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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Investigation reveals Washington State Trooper’s death due to on-the-job exposure to toxins

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 17, 2021

A Washington State Trooper’s 2018 death has been reclassified as occurring in the line of duty after an investigation determined the cause of her fatal cancer was exposure to toxic chemicals during an illegal auto-wrecking investigation.

Trooper S. Renee Padgett died at age 50 on Sept. 4, 2018, after a long battle with cancer, according to a Washington State Patrol news release.

Padgett was a trooper for 27 years, working first in Gig Harbor as a trooper cadet, then in Bellevue after completing her basic training.

She was a wrecking-yard trooper in Bellevue during most of her career with the state patrol, which inspects wrecking yards, scrap processors and hulk haulers across the state, according to the WSP website.

Padgett won multiple awards and commendations while with the state patrol. She also contributed to the “very successful” project Homeward Bound, which helped find missing children in Washington state, according to WSP.

After her death, a forensic review by the state Department of Labor and Industries determined the cause of Padgett’s cancer was exposure to highly toxic chemicals during an investigation into illegal auto wrecking.

Due to those findings, her death was reclassified as occurring in the line of duty.

Padgett was the 30th of 31 troopers to die in the line of duty during the state patrol’s first century of service.

“Though our organizational motto is ‘Service with Humility,’ we can and should all feel pride for the accomplishments of this fine trooper and outstanding public servant,” wrote Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste in a statement. “It is fitting that her name be held in reverence and honor in our national capitol and here at home for her service and sacrifice.”

Padgett will be included in the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., with a formal dedication May 13.

Trooper Padgett was survived by her wife, Marcella Egan, and her children Gedeon Rene Padgett Lagasse and Olivia Rochelle Padgett Legasse, as well as her sisters Nicole A. Cook and Jaclyn L. Padgett.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly state the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s involvement, due to incorrect information provided by the state patrol. The EPA was only involved in the initial investigations of illegal auto wrecking operations, later studied in the cause of death investigation.

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