National Police Week: MHP Trooper's Widow Shares Story

By Lindsay Clein , Eric Redus |

Published 05/15 2014 09:43PM

Updated 05/15 2014 10:17PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --  Flags flew at half-staff in Missouri Thursday for Peace Officers Memorial Day.

The day commemorates federal, state, county and city officers who have been killed or hurt in the line of duty.

KOLR10 sat down with Jennifer Sampietro, the widow of Jay Sampietro, who was killed in the line of duty in August of 2005.

It's been about nine years since Corporal Jay Sampietro died after being struck by a vehicle on Interstate 44 in Webster County.  For his loved ones, though, it's a loss they're reminded of every day.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about it," says Jennifer Sampietro.

Memories of Corporal Jay Sampietro now decorate the walls of the home he used to live in.

"He was my husband," says Sampietro.  "He was my best friend."

Sampietro was a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper for 13 years.  He's one of thousands of law enforcement officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving and protecting the public.

"Police officers are constantly out there -- they're low paid and they go out and do a job every day that puts their lives on the line," says Sampietro.

An SUV struck and killed Corporal Sampietro in August of 2005 while he was assisting the patrol's investigation of an earlier fatal accident.
"We both worked for the highway patrol-- I worked in communications," says Sampietro.  "We got an emergency traffic call that one of our officers had been hit out there.  When that happened, I couldn't think anymore and I remember calling for an aircraft but it was raining that day and the ceiling was too low and I think every day-- I think about what I could've done different or I should've just gone out to the scene where he was at and maybe I could've helped him or said something to him to keep him fighting harder than he already was fighting-- but it didn't work out that way."

Jay didn't only leave behind his wife and his brothers on the force, but he also left behind two young boys.

"You're in love and I was thinking that's never gonna happen to us," says Sampietro.  "But I think Jay understood the possibilities-- but for me, I never thought that was gonna happen to us, you know." 

Jennifer traveled to Washington, D.C. for Police Week in 2006.  Souvenirs from her time there now serve as mementos-- keeping Jay's memory alive, along with the thousands of others who paid the ultimate sacrifice selflessly serving their communities.

"Honestly I don't think it gets recognized enough," Sampietro says.  "This wasn't what Jay wanted-- this wasn't what we wanted-- this was not the life we chose."

Jennifer is one of the people who led the fight for stricter penalties for drivers who don't move over or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles along highways-- which resulted in Missouri's "Move Over Law."

Jennifer says she has plans to take her two boys back to Washington, D.C. for Police Week next year.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 42 men and women have died nationwide in the line of duty this year.

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