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Slain Massena teen’s family relives tragedy; killer up for parole

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The family of Jeremy J. Welsh went through a living hell from the time the 16-year-old went missing in 1995 until his body was found in 1999, the victim of a murder perpetrated by his best friend.

The Massena teen’s family is reliving that hell 19 years later.

Today is the 19th anniversary of Jeremy’s disappearance. This week his murderer, Todd M. Terrance, 41, of Norfolk, will attend a parole hearing that could set him free.

Terrance is serving a prison sentence in Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington County following his 2000 conviction on first-degree manslaughter, and subsequent convictions for first-degree possession of prison contraband and first-degree attempted escape.

Terrance was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison on May 15, 2000, in St. Lawrence County Court,

Jeremy’s older sister, Shannon M. Giarratano, 37, of Massena, said their brother’s fate tore her family apart.

“This has brought up everything we felt when he went missing for those four years,” Ms. Giarratano said. “Not knowing where he was or if he was ever coming home again, we would go out and search in woods for him and it was horrible. It was four years of hell.”

On Dec. 4, 1994, state police arrested Jeremy and Terrance after a burglary of Guyette’s Garage in Rooseveltown. The pair allegedly stole tools and a rifle.

Scared that Jeremy’s testimony would lead to jail time, Terrance threatened him for two weeks before he disappeared, Mr. Welsh’s mother, the late Julie A. Perry, told the Watertown Daily Times a year after her son’s disappearance.

She said her son had even called police to say that Terrance had been following him.

Terrance disappeared 10 days after Jeremy vanished, and was located on Feb. 3, 1995, on Cornwall Island, Ontario. Canadian authorities deported him as an undesirable alien for entering Canada to avoid apprehension in the United States.

Fragments of Jeremy’s bones were discovered four years later, in mid-June 1999 on the banks of the Grasse River.

As a part of a plea deal with then-St. Lawrence County District Attorney Jerome J. Richards which reduced the original second-degree murder charge against him, Terrance agreed to recount the turn of events that occurred on the evening of Jan. 19, 1995, the last time Jeremy was seen alive.

According to archived accounts of the case, Terrance took his friend to a remote section of a Louisville farm owned by his grandfather, Lyle W. Furnace, and the two argued. Terrance hit him in the head with a butt of a rifle, knocking him out. Terrance left the farm for several hours, not knowing if Jeremy was dead or alive. When he returned, he started a tire fire and burned the body of the teen to dispose of it. He used a shovel to chop the body up as it burned.

“Just knowing that they were such best friends and that he repeatedly said ‘I don’t know where he is,’ that someone can do something like that …” Ms. Giarrratano said.

With her during this interview were her half-brother and half-sister, Mark V. Perry, 24, Massena, and Arianna V. Perry, 21, Potsdam, both of whom said they were really too young to remember their half brother.

But his murder destroyed their family.

Mr. Perry was 5 years old when his brother disappeared. Ms. Perry was 2.

“The fact that my family has to relive this makes me sick to my stomach,” Mr. Perry said. “My brother was only 16, and to know that his killer could be released on parole, where is Jeremy’s justice with this?”

“I’ve struggled throughout life,” Mr. Perry said. “With my mom becoming an alcoholic and dealing with some of the crazy stuff she used to say or do, not having a normal parent anymore caused me to lash out. It ruined my family.”

Mr. Perry said the strain of his brother’s disappearance and murder led his parents to divorce.

“This is pretty much all I have known,” Ms. Perry said. “I don’t really remember Jeremy, but it doesn’t make life any easier. Seeing the people I care about hurt over it, obviously makes me hurt. It affected me because it affected my mom. She left when I was still little, so I went through everything a teenage girl should not go through without her mom.”

Another sister, Lindsay A. Welsh, 29, Saratoga Springs, said that although she moved away from the area three years ago, the possibility that Terrance could be free on the streets again scares her deeply.

“It’s very upsetting; Jeremy at this point in his life, who knows what he would have been doing if he was alive?” Ms. Welsh said. “And the fact that Todd could potentially be a free man and do whatever he wants just seems very unfair.”

Ms. Welsh said their mother died in 2009 of several massive heart attacks. The family said their mother had suffered from depression and panic attacks after Jeremy disappeared. They believe she died of a broken heart.

“Even up until the day that they told us that they were charging Todd, she was in denial the whole time. She expected Jeremy to walk through the door or that he would call and say that he was OK and he would be coming back,” Ms. Welsh said. “Even afterwards, when Todd was sentenced, she was never able to move past it or get out of that depression. She had a broken heart for the rest of her life. She was just devastated.”

The state Parole Board will issue a decision on whether Terrance is granted parole during the week of Jan. 27. If his release on parole is denied, he will be allowed two more hearings, one in 2016 and a second in 2018. He will be eligible for conditional release on May 26, 2019.

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