Probe continues after chemist wounds boss, kills self

Probe continues after chemist wounds boss, kills self

WESTVILLE — A performance evaluation between a local chemical company president and a longtime employee turned deadly the day after Christmas.

About 2:30 p.m. Thursday, a call of shots fired came into Vermilion County's 911 center from DynaChem Inc., a chemical company south of Westville, said Vermilion County Sheriff Pat Hartshorn.

DynaChem's president had been doing a performance evaluation of an employee who had worked at the facility for more than 20 years, Hartshorn said, when the worker pulled a handgun from a briefcase. He shot his boss twice — once in the head and once in the hip — and then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life, according to Hartshorn.

Keith Rife, president and CEO of DynaChem, according to the company's website, did not suffer life-threatening injuries, Hartshorn said. Rife was rushed by ambulance to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

The employee, chemist Wayne Woodson of Georgetown, was pronounced dead at the scene. Woodson is listed on DynaChem's website as its director of new technologies.

A woman who answered the phone Thursday night at Woodson's residence declined to comment.

Hartshorn said the sheriff's department is still investigating what the employee's motive may have been. He said the performance evaluation took place in the president's office — behind closed doors and with no one else in the room.

"All we know is something went wrong in the performance evaluation," Hartshorn said.

Hartshorn said Rife managed to get out of the office on his own and into a hallway where other employees helped him and called 911.

DynaChem is a privately held company on a 29-acre site between Georgetown and Westville that employs 54 people and manufactures acids, industrial resins and specialty chemicals for a variety of industries, including agriculture, construction, pharmaceuticals, steel and textiles. The company was previously Core Lube Industries, or CL Industries, until 1993, when a management purchase led to changes, including its current name.

In the 1970s and '80s, CL had focused mainly on products and services for the metal casting industry.

Woodson was with the company when it was known as CL Industries and held several United States patents for his chemical work with CL.

Randall Shriver, a retired chemist with Ashland Inc. in Ohio, worked with Woodson beginning in the 1980s when their two companies collaborated. Shriver, who holds several U.S. patents with Woodson, was surprised when informed by The News-Gazette reporter of Woodson's death.

Shriver, 60, said Woodson, who was several years his senior, was very good to work for and always encouraging. He said Woodson was the main driving force behind the company's core lube patents.

Shriver, who retired about a year ago, said he hadn't spoken with Woodson in about two years. Woodson, he said, had still been doing some consulting for Ashland, but his contract wasn't renewed.

"He was just a nice guy," Shriver said. "Some supervisors could be kind of rough on you, but he gave you leeway and was easy to talk to about anything. I enjoyed my time working with him. I'm sorry to hear that he is gone."

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