One Year Later, Friends Remember Graessle


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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) -- A tragic anniversary of a murder that shook the Valley, the death of 19-year-old Ben Graessle.

The man behind the murder, Dallas Chaplin, will be behind bars for 40 years and his accomplice, Givi Dudunia, is serving a two-year sentence.

That two-year sentence is a point of contention as family and friends push for harsher punishment.

Now they are channeling their love for Ben into a push for "Ben's law," which would make "accessory after the fact of murder" a felony charge.

If that happened, harsher penalties would accompany that charge.

It was a gray Monday in the Shenandoah Valley as friends gathered at Ben's grave, bringing his life into focus one year after he was taken too soon.

"Looking back it seems like just yesterday we were in our apartment just kind of hanging out," said Ted Petit, Ben's one-time roommate.

"I just really miss his friendship. He was always one person I could turn to, and he'd always help me with anything," said Seth Helbrun, one of Ben's friends.

"It's just different not having him here in-person, but we know he's looking down on us all, keeping us in check," said Kyle Weston, another one of Ben's friends.

Friends spending the anniversary together, leaving flowers first where Ben was killed and then at his graveside.

"Every day you just kind of have to get through," said Sara Cruey, a friend of Ben's.

"It's just been very difficult. And it's very hard to try to move on with everything when you know that someone like Ben. You just can't fill that hole in your life," said Petit.

"It just makes me more thankful that I had a friend like that, and I still have good people around," said Mary Kate Sullivan, another one of Ben's friends.

Friends and family continuing to push for "Ben's law."

"Changing that law will hopefully give some more peace to the families," said Matt Knicely, a friend of Ben's.

Hoping that Ben Graessle, forever 19, can live on long past his death.


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