'She was like everybody's mom': Evergreen Park special ed teacher killed in Dan Ryan shooting

Suspects taken into custody after West Englewood crash with Illinois State Police near 60th, Ashland

ByMichelle Gallardo and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Special ed teacher killed in Dan Ryan shooting crossfire
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A 67-year-old woman was fatally shot and another woman was grazed during a shootout on the Dan Ryan Tuesday night, Illinois State Police said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A beloved mother, grandmother and teacher was apparently caught in deadly crossfire during a shootout on the Dan Ryan Tuesday night.

Denise M. Huguelet, a 67-year-old woman from Orland Park, was fatally shot.

A source on the scene said two cars were shooting at each other in the southbound lanes just after 10 p.m., near 67th Street, when some of the shots fired hit two other vehicles -- a white SUV and a red sedan.

Huguelet was riding home from a fundraiser at a White Sox game with her husband in their SUV south on the Dan Ryan near 67th Street when she was struck by the crossfire.

There was another 67-year-old man and woman in the car, in addition to Huguelet and her 67-year-old husband, police later said.

The 29-year-old driver of the sedan also suffered a graze wound, according to police, but she refused treatment. Her 25-year-old passenger was uninjured, police said.

Huguelet was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center before being pronounced deceased.

State police chased the suspects at speeds up to 120 mph after the shootings.

The two suspects then crashed into a state trooper near 60th Street and Ashland Avenue in West Englewood, and were taken into custody.

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The trooper was not hurt, and a weapon was recovered, ISP said.

Huguelet was a long-time special education teacher at Central Middle School in Evergreen Park, according to a post on Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124's Facebook page.

"On behalf of myself and the Village Board, we express our sincere condolences to the Huguelet family," Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said. "The community mourns alongside you today."

It was there she taught Walter Melancon, back when he was in seventh and eighth grades.

"She changed my life. She really did. I wouldn't have gotten to school without her. Honestly. Giving up wasn't an option," Melancon said. "You didn't have your lunch, she made sure you had your lunch. You needed help with your work, she made sure you got help. You were sad, she didn't make you leave [and] go home until you were in a better mood. She was like everybody's mom."

She worked in the district for 24 years, serving students with the most significant disabilities, the post said. She retired in 2015.

"Mrs. Huguelet's nature with kids was kind, yet firm, to ensure that students were taught the independent skills they needed to be successful in their futures. She cared deeply about the academic needs of students, and the social and emotional well-being of every students' needs," school officials said.

"She was a dear friend to many colleagues who will remember her character as pure, honest, fair and kind. She was an incredible woman whose memory will always be with us," the school district said in a statement.

She leaves behind five children and 11 grandchildren.

"The Orland Park Police Department is saddened to hear of the tragic passing of Orland Park resident Denise Huguelet," said Orland Park Police Chief Joe Mitchell. "Michael Huguelet, husband of the late Denise Huguelet, was a Village prosecutor for many years for the Village of Orland Park."

The southbound lanes of the Dan Ryan reopened about 3 a.m. Wednesday after troopers finished searching for shell casings.

Charges had not been filed yet Wednesday, and police have not provided information about what led to the shooting.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.