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Murderer or Celebrity?

Janet Danahey killed two UNCG students- does her punishment fit the crime?

Published: Monday, February 17, 2003

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01

One year ago Janet Danahey decided to play a prank on a former boyfriend who lived in the Campus Walk Apartments on Spring Garden Street; she doused his couch and curtains with lighter fluid and then set them on fire. The fire spread rapidly to the wooden porch and then finally to the entire building.

During the fire people were seen jumping from the windows and others could be heard banging on windows, walls and doors.

In the end the entire building was destroyed, six cars in the parking lot were burned and four people were dead. They were sisters Rachel and Donna Llewellyn, Ryan Bek and Beth Harris. Rachel Llewellyn and Beth Harris were UNCG students.

Danahey was charged with first-degree murder and, if convicted, faced the death penalty. Instead, she took a plea bargain and received a life sentence. Personally, I believe that she should have received an execution that would not have been one-tenth as cruel as the deaths that her victims faced. But I must salute the Guildford County District Attorney on his restraint in this case. Instead of pursing the death penalty and a trial that would have greatly enhanced his notability, he opted for a plea bargain; that saved the state the expense of a trial and spared the anguish that the victims’ families would have certainly faced if Danahey was put on trial.

But now, a year later, Danahey’s face is being seen again seen. The Greensboro CBS affiliate WFMY decided to grant Danahey an interview. During the interview, Danahey claimed that she was not an evil person, and was sorry for what she had done. She said that “I wish that we could all just get into a room actually, no one else there just the families and just let them vent, let them yell at me, do whatever they had to, just so we could move past that and start growing together because we are inexplicably sown together now.” To prove her sincerity about helping her victims to cope, Danahey said she had not contacted them “to spare them more pain” but she did decide to go on television and broadcast her apologies and woes to the world.

This interview was a disgusting travesty, and WFMY News 2 should be ashamed. The only forum that Danahey was entitled to was a trial, which she relinquished in order to save her life. Now a year later her victims and the general public are subjected to the sight of a murder’s face and her song and dance for sympathy and forgiveness, drivel about how sorry she is and the things she is planning to do to honor the memory of the victims. No new revealing and substantial information was reveled in the course of this interview. It is as certain as the rising sun that the victim’s families were not consulted for their feelings on the possibility of an interview or even given the slightest consideration before the decision to proceed was made. It is my opinion that WFMY’s only motivation for conducting its interview was to raise its profile and to improve ratings, which in turn increases its revenue. This interview was certainly not solid journalism nor a needed community service.

It is an ironic world in which Janet Danahey can attend a horticulture class and “propagate flowers” when she burned a building down. It is a cruel world in which a murderer is given the opportunity to start a singing group and given chance to give her heartfelt apologies over the television, when she caused others to scream and cry. It is an unfair world that Janet Louise Danahey breathes air while Ryan Bek, Racheland Donna Llewellyn, and Beth Harris lie dead in their graves. These people have families who will never be whole again. It is to the families, I give my sympathy. It is my prayer that these four poor souls are in heaven. It is my hope that Janet Louise Danahey is truly repentant and that at the end of her life that she is forgiven by all concerned.

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