RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Bev Perdue will consider commuting the sentence of a Greensboro woman serving a life sentence for a deadly apartment fire that killed four people more than ten years ago.
Janet Danahey, who pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and first-degree arson in July 2002, asked the governor for a commuted sentence with the help of her lawyers.
Danahey was arrested after an investigation found that she set fire to a futon on a deck at the Campus Walk Apartments off Spring Garden Road on Feb. 15, 2002. She later admitted to starting the fire as a Valentine’s prank on an ex-boyfriend.
Neumann doesn’t like Danahey’s description of calling this a prank.
“I can’t find any book that defines intentionally setting a fire on a fabric covered piece of furniture on a wooden deck on a wood framed building with vinyl siding as a prank,” Neumann said. “It’s an intentional malicious act and the consequences of it are foreseeable.”
Sisters Donna and Rachel Llewellyn died in the fire, as well as their roommate Beth Harris and Harris’ boyfriend Ryan Bek. They were in an apartment on the third floor. Danahey’s ex-boyfriend lived in an apartment on the second floor of the building. Several other people were injured.
Neumann said after the victim’s families agreed to the district’s attorney’s office making a deal, Danahey plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.
“They walked out of the courtroom that day with assurances from us that she would spend the rest of her life in prison because that’s what she agreed to be sentenced to and that’s what she was sentenced to. And now I have to get in touch with them and say, wow, that promise I made you ten years ago may not come true now,” he said.
Danahey has been serving a life sentence in the women’s prison in Raleigh.
Neumann said he thinks Danahey’s lawyers filed the petition for clemency now because Perdue is not running for re-election.
“She’s pretty much unaccountable,” Neumann said, referring to Perdue. “I figured they think that’s going to be their best shot to find a loose piece in the machinery.”
Danahey’s lawyers, Locke Clifford in Greensboro and Wade Smith in Raleigh provided this statement:
“Wade Smith and I filed a petition for clemency on behalf of Janet Danahey. The petition is in the hands of the governor’s clemency office. They will determine whether our petition has merit. Because we do not want to interfere with their decision making process we believe it is inappropriate for us to comment further on this matter at this time.”