CLEVELAND - More than 30 years after the murder of 10-year old Danny O’Donnell in Lake County, his family is fighting to keep his killer behind bars.
“It still feels like yesterday, you’ve got this hole in your heart that doesn't want to heal,” said Danny’s father, Charles O’Donnell.
On October 23, 1984, witnesses said Jeffrey Deel, 16, was passing by the O’Donnell’s Madison Township home and invited Danny to nearby Bennett Road Beach to see a fish he'd caught. A short time later, O’Donnell was found dead, face down in Lake Erie. The fifth grader, who was an avid swimmer and helpful to others, had been beaten and strangled.
“It just took me right down to my knees,” O’Donnell said.
Deel was convicted of O’Donnell’s murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in 1985. He’s been up for parole several times and is again eligible.
“Like they say, life goes on. But when you've been through something like this, life goes on, but the tears and the heartache is still there,” said Danny’s mother, Donna O’Donnell.
The O’Donnell family met with a member of the Ohio Parole Board in Cleveland Friday morning to make their case for why they feel Deel should stay in prison.
“His parents get to go see him even though he's in prison,” Charles O’Donnell said. “All we get to go see is a grave site.”
Deel, now 47, can plead for his freedom at a parole board hearing in April. The O’Donnells said they fear he could strike again, if released.
“He said if he ever got out, he would kill the whole family,” Charles O’Donnell said, recalling what he said Deel told him amid his murder trial.
Deel has been denied parole five previous times. Fox 8 News reached out to Deel for comment through the department of corrections but did not yet get a response.
The O'Donnell family has been collecting petition signatures to submit to the parole board to keep Deel in prison.