GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Certain dates have defined Amy Carrickhoff’s life for decades.
From anniversaries to birthdays to holidays and purchases, she’s experienced a lifetime of positive memories. However, there is another saga in her life most couldn’t fathom, beginning on Feb. 15, 2002. The date her brother was murdered.
In those early morning hours, Janet Danahey set fire to the Campus Walk Apartments in Greensboro then left as those flames consumed the building. Amy’s brother Ryan Bek, his girlfriend Donna Llewelyn, Donna’s sister Rachel and their roommate Beth Harris were all killed.
That summer, Danahey accepted a plea deal and was given a life sentence. But on Dec. 20, 2022, Governor Roy Cooper announced he was commuting Danahey’s sentence, making her eligible for parole on Jan. 1, 2023. About two-and-a-half weeks later, on Jan. 17, Danahey’s lawyer presented witnesses speaking on her behalf to the parole commission.
Now, the next important date in Carrickhoff’s life is yet to be set.
“The news is either going to be really, really good or it’s going to be awful,” she said.
While Danahey’s sister and other witnesses made their case for her release to the commission about halfway through the month of January, nearly a month later, the families of the victims are yet to have their chance to plead otherwise.
“My parents are already in poor health…throw this on top of that. It’s bad,” Carrickhoff added.
Beth Harris’ father Bob Harris also spoke in favor of Danahey being released. Carrickhoff and other victims’ family members say all the remaining immediate relatives believe she should serve her entire life sentence.
A spokesperson for the commission maintains those family members will have their day, adding hearing from both sides in a case such as this is standard protocol but couldn’t say when that would be.
“People who kill people or cause the deaths of people should never ever be up for parole,” Carrickhoff said.
The families, according to Carrickhoff, are now simply hoping that the time comes on the date most favorable to them.
“If we went up and plead our case too early, and it doesn’t happen for six to eight months, are they going remember the passion?” she asked. “The tears and the feelings that we had?”
Carrickhoff added a commission member reached out to the families around the time Governor Cooper commuted Danahey’s sentence, directing them to send letters to the commission for review, but that’s the last contact they’ve had.
“It’s been crickets since then. Just ‘this is going to happen, and we’ll let you know,’” she said. “Hurry up and wait.”