Raymond, IL – Raymond Police Chief Valerie Hortenstine-Sheldon died on May 16, after an oncoming driver crossed into her lane and crashed into her vehicle head-on.
The fatal collision occurred on Illinois 127 at approximately 8:08 a.m., as 39-year-old Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon was heading southbound in her Ford Mustang, The State Journal-Register reported.
Twenty-three-year-old Hillsboro resident Samantha LaPradd, who was driving northbound in a Chevrolet Equinox, drifted into the southbound lane less than a mile south of North 21st Avenue, and struck the police chief’s car.
Both women were pronounced dead at the scene.
“We knew it was her car,” said Raymond Mayor Dennis Held, who was also a member of the Raymond-Harvel Fire Department (RHFD) crew that responded to the crash.
“We were pretty sure it was her,” RHFD Assistant Chief Mick Broaddus told WICS. “It’s just tough. Several people on the crew, both fire and ambulance, were really good friends with her and it was tough. It was really tough. "
The Illinois State Police are handling the ongoing investigation into the fatal collision, according to The State Journal-Register.
Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon served as a police officer in Witt, Nokomis, and Coffeen prior to joining the Raymond Police Department 12 years ago, according to her obituary.
She was named as chief of the two-man department in 2010.
“She was always willing to help out the village,” Held told The State Journal-Register. “She fit the bill as the perfect small-town officer.”
Held said that Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon was always offering to help her fellow citizens and community partners.
“She blended in well with the community and her job,” he said.
"On behalf of village of Raymond officials, sympathies are extended to Sheldon's family and friends as they mourn her loss," Held told The Journal-News. "The village appreciates the support from other emergency responder agencies as they assist with police duties during this time."
Illinois Representative Avery Bourne asked for a moment of silence in the State House of Representatives on May 20 to honor the life and service of her district’s fallen police chief.
“For anyone who’s lived in a town of under 1,000 people, you know how big a part of the community your police chief really is,” Bourne said. “She started our Neighborhood Watch program, which really knit the community together in ways that hadn’t happened before.”
Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon served many Montgomery County communities during her career, and was also a member of the county’s search and rescue team, Bourne added.
“She will be greatly missed in our county,” she continued. “I ask you all to please pray for her law enforcement family and her first responder family in Montgomery county…but also for her family.”
Hillsboro Mayor Brian Sullivan said that Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon was always a “wonderful lady and a true professional.”
Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon leaves behind her sons, 20-year-old Jake and 16-year-old Isaac, as well as her companion, Jason McCallum, according to her obituary.
She is also survived by her parents, sisters, nephews, and nieces.
Chief Hortenstine-Sheldon was laid to rest on May 21.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Raymond Police Chief Valerie Hortenstine-Sheldon, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.