Man convicted of murdering 10-year-old child writes letter to boy’s family ahead of parole hearing

(WARNING: The details may upset some readers.)

MADISON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) — Nearly 40 years after the murder of 10-year-old Danny O’Donnell in Lake County, Ohio, his killer has sent a letter of apology to the boy’s family.

Jeffrey Deel, 53, is serving a life sentence and has been denied parole eight times. His next hearing is April 20, and it’s his first time before the entire Ohio Parole Board.

Deel was 16 when he walked past the O’Donnells’ home in Madison Township and invited Danny to the nearby Bennett Road beach on October 23, 1984. Shortly after, the fifth grader was found face down in Lake Erie.

“I beat, strangled and drugged his innocent, lifeless body in the lake and left him there. Then lied and denied everything,” Deel wrote in an August 2021 letter to the O’ Donnell.

“When I talk about all the people I victimized when I brutally killed your son Danny, in a fight I shouldn’t even have started, I also have to think about the friendships I ruined. You were friends with my parents. I took that from you too. My little brother Brian was Danny’s best friend. I took that friendship away from them too.

Jeffrey Deel (Courtesy of Ohio Department of Corrections)

In the letter, which the O’Donnell family shared with WJW, Deel apologizes for the murder and includes a poem he wrote titled “The Dash.”

“I know that if you’re reading this letter, you’re probably saying a lot of things. For example: I’m still alive and Danny isn’t, or I was able to enjoy life in prison and Danny is still gone, or you can have this or that and Danny has nothing – you tell us. removed. I wish I could bring Danny back. I wish I could give you back your son.

With the recent passage of Ohio Senate Bill 256, which retroactively prohibits life sentences without parole, the O’Donnells said they fear he will be freed this time around. this.

“It’s quite emotional to think about what we want to say,” said Kelly O’Donnell, Danny’s mother. “This letter means nothing to me. At this point, it’s just no, I’m not – Danny didn’t get the second chance, Danny isn’t here because of what you did.

The family is asking people to write letters to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and sign an online petition. These signatures must be received by Sunday evening.

“He said if he ever came out he would kill us,” said Charles O’Donnell, Danny’s father.

They are also keeping people updated on the case on the Justice For Danny Facebook page.


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