16-year-old Cleveland girl who killed couple in hit-and-run drag racing crash sentenced to probation, group home

Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 11:05 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For months 19 News has been following the tragic story of a Cleveland couple killed by a pair of drag racing teenagers.

A 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl crashed into 22-year-old Bobby Henry and his 32-year-old girlfriend Brianca Palmer on a motorcycle. They both ended up with the same sentence.

Juvenile Court Judge Jennifer O’Malley sentenced them to 6-9 months in a group home, probation, and they both lost their driver’s licenses until they’re 21. It’s a sentence the victim’s family believes is far too light.

“So why juveniles have a license to kill is beyond us and if he was 12 or 13 that feels more like a juvenile, 17…I joined the military at 18,” said Job Lesko, Henry’s stepfather. “I was in Afghanistan I turned 21 in Afghanistan so to me at 17 you’re at that age where you know it’s close.”

For the first time, 19 News has surveillance video that shows these two teens drag racing through Cleveland’s Slavic Village for blocks before ultimately crashing into Henry and Palmer, killing them. Police said the teens took off and left the pair to die in the streets.

“It’s disturbing,” said Lesko. “It’s hard to watch.”

The 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy were charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident.

19 News learned the teen girl in this case cut off her GPS ankle bracelet and went on the run for a month before being brought back into custody.

The victim’s parents feel like both teens got off with a slap on the wrist.

“They should have at least done two years in jail, adult jail,” said Henry’s mother, Danica Jankovich. “They should’ve probably lost their license for the rest of their lives, you gotta hold some kind of accountability.”

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office called the sentence “appalling” and said the state filed a motion to try the pair as adults, but a judge denied it.

“For taking two people’s lives in such an irresponsible manner to steal your mom’s car, hit them, collide with them, check on them and run away from the scene is deserving of punishment,” Lesko said.

The couple said they would keep pushing for tougher penalties for juvenile offenders because they don’t feel like what they got for their loved ones was justice.