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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10-09 Mansfield News Journal

Foes of death rally at MANCI
By: Joel Moroney

Sister Colette Livingston of Cleveland holds a sign while the Rev. Herb Weber of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Mansfield speaks during the "Journey of Hope" anti-death penalty rally outside Mansfield Correctional Institution on Wednesday.

Opponents of the death penalty stand outside Mansfield Correctional Institution on Wednesday during the "Journey of Hope" rally.

MANSFIELD -- Bud Welch's life changed forever at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 -- the morning he lost his daughter and began a journey that has brought him face to face with her killer's family.

It has been a decade that has taken full-circle his views on the death penalty.

It also brought him to Mansfield Correctional Institution on Wednesday, where he stood in a cornfield across from Ohio's death row as part of the "Journey of Hope," a statewide protest against the death penalty.

Welch, 64, of Oklahoma City lost his daughter, Julie Marie Welch, when the Alfred P. Murrah federal building was bombed.

She was 23, could speak five languages and was working as a translator for the Social Security

Administration, said Welch, who is a longtime opponent of the death penalty.

But he said his daughter's death changed his mind for one year, during which grief and alcohol threatened to consume him.

"The first month, I didn't even want trials for them," Welch said of Timothy McVeigh, executed in 2001 for his part in the bombing, and Terry Nichols, who was sentenced to life in prison.

"I just wanted them to fry," Welch said. "But I finally came to the conclusion that the day we took (them) from their cages to kill them, that it would be an act of revenge and hate and it was an act of revenge and hate that cost Julie Marie and another 167 people their lives."

Meeting McVeigh's father, William McVeigh, also helped Welch heal.

"I decided to tell him I didn't blame him or his family for the bombing," Welch said. "I found a bigger victim of the Oklahoma City Bombing than myself that morning. I really did."

Sam Reese Sheppard also participated in Wednesday's protest, which was part of a 17 -day speaking tour that culminates at the Statehouse in Columbus on Saturday. The event is being sponsored by Ohioans to Stop Executions.

Sheppard is the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was sentenced to prison for killing his wife Marilyn Sheppard before being granted a new trial by which he was eventually acquitted.

The notorious case inspired the movie and television show "The Fugitive."

"Let's remember the hearts of the children and the victims and the families and let's remember the hearts of the children of the men behind these walls," Sheppard said. "I remember visiting dad for short times in that building right there (the old penal farm) when he wasn't in the dungeons of the Ohio State Reformatory. What a shame it is that we human beings break each others' hearts."