At age 28, Bill was appointed to be the first federal prosecutor to serve the Central Texas area. For the next 14 years, Bill would serve as a supervisory Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Department of Justice.
Texas serial killer, Kenneth McDuff, had been improperly released from Texas prison. McDuff began to kill again. Bill and the McNamara brothers – two United States Marshalls from Waco, Texas lead a six-week manhunt for McDuff. With the help of John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted,” McDuff was captured in Kansas City, Missouri. Several murders were solved and a number of bodies were found during the manhunt. The efforts of Johnston and the McNamara’s are chronicled in the book Bad Boy from Rosebud. During the search for McDuff, it was determined that the chairman of the Texas Parole Board had released McDuff without good cause. An investigation ensued, and Bill Johnston ultimately prosecuted Dr. James Granbury, the now-former chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Also during the McDuff manhunt, it was revealed that no agency was responsible for locating Texas fugitive parolees. Bill Johnston had an idea. He proposed to Texas Governor, Ann Richards, that a group of experienced lawmen be formed to track down and arrest Texas’ most dangerous fugitives. Ann Richards loved the idea. She quickly formed what became known as “The Governor’s Fugitive Squad.” The group, in modified form, still exists today and has been responsible for arresting thousands of Texas fugitives.
The McDuff story has been depicted on a number of national television broadcasts including the Discovery channel, Dateline NBC and the ABC show 20-20. The McDuff story has also been the subject of two Texas Monthly articles.