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Mom speaks about heartbreak, determination after son's death

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

An image of Derek Russell watches over the living room at Joanne Fisher's house. She and her daughter, Jahnae, think about him everyday.

"He's loved, he's missed, he was the sweetest kid you'd ever want to meet," Joanne Fisher said. 

"He always did everything for everybody," Jahnae Fisher said. 

Pictures and memories are all they have now.

Joanne Fisher thinks about her son, a father to 1-year-old Derek Jr., a man who said 2014 was going to be his year, and can't help but think back to that terrible night.

"He was like, 'Ma, it's a bicycle,' that's how he used to talk to me, 'it's a bicycle, come on be real,'" she said. 

Russell got on his bike and was planning to ride to his girlfriend's house New Year's morning. But he would never make it.

"He walked out the door and that's the last I've ever seen my son," Fisher said. 

The next day there was a news alert on her phone - bicyclist killed on Boston Road.

That's when a mother's instinct kicked in.

"I knew. In my heart of hearts, I knew," she said. 

One of her neighbors who lived near the site where Russell was killed had just installed cameras on his house on New Year's Eve. At midnight New Year's morning, they started recording. Around three hours later, they captured the image of Russell getting killed, but it was something else they captured that warmed Fisher's heart.

"I was so afraid my son died alone ... several of the neighbors in those houses came out and they covered him up and they were holding his hand, and they were trying to comfort him even though he was gone. They knew he was gone," she said. 

Those cameras also captured images of the man police say was driving the pickup truck that killed Russell.

Adam Thurber was arrested in his Springfield home two days after Russell was killed.

Police showed up with a warrant after they say Thurber violated his probation after an arrest last year for drunken driving.

Police say he was going at least 70 mph when Russell was killed.

"Dragged him and then just ran over him with all four tires and keep going? You never stopped?" Fisher said. 

In two weeks, Thurber will be back in court. Tuesday, Fisher wrote him a letter.

"God's trying to give me the strength to forgive you, but right now I don't see that, I don't see it. I'm asking God to give me that because I have to one day forgive this guy," she said. 

Even though she's lost her son, she says she knows something good has to come from this.

"Ask Derek and God to give me the inner strength to do what I need to do. I'm going to do changes in these laws. If it's the last thing I do in this world, I'm going to change the laws."

Thurber faces charges of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in personal injury and death, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license and speeding.

He has plead not guilty.

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