More than 10 years after his wife was killed in a violent crash, Brian Mulry had gotten his life in order, found a new sense of normal and forgiven the man who changed his life that day in 2005.
Then, his mother-in-law called in tears. And Mulry felt the grief all over again.
Nearly 11 years after the fatal crash that killed new mother April Mulry, police arrested Will Slinger, now 29, in another serious crash — a January hit-and-run in Franklin, which left three people seriously injured.
For April’s family, the pain is indescribable.
And now, family members, who once felt pangs of guilt for such a young man being sent to prison, want to see changes to the law that hold people more accountable in serious crashes.
“It’s like another slap in the face to us, and we’re having to relive it all, and now these people are suffering,” said Lorrie Bell, April’s stepmother.
After the 2005 deadly crash that killed April, Slinger told police he had smoked marijuana that day and was charged with operating while intoxicated causing death. He went to trial and was convicted. Family members came to the sentencing with mixed feelings about sending him to prison.
Slinger was sentenced to seven years in prison, and one year on probation, and his sentence was later modified. He ended up serving about two years in prison under previous sentencing rules, which gave inmates more credit time for good behavior and education.
Now, after Slinger’s recent arrest, Mulry wants to see the two families whose lives were altered in January’s crash get justice. But he also doesn’t want to lose himself in the renewed grief of what his family has been through.
“If we allow it, this would put us right back in the state of mind that we were in 10 years ago. At this point, I am going to try very hard to not let that happen,” he said.
For Mulry, getting to where he is now, where he can work and provide for his daughter, has not been easy. After losing his wife, he was left to care for a 5-week-old baby by himself.
His parents and April’s parents were right there to help, but for several months, Mulry wasn’t sure how to carry on anymore without April. He fell into a deep depression and stopped working. The home they had shared made him feel worse, as a constant reminder of just too many memories.
After months and several medications, Mulry was able to return to work. He bought a smaller house for he and his daughter. And they found their new routine.
But he misses having a partner.
“I just miss having someone there, having a relationship, the bond,” he said.
And now, as their daughter is getting ready to turn 11, he sees all the ways she would benefit from having her mother, he said.
“We do our best to go day to day without April. That’s all we can do,” he said.
April had always wanted to be a mother, family members said.
Her husband remembers seeing her with other children, and how happy that made her. He knew with her compassionate and caring nature — the same one that made her an excellent nurse — that she would be the perfect mom.
“It was everything to her for sure,” he said.
Before she was killed, April got the two things she had always wanted in life: being a nurse and being a mom, said Mary Fletcher, April’s mother.
For Fletcher, losing April was also losing her best friend, she said.
The fact that her death was so needless makes it even harder, said Jim Bell, April’s father.
“I live with my daughter’s death everyday, it’s something you don’t lose,” he said.
“You go on, but it’s ruined my life, it’s ruined most of my family’s life. Death happens, but that was a needless death, that’s just something you don’t get over.”
Family members continued living their lives, and the grief slowly became more manageable. Mulry finally came to realize he had to forgive to move on, he said.
And then this week, they found out Slinger had been arrested again, this time for a serious accident in January that injured Mary Anne Litwicki and her husband Mitch Wolhmuth, who is still in the hospital, and a Grant Black, who continues to recover.
They still remember the conflicted feelings they had when Slinger was sentenced for the crash that killed April.
Lorrie Bell remembers thinking about how young he was. April’s brother, Jason Bell, remembers thinking that Slinger should get a chance to be a productive member of society, to replace some of what April had been contributing to the world when she died.
Now, April’s family is questioning the law and how someone who had been involved in a deadly accident a decade ago is able to drive again.
“Something has got to be done; where does it stop?” Jason Bell said.
The prosecutor currently is considering what, if any, charges should be filed against Slinger in the January accident. Prosecutor Brad Cooper said he is unable to comment on the case while it is under investigation.
Fletcher wants to see laws changed so that if someone is intoxicated and hits and kills someone with a vehicle, that should be treated like murder, she said. And while she has forgiven Slinger for the past case, she still wants to see justice served.
“Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you don’t still want them to be punished,” Fletcher said.
Mulry wants justice for the other families who were injured in January.
The family has a close connection with Black, who was injured in the crash. Fletcher has been friends with Black’s mother since they were in school, and Lorrie Bell teaches at the school where Black’s children attend.
“It’s not a connection you want to have,” Lorrie Bell said.
Mulry wants to make sure the harshest charge possible is filed, and that the maximum sentence is given out, he said.
“When someone is young, you try to help. Now, it’s beyond that,” he said.
“They deserve justice.”