Fallen officer honored

Wanda English Burnett

Although 12-year-old Taylor Winzenread will never meet her father, Indiana State Trooper Andrew P. Winzenread in person, she knows him through the love and support of fellow troopers and the now permanent marker that names a portion of I-74 after the slain officer memorializing his short life.

A dedication ceremony that produced tears and laughter was held Friday, June 19 at the Decatur County Courthouse to honor the life of the fallen officer who was loved by so many.

A resolution introduced by State Representative Cleo Duncan and others, and adopted by the Indiana General Assembly, provides for a portion of Interstate 74 to be named in honor of Winzenread who gave his life in the line of duty April 25, 1997, while helping a stranded motorist along that stretch of highway near the 144 mile marker. He was killed when a semi tractor-trailer hit him and his cruiser, parked in the emergency lane of the interstate.

Only 26-years-old, Winzenread left behind a wife, Cynthia (Cindy), and daughter Taylor, who was only a month old. The couple had just recently moved to Osgood and was settling into the community.

At the ceremony on Friday, Cindy told The Versailles Republican, “My husband loved his job, he loved people, he was a great guy.” Daughter Taylor, now 12, resembles her father greatly and was by her mother’s side throughout the ceremony. When presented a copy of the resolution, Cindy thanked State Representative Cleo Duncan for her efforts in making the memorial tribute a reality. She noted that after 12 years, people still surround her family with their love and support. She then turned the tables on Rep. Duncan and Sgt. Noel Houze Jr., who have worked together to bring about the ceremony, and presented each of them with an engraved clock as her thanks for their continued support.

The Move Over Slow Down law was enacted as a direct result of Winzenread’s death and is hoped to save the lives of other men and women in law enforcement. Duncan worked tirelessly with Sgt. Noel Houze Jr. to bring the situation to the front burner of legislation where the proposal was made law. This measure says if you see an officer or utility worker on the side of the road on a four-lane highway, you’re to move over to the farthest lane or at the least slow down. “The whole message is to take the extra precaution to protect the lives of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day,” Duncan said about Indiana’s Move Over law.

Indiana was the leader with the law with Duncan stating that now nearly every state has adopted it. At this announcement there was a loud round of applause from the large crowd that gathered at the courthouse.

According to Sgt. Noel Houze Jr. July 1 marks the 10th anniversary of the law that was signed by Governor Frank O’Bannon on April 19, 1999, just two years after the death of Trooper Winzenread. This law was the first of its kind in the United States. Saying the tragic death of fellow officer Winzenread changed the lives of fellow troopers forever, Houze stated that his “sacrifice wasn’t in vain,” due to the law now in place to protect thousands. That was his goal when he approached Duncan more than ten years ago to get something done to try to prevent such tragedies.

Officers who recalled the tragic day remember Taylor as a “baby in her mother’s arms.” The reality of their jobs came close to Sgt. Noel Houze Jr. that day as he had been riding with Winzenread just moments before the accident occurred. “I had been riding with him and he had just taken me back to the Batesville Police Department to pick up my car,” he told those gathered for the ceremony.
Described as a “shining example of all the good qualities exhibited by Indiana State Troopers,” the resolution further stated, “he (Winzenread) truly lived by the guiding values of the Indiana State Police - integrity, service, and professionalism.”

“He truly had a servant’s heart,” retired ISP Detective Phil Mohr told The Versailles Republican following the ceremony. He remembered the young trooper as a wonderful asset to the Versailles team, someone who was “so proud to be a state trooper.” Mohr wasn’t surprised at all that Winzenread had stopped to help the stranded motorist. “It was what he enjoyed doing most (helping people),” he noted.

Winzenread’s mother, Sharon, attended the ceremony where she, along with his widow was presented copies of the resolution and replicas of the signage that will dot the landscape on I-74. “Our family has been overwhelmed by the kindness, goodness and care we have received,” she told those gathered, breaking down in tears.

Duncan, a true friend of law enforcement, hugged Winzenread’s mother. She told The Versailles Republican she was honored and humbled to be part of something that honors someone like Winzenread who loved to help others so much.

Widow of fallen ISP Trooper Jason Beal (Shelby County), Emily Beal-Nelis spoke at the ceremony thanking Duncan for her dedication to help protect law enforcement. She said her work “touches all the survivors.” She told The Versailles Republican that her husband went to school with Cindy Winzenread, who was originally from Shelby County. Trooper Beal was killed in the line of duty in 2000.

Rheadawn Rayner Metz, widow of William R. Rayner, the first officer from the Versailles Post to be killed in the line of duty, was also at the ceremony to show her support. A ceremony honoring her late husband was held two weeks ago and now a portion of I-74 is also named after Trooper Rayner, who was shot to death after making a routine traffic stop in Decatur County. Winzenread is the second officer to be killed from the Versailles Post, but the 36th ISP employee statewide to die in the line of duty.

Resolution No. 12 states, “Trooper Winzenread’s actions displayed his willingness to go the extra mile and to help people whenever he had the opportunity.” That statement sums up the short life of the fallen officer who will live forever in the hearts and lives of others who will now have a measure of protection through the Move Over Slow Down law.

The mood was somber as Sgt. Noel Houze Jr., left, read Resolution 12 naming a section of Interstate 74 in honor of Indiana State Trooper Andrew P. Winzenread, who was killed in the line of duty April 25, 1997. A portion of I-74 was named in his honor after State Representative Cleo Duncan, right, worked on the resolution. Looking on from left are Winzenread's daughter, Taylor, widow, Cindy, and mother, Sharon.


Slain officer Andrew Winzenread's widow, Cindy, shares a moment with ISP Det. Mike Black just before the ceremony honoring her husband. Det. Black and wife, Karen, had the hardest job in his career the day they had to tell the young woman her husband had been killed.