Marker honors fallen ISP offficer
Trooper William R. Rayner remembered

Wanda English Burnett

The official announcement designating a portion of Interstate 74 near mile marker 138 as the “Trooper William Rayner Memorial Highway” was made on the Decatur County Courthouse steps on Monday, June 8 by State Representative Cleo Duncan.

“It is my honor to present this,” Duncan told the family of the slain officer as they gathered. She said it was an overdue honor, a long-awaited one that she was proud to be a part of. “I am humbled to be a part of remembering Trooper Rayner, who was a loyal public servant that made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Duncan, along with representatives Scott Reske and Vern Tincher, introduced Resolution No. 13 with State Senators Jean Leising and Johnny Nugent, sponsoring the resolution. It was adopted on January 27 of this year during the first regular session of the 116th General Assembly.

The marker has been erected as a permanent tribute to Rayner, who was killed December 18, 1966 during a routine traffic stop in Decatur County.

That night changed the lives of many people. Instead of making plans for Christmas, a young widow found herself making plans for her husband’s funeral. Rayner’s wife, Rheadawn, was left to raise three children, ages 5, 7 months. and one on the way, according to Ripley Publishing Co. files.

Rheadawn spoke at the event on Monday, saying her husband was a great man. Surrounded by family members, she said, “Even though we’ve had tragedy, we’ve got a great family.” She thanked everyone for coming, and in her typical gracious style did not dwell on the past, but instead focused on others who made the honor possible. She thanked Rep. Duncan and the two shared a hug.

As officers do every day, Trooper Rayner stopped a car that fateful night for running without taillights. What happened next would shock the law enforcement community. A gun battle ensued with Rayner being fatally wounded. They would later find out that the car was stolen, and the two inside were escapees from a Kentucky detention facility. Both had extensive criminal records.

Having graduated from Milan High School in 1954, Rayner had been an Indiana State Trooper for eight years, assigned to the Versailles Post. Those who had the privilege of working with him were devastated with the news. Hugh Chambers, now retired from the Indiana State Police, was close to Rayner and his family. He told The Versailles Republican he was in Terre Haute when he received the call. “I don’t remember that long drive back,” he noted, recalling how he started for home.

Retired Trooper Noel Houze Sr. said he “practically lived with them" (the Rayner family) while in training. He said his fellow trooper, Rayner, and mentor was a man of honor. Retired State Police Detective John Mann shared memories of that “cold night that changed everybody’s lives forever” describing Rayner as a “wonderful” trooper - “elite.”

Saying the death of Trooper Rayner was one of the hardest things they’ve ever dealt with, officers said guys like the fallen trooper made the Versailles Post the best in the State. They even shared some humor about him, saying his nick name was “Prince.” His widow agreed, saying, “He was my Prince.”
Trooper Rayner was the 19th Indiana State Trooper to be killed in the line of duty. Norman Huelson was the commander of the Versailles State Police Post at the time and described Rayner as a “devoted and outstanding police officer.”

The resolution reads in part: “Trooper William R. Rayner is an American hero who gave his life in service to our state and country and deserves special recognition.”

That statement was echoed by officers attending the ceremony held Monday.

Above: State Representative Cleo Duncan reads the resolution honoring the late Trooper William Rayner to his widow, Rheadawn Rayner Metz who is surrounded by family on the courthouse steps in Decatur County. Below: Retired Trooper Noel Houze Sr. spoke to the character of the slain officer, and shared his memories as he reached out to his widow at a ceremony held Monday, June 8.