New England native Ashley Guindon first joined the Prince William County Police Department in Virginia in 2015 but left abruptly for personal reasons. She returned less than a year later.
“She felt like she still wanted to do this job,” Police Chief Stephan M. Hudson told reporters. “She couldn’t get it out of her blood.”
Late Saturday afternoon, on her first day back with the department, 28-year-old Guindon and two other officers approached a house in Woodbridge, a suburban community 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. A woman there had called police after a fight with her husband. As they neared the front door, the husband, Ronald Hamilton, a 32-year-old Army staff sergeant, allegedly opened fire, striking all three officers, Hudson said during a press conference Sunday.
Guindon, who was born in Springfield, Mass., and raised in Merrimack, N.H., was killed.
The shooting ended a young life already marked by tragedy. In 2004, when she was in high school, her father, Air National Guardsman David Guindon, killed himself the day after he returned from a grueling six-month tour in Iraq.
On Sunday morning, Merrimack police escorted Guindon’s mother, Sharon, to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport so she could fly to Virginia.
Ashley Guindon was “an only child,” her grandmother, Dorothy Guindon, said in a telephone interview. “It’s so hard to take. . . . You hear people say that God only gives you what you can handle. But the people this happens to, I don’t think they say that themselves.”
Prince William police also found Hamilton’s wife, 29-year-old Crystal Hamilton, in the house, dead from a gunshot wound. The couple’s 11-year-old son had been inside but fled and was found physically unharmed. The two officers who were with Guindon survived the shooting but remain hospitalized.
Determined and intellectually gifted, Guindon graduated in 2005 from Merrimack High School and went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. She spent six years in the US Marine Corps Reserve and was drawn to forensic science, a fascination that led her to work in a funeral home while she was still in college.
“Whatever job was given to her, she did it to her utmost,” Dorothy Guindon said. “She was a kind and caring person . . . and she was a happy person.”
Quiet and studious, Guindon was also a leader, said Laurie Rothhaus, her former cheerleading coach.
At Merrimack High School, Guindon was respected by her fellow cheerleaders for her work ethic and deep focus.
“At practice, she was always the one holding the team together,” Rothhaus recalled. “If there was a routine or something that had to get done, she’d say, ‘Let’s not waste time, let’s give 100 percent and do this.’ ”
Rothhaus remembered Guindon’s poise and grace during difficult times.
“She was very brave,” said Rothhaus, now the principal of Campbell High School in Litchfield, N.H. “I think she just always had a lot of courage. She knew what she wanted in life and she was going to make a difference. It’s such a loss for all of us.”
In Merrimack, word of Guindon’s death began spreading early Sunday morning, shocking town officials and police.
“It brings it home a little harder for our officers,” Merrimack Police Chief Mark Doyle said. “It makes us recognize that this could happen to them anytime they’re in the line of the duty.”
Officers in his department went to Sharon Guindon’s house Saturday night and were at her side when she learned of her daughter’s death, Doyle said.
“You don’t want to do that at all,” Doyle said. “To have to make a notification is already horrible. That it’s a fellow police officer — it’s just got to be horrendous.”
Guindon was the fourth officer killed in the line of duty in Prince William County since 1970, Hudson said.
Hamilton is expected to be arraigned Monday morning on six charges, including capital murder of a police officer and first degree murder for the killing of Crystal Hamilton, said Paul Ebert, the commonwealth’s attorney for Prince William County.
Ebert said he is likely to seek the death penalty against Hamilton.Maria Sacchetti of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Maria Cramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeMCramer.