By Ted Waddell
RILEYVILLE, PA February 17, 2004 In a Friday the 13th car chase gone terribly awry, Willard Lee Shepherd Jr., 42, of Hankins was killed after he allegedly attempted to elude a Pennsylvania State Trooper.
According to a press release issued by the State Police out of Honesdale, Pa., Trooper John Decker was conducting a stationary patrol near the intersection of state routes 191 and 371 in Rileyville, Pa. on Friday when he saw a blue Cadillac turn off 371 onto 191 northbound.
The car failed to stop at the posted stop sign, and Trooper Decker initiated a traffic stop around 7:21 p.m..
Before the officer could exit his marked patrol vehicle, the driver, identified as Shepherd, fled at a high rate of speed northbound on 191, so Trooper Decker gave chase.
Approximately one mile from the scene of the initial stop, Shepherd reportedly rammed the police vehicle, sending both cars spinning off the established roadway.
Trooper Deckers patrol vehicle slammed into a large snowbank, coming to rest in a field. The Trooper sustained minor injuries in the accident.
Shepherds vehicle spun out of control and struck a tree along the edge of the road. He was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from the vehicle, sustaining major injuries.
Shepherd was airlifted from the scene of the crash to Scrantons Community Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The police notice indicated that if Shepherd had survived, he might have been charged with aggravated assault on a police officer.
The guy blew a stop sign . . . and before Trooper Decker got out of his car, he took off, said Trooper Michael S. Brown, the investigating officer.
Trooper Decker was attempting to pass him [while in pursuit] because he wanted to get in front of him and do a rolling road block, he said, adding that several other patrol units were responding to the scene of the stop/chase.
When he got alongside of him, the guy just jacked the wheel to the left and ran into the state car, said Trooper Brown.
The fatal motor vehicle accident remains under investigation.
According to Trooper Brown, hes looking for the driver/passengers of a white SUV which witnessed the chase in progress or the resulting accident.
I want to thank them, because they helped out, he said. They doubled back to the first house they could find with someone home and yelled out, Call 911!
Anyone who witnessed the accident is asked to call Trooper Brown at 570-253-7126.
In the meantime, the father of three will be missed by locals, including former coworker Dennis Eschenberg.
Although he was most recently employed by the French Woods Golf Course near Hancock, Shepherd worked for a time with Eschenberg at John H. Eschenbergs chainsaw shop on Route 17B in Callicoon.
For all his faults, he had a heart that was solid gold, said Dennis.