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Stevens sentence to life for murder

VIDALIA — Pat Welch needed only one word to describe her feelings Wednesday.

Relief.

After hearing a week’s worth of testimony, viewing grisly crime scene and autopsy photos and watching a tape of convicted murderer Michael Kelly Stevens tell law enforcement officers how he murdered her brother-in-law Michael Welch, Pat Welch and the rest of her family are now feeling relief.

Stevens received a mandatory life sentence of hard labor without the possibility of probation, parole or suspension by Seventh Judicial District Judge Leo Boothe.

Stevens was found guilty of first-degree murder on Aug. 13, after 55 minutes of deliberation from the jury.

Pat Welch was in court each day Stevens was scheduled to appear and, while it was difficult, she said she did it for Mike Welch’s memory.

“He never would have hurt anyone,” Pat Welch said. “He would have done anything he could to help people.”

She has been married to Michael Welch’s brother for 56 years.

Pat Welch said the “good Samaritan” side of Michael Welch was why he even allowed Stevens to live with him.

“He was lending him a hand, helping him out,” Welch said. “It is so sad that that guy killed Michael for the little bit of money he had in his wallet and his truck.”

Stevens was convicted of killing Mike Welch with a steak knife at Michael Welch’s Vidalia home.

Welch’s body was discovered in the living room of his house on Oct. 4 when relatives became concerned after not hearing from him for several days.

The knife wound to Welch’s neck was approximately 9 inches long and two and three-quarters inches deep at its deepest point.

The wound transected both the internal carotid artery and the jugular vein according to an autopsy report presented during the trial.

“The pictures, you couldn’t even tell they were Michael,” Pat Welch said of the photos shown during the trial.

But Pat Welch is glad for her family that the worry and stress of court proceedings are over now.

“Now that he has been sentenced, and I know he’ll be on his way to Angola, I’m happy,” she said. “I’m at peace.”

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