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Relative of DWI crash victims speaks out to keep driver behind bars

ABC 17 News reported last week about Cole Co. Judge Daniel Green’s order to turn Larry Welch’s 20 year sentence into 7 years. That order has been blocked.

62-year-old Welch is convicted on manslaughter charges after driving drunk and killing a mother and son in Cole County in 2007.

The daughter who survived the crash, Johanna Henry, told ABC 17 a release from prison would be a slap in the face to the family.

Henry said it would disgrace the justice system and be a sad day for her family if Welch doesn’t serve his sentence. She’s worried for other families, and said it could said a bad precedent for repeat drunk drivers who could get off easy in the future.

She said she will do whatever it takes to keep Welch behind bars.

“It hurts so bad because they aren’t here to fight,” said Henry.

It was a routine Sunday morning in November 2007. Johanna and her family were on their way home from church, when everything changed in an instant.

“I relive it in my dreams,” said Henry.

Her mother, Jean, and brother, Toby, were killed and she was severely injured.

Now, she’s battling the justice system to make sure justice is served and a sentence is upheld.

ABC 17 asked how she would react if it does happen.

“It’s been seven years, I’ll probably break for about 5 minutes and then be like, ‘all right, Johanna, put your face on,’ and I will stand strong. You know if he gets out, it happens, I’m going to continue to push for it and I’m going to continue to fight, not just for my family but for everybody,” said Henry.

Fighting for others, because it’s what her family would have wanted her to do, even though they can’t be here to help her through this very tough time.

“It’s just empty and you feel so alone. Nobody around here has been in the same situation and I just recently found that other person, and they’re like, ‘I’m always here for you.’ It’s an empty feeling.”

Welch is trying to get out of prison early because of health problems, but it’s unclear what those are.

Johanna said she’s hoping by getting the story out there, it might bring more attention to justice officials who might be thinking about going soft on convicted felons who have ruined innocent lives.

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