Family of Lawrence man killed in New Year’s crash want justice, pray for other victims

Local

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WDAF) — The family of a Lawrence, Kansas man who died in a head-on crash on New Year’s Day is hoping for justice.

James Henderson Jr., 20, died after a vehicle crashed into his right after midnight. Police say they are investigating if intoxication was a factor in the deadly crash.

To friends and family Henderson will always affectionately be known as JJ. They describe him as a gentle giant who always cared about others. He was very close with his family, especially his parents.

His cousins, Marri Cardin and Madison Whistler said he was always there for them. They say their world won’t be the same without him.

“We’re never going to celebrate New Year’s again. It’s never going to be the same,” Cardin said.

“He was broken, but I pray to God that he didn’t feel it,” Whistler said.

Lawrence police said Henderson was driving right after midnight. He was on West 6th Street near Iowa Street with his girlfriend and her mother in the car.

“He told his mom he would be home by midnight. They were heading home, and it was just five minutes away from arriving home, and they got hit,” Cardin said.

Police said the driver of a car came into Henderson’s lane and hit them head-on. They are investigating driver impairment as a contributing factor. Henderson died at a hospital in Topeka. His girlfriend is still in critical condition, and her mother is expected to recover.

“I didn’t believe it. I swear to God I did not. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t process it. I was talking to him thirty minutes before he was ready to go home. ‘Happy New Year’s.’ ‘I love you’ back and forth … I didn’t believe it,” Whistler said.

The women said they want to see justice for their cousin. The driver was treated for minor injuries, but no charges have been filed at this time. They say Henderson was always there for them and their entire family. Now, they plan to be there for him and see this through.

“We love you. We wish you didn’t have to go so soon,” Cardin said,

“I love you, and I’m so sorry. No amount of words or emotions or tears can really explain how I feel, and it’s a big loss. It is,” Whistler said.

Henderson was extremely close with his parents. His cousins say he helped his mother with her health and was selfless. He was an only child. His mother had a baby before Henderson, but they passed away from SIDS when the baby was six months old. His mother had a number of miscarriages before she had Henderson and his family considered him a miracle baby.

“Even then, she was afraid that he was going to pass. He had a heart murmur, but they got through it. He lived for 20 years. He was a really good kid,” Cardin said.

The family said they plan to celebrate JJ’s life when they can. They set up a GoFundMe to help his parents with funeral costs and to get through this difficult time.

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