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In Memory: 25 Years Later

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By Calen McKinney

It's been 25 years, but they haven't lost hope that one day his killer will be put in handcuffs.

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And it's that hope that keeps them coming back to Campbellsville each year to remember him.

Those passing by Ransdell Chapel on the Campbellsville University campus last Wednesday might have seen a swarm of state and local law enforcement vehicles. But they weren't there to investigate a crime.

The officers were there to remember one of their own, an officer who was killed in the line of duty more than two decades ago.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Johnny Edrington II was shot during what turned out to not be a routine traffic stop on Dec. 20, 1988.

After not responding to pages, Edrington's police cruiser was found abandoned on the side of KY 80 in Laurel County. He was found in a nearby ditch, dead from a gunshot wound. Edrington, 34, had worked for KSP for three years and was assigned to Post 11 in London. He was from Taylor County.

At the time of his death, Edrington's wife, Diane Chandler, was pregnant with their daughter, Johnna Callie.

This December will mark 25 years since the murder. His case remains unsolved, one of only two KSP trooper murder investigations that haven't been solved. The other is the case of William H. Barrett, 35, who died in December 1971 after being ambushed in Bowling Green.

Edrington is buried in Brookside Cemetery. After Wednesday's ceremony, which was on National Police Officer Memorial Day, Edrington's family had a private ceremony at his graveside.

To begin this year's ceremony, Dr. Michael Carter, CU's president, said it is fitting that the ceremony is in a chapel, a place that was dedicated to be where people could come together to worship and remember the value of life.

"Gentlemen, we say thank you for your public service to the Commonwealth," Carter said to law enforcement officers. "For blessed are the peacemakers."

Flowers to be placed Edrington's grave were presented by KSP honor guard members. In their crisp uniforms, the officers saluted a photo of Edrington as they stood at attention.

Dr. James Jones, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, spoke during the service about his relationship with Edrington. Jones was Edrington's pastor and friend.

"It was my privilege to know Johnny," he said.

While serving as pastor at Campbellsville Baptist Church, Edrington worked as an officer at Campbellsville Police Department. He said Edrington would stop by his office occasionally and ask to pray with him.

"I can still remember the day he came by and said ... 'I'm going to apply to be a state trooper and I want to make sure this is what God wants for my life. Will you have prayer with me?'"

Jones said Edrington later visited after learning he was accepted into the KSP academy.

"And he said, 'I'm excited. I'm afraid. But I just wanted to come by and tell you.'"

Jones said Edrington came by his office a few weeks before he died.

"He just wanted to come by and talk with me, nothing in particular," he said. "This time, he said, 'Let's have prayer together. Let me pray for you.'"

Jones preached at Edrington's funeral. He said he remembers police officers from all over the United States came.

"A sight I'll never forget, as long as I live," he said.

"I'll always cherish those times with him. I can honestly say he was one of the finest young men that I've ever known."

In prayer, Jones thanked God for the time he had with Edrington.

"So father, I believe by his own testimony, that Johnny is with you and one day we can see him again," he said.

Former KSP laboratory supervisor John Harris, who worked with Edrington, spoke at the ceremony. On one occasion, Harris said, he was driving and ran out of gas. He called to ask for a trooper to bring some gas. Edrington responded.

"I was really glad to see Johnny," he said.

Harris said Edrington teased him about that often.

"He would say, 'Where are you going? Are you sure you've got enough gas John?'

"Johnny was an all around good guy, in my opinion, and I was honored to know him."

As a video and photos of Edrington flashed on a screen, those in the audience cried and held hands. On one, "Handsome Policeman" was written at the top.

KSP Public Affairs Officer Billy Gregory read letters from Edrington's daughter, Callie, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

In her letter, Callie wrote that even though she never met him, she believes she knows her father through stories about him.

"But I know he loved me before I was born," she wrote. "I see myself in pictures of him. And I know that he would be so proud of the woman I have become today."

State Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, presented plaques naming Callie and Chandler as Kentucky Colonels.

Carney said he knows that Callie never met her father, "But I think you get to meet your dad every day, in many different ways."

In addressing the audience, Gregory quoted General George Patton, who said people should thank God for men who served their country.

"So today, we want to say thank God for Johnny," he said.

A memorial in Edrington's honor is located in Miller Park, he said. He is also honored on a memorial in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.

"The national memorial simply says 'Respect, Honor, Remember,'" he said. "So, today we do them all and ask everyone here to never forget."

Closing in prayer, Gregory said people don't always understand why life happens the way it does, but they know God has a plan. He asked God to watch over those investigating Edrington's death, along with his family members.

"Lord, I ask you to be with them and give them peace and comfort as only you can."

Edrington's Family Speaks

Speaking in one of fewer than five interviews they have given about Edrington's death, his former wife and daughter say they believe everything happens for a reason and they have hope the person responsible for Edrington's death will be punished.

His former wife, Diane Chandler, said she and Callie don't speak to media often because she once heard one of Edrington's former co-workers speak and they saw how hard it was for him.

Callie said she enjoys attending the ceremonies hosted in her father's memory.

"It's really great to see all the different people that knew him," she said. "And hear all the different stories."

The stories, she said, are one of few ways she has gotten to know her father. Last year, Callie met her father's roommate at KSP academy.

"I wish I could know him," she said. "Especially to hear his voice."

Edrington appeared in a video that was shown to the audience during the ceremony. He was shown investigating a crime.

"I have always wished it had his voice in it," Callie said. "It's really weird to see him as an actual person on the video."

Callie, who now lives in Lexington, graduated from college on May 11. She said her mother has always been honest about what happened to her father and told her her father was made a special angel in heaven.

"Everything happens for a reason," Callie said.

She said she doesn't know how she would feel if her father's killer was found and brought to justice.

"It would just be indescribable ... I think it would give my family like a lot of closure.

"We're hopeful, you know," she said. "We're never gonna give up on it. And [we] think justice will be served someday."

Chandler says even though it has been 25 years, her former husband's death is still hard.

Chandler, who now lives in Louisville, is married to Jeff Chandler. She also has a son, Connor, and a stepson, Kyle, and stepdaughter-in-law, April. She said Jeff is very supportive of her. He attended the ceremony last week.

"He helped me go through pictures," she said. "We have tons of boxes in our basement of John's stuff for Callie.

"I've always said, God took something precious from me but he gave me something precious back," Chandler said. "I truly believe there's a reason for everything. And Callie was why he came into my life.

"She is a constant little reminder in my life," Chandler said. "She looks just like him. And I wouldn't change anything."

Chandler said her daughter hopes to one day teach preschool or children who have learning disabilities.

"Oh, he would be so proud," she said.

Chandler and Edrington knew each other for about 10 months. They were married for about six and a half when he was shot and killed.

"He was a great man. He was a really good husband. I know he would have been a good father."

Over the past 23 years of Callie's life, Chandler said she has shown her daughter photos, told her stories and made sure she spent time with her father's family. She said she also told Callie about how she found out she was pregnant.

"[And] how excited he was when he found out we were gonna have a baby."

Chandler said she is kept updated about the investigation into Edrington's death. She said she was told recently investigators are looking into a new lead.

"We'll never give up hope," she said. "Somebody will pay someday."

Finding her former husband's killer, Chandler said, would bring her closure.

"It's still an open wound," she said. "I always hoped they would find someone before [Edrington's father Jack] died. Maybe it'll happen before I do.

"I just hope someday this is solved. I can't even imagine the celebration."

Anyone with information about Edrington's death is asked to contact local police at 465-4122 or the Kentucky State Police at (800) 222-5555.