GREENSBORO, N.C. — As Governor Bev Perdue finishes her last week in office as head of state, supporters of Janet Danahey wait to hear whether Perdue will grant clemency in a ten-year-old Greensboro case.
Last June, Danahey’s attorneys filed a petition for clemency, stating, “This was a prank and everyone knew it. We are left with the unsettling and disturbing sense that we placed a 23-year-old woman in prison for life without parole for playing a prank that went terribly wrong.”
Danahey confessed and pled guilty to four counts of murder and arson after she admittedly set a fire that killed four people in a Greensboro apartment complex in February 2002.
She was sentenced to life without parole and is currently imprisoned in the women’s prison in Raleigh.
Her attorneys maintain the fire was all part of a prank, a practical joke gone wrong, and insist she is remorseful.
“She never intended any harm to any human being. She attempted a foolish prank that put her in prison for life. It was a thoughtless act, but with no malicious intent,” wrote defense attorneys Locke Clifford and Wade Smith in the petition.
The petition also included more than 35 letters of support; one was from the father of one victim of the fire, Beth Harris.
The Governor has said she will rule on the clemency request. She would need to do so before the end of her term in North Carolina this week.
Since June, an online petition has also sparked supporters to step forward and share their perspective on the Danahey case.
“Janet paid for the crime with ten years in prison,” wrote one supporter. “She deserves to contribute to society again from the outside.”
Another signed the online petition, “She is a good person. I think she made a mistake and is remorseful.”
Greensboro Firefighter David Douglas responded to the Campus Walk Apartment fire in 2002. He believes Danahey deserves the life without parole sentence she agreed to ten years ago.
“You know, it’s a harsh sentence,” he told Fox 8 at the time.
“Well unfortunately being dead forever is a harsh sentence, too. All of those things they say Ms. Danahey can’t do- none of those victims can do either.”
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.
Douglas was the person who informed Carolyn Llewellyn that her daughters, Donna and Rachel, were two of the four people killed in the fire.
“Of all the things I’ve ever done I think in my life, that was the hardest,” Douglas admitted.
Llewellyn also spoke to Fox8 when Danahey’s petition for clemency was first filed.
“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.”
But Janet Danahey’s loved ones say they are suffering, too.
One woman wrote on the petition that Janet was like a big sister to her growing up.
“She always brought a ray of sunshine every time she came over. I remember he beautiful smile and laugh with love. Janet is love.”
Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann painted a very different picture of Danahey in response to the idea of commuting her sentence.
“It’s an intentional malicious act and the consequences of it are foreseeable.”
Many of Danahey’s supporters believe this could be her last shot at a second chance.
Fox8 will continue to keep you updated on the Governor’s decision in this case.