Firefighters, family reflect on Campus Walk Apartment Fire

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The old wounds of a 10-year old tragedy have become new again, now that the woman in prison for setting a fire that killed four people has asked for clemency.

Carolyn Llewellyn is the mother of Donna and Rachel Llewellyn, two sisters who died trying to escape the Campus Walk Apartment fire from February 15, 2002. She said their deaths are still too painful for her to talk about publicly.

“When you lose a child to a crime you never get to really bury them because the justice system doesn’t allow closure. It allows them to continue to be dug up over and over and it causes more grief for the loved ones,” said Carolyn Llewellyn in a phone interview.

She said Janet Danahey’s recent request for clemency is the latest action that makes it hard for her to have closure.

Danahey is serving a life sentence in the women’s prison in Raleigh. She plead guilty to four counts of murder and one count of arson. Investigators said Danahey poured lighter fluid on a futon on her ex-boyfriend’s balcony and set the futon on fire. The fire quickly spread to the entire building.

“We got the call at 2:15 or 2:18 in the morning,” said retired firefighter David Douglas. He remembers responding to the call. He was the supervisor for fire investigations at the time.

He was also the one who told Carolyn and Jim Llewellyn that their daughters died.

“Of all the things I’ve ever done in my life, that was the hardest,” said Douglas. “Ms. Llewellyn looked at me and I’ll never forget the look in her eyes that morning and I got in that truck, and you’re just searching for the words and we were sitting there much like we’re sitting now and I clasped her hand and I know from the look in her eye she knew what I had to say.”

The Llewellyn’s oppose Danahey’s attempt for clemency. Douglas does too, and is writing a letter to the governor about it.

“All those things Danahey can’t do, those victim’s can’t do either. This is not all about Janet Danahey. This is all about the people that paid the ultimate price in that building, the people that died. That’s who this should be about,” Douglas said.

Danahey’s family in Mint Hill, N.C. said they do not want to talk to reporters at this time.

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