sudan to make the transition from military to police,” Boyd said.

He traveled across the country evaluating local jails and community police, putting his legal experience and social work background to the test.

“Looking back, this experience was one of the highlights of my life,” he said.

Working with law enforcement and crime victims made him want to go into prosecution.

After returning to Central Texas in 2008, Boyd joined the Coryell County Attorney’s office as an assistant prosecutor handling misdemeanor criminal cases.

Convinced he could improve the efficiency of prosecution in the district court, Boyd challenged incumbent District Attorney David Castillo in the Republican primary election this year and won.

“I ran for the office because of what I wanted to do, not to oppose anyone,” Boyd said.

While he said he would be “excited to be engaged in a transition process” with Castillo in the four months before he takes office, Boyd said he has had “zero communications” with the outgoing district attorney since the election.

“I wish David the best,” Boyd said, “but that (a coordinated transition) is not going to happen.”

By Tim Orwig

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