Local News

Woman responsible for fatal 2002 fire requests clemency

Posted July 20, 2012
Updated July 21, 2012

— More than 10 years after Janet Danahey was sentenced to life in prison for admitting she caused the deaths of four people by setting a prank fire at an apartment complex in Greensboro, she's asking Gov. Bev Perdue to be let out of prison early. 

Danahey, now 33, and her lawyers filed a request for clemency last week, saying she had no intention of hurting anyone when she set fire to a couch outside the Campus Walk Apartments on Feb. 15, 2002. 

One of the four killed that night in 2002 was Elizabeth Harris, a Cary resident who was attending college at UNC-Greensboro at the time of the fire. Her father, Bob Harris, said Friday that the wounds from his daughter's death are still fresh. 

"People talk about getting a punch in the stomach when they hear bad news, getting their heart ripped out. Those aren't adequate to describe the wrenching inside," he said. 

Following Elizabeth's death and Janet Danahey's trial, Bob Harris visited Danahey in prison. Harris said Danahey was trembling when she admitted what she did and asked for his forgiveness.

"I had to know," he said of the decision to visit Danahey. "That's what I needed to hear."

Harris said being able to hear Danahey's confession is one reason he now supports her request for clemency from the governor.

Janet Danahey Woman responsible for fatal fire in Greensboro requests clemency

"I feel she has a lot of positive to give to society," he said. 

To show his support, Harris even wrote a letter to the governor explaining why Danahey should be released early. 

Several high profile names are listed on the clemency petitions as supporting Danahey, including UNC System President Tom Ross. On Friday, however, a representative from Ross' office called the fact that his name was on the list "erroneous."

There is no timetable for a decision from Perdue on the petition.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • commonsense4 Jul 24, 2012

    I feel at this point she is harmless to society, and is just wasting taxpayer money. If one parent can forgive her, and see positivity in her, maybe she can even be beneficial to society. I don't agree with what she did, but I do believe there was no intent to harm anyone. Just my opinion.

  • dollibug Jul 23, 2012

    Selecting an attorney to represent a person can be either good or bad..being appointed an attorney can also be the same..laws are for everyone..and attorneys are *suppose to know the laws*. NOT ALL ATTORNEYS ARE EQUAL..laws are NOT IN BLACK AND WHITE and DEFINED as they should be..interpretation of the law is what counts and makes a difference in the Judicial Systems in America and who can twist and tweak the laws enough to convince either a judge or jury what has taken place and how it should be resolved. The accused person might not have a choice in what happens..Janet admitted guilt..but I am not even sure that anyone knows the truth about what really happened with this incident..I do not know Janet, but I have heard and read about her. Janet was a good person..sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Bob Harris lost his daughter in this tragedy and he forgave Janet a long time ago. Other people have done much worse and have gotten off with less time. IT was manslaughter.

  • katiespark Jul 23, 2012

    Dollibug - Clearly, you and I have very differing opinions about this issue. Clearly, we both have some kind of a personal connection to the story. Yes, Janet had two people with her, but neither of them started the fire that killed four people. They actually cooperated with authorities, so the were not charged. And no, I don't call Janet serving 10 years fair and just. She killed my friend. When she's served a life term, it'll be fair and just. That is the consequence she chose. At least she got to live. Please don't bother trying to engage me in a war of words - I don't think either of us has a hope of convincing the other to change our opinions.

  • dollibug Jul 23, 2012

    DigTriad interviewed one of the victim's father, who is I believe from Cary, NC...Bob Harris....about *forgiveness*....so many people could learn a lot from this man's interview....it was a very sincere and comforting interview and this man also supports the Petition for clemency for Janet....

  • dollibug Jul 23, 2012

    +++++This woman is exactly where she needs to be, and I hope she stays there.

    Janet was also NOT ALONE...there were 2 other young women with her...(when one of them went back to get the lighter fluid) either of them could have *DONE SOMETHING*....they got off SCOTT FREE....OR when exactly is it ok for a person to get drunk and kill people and get off with a *light sentence*...and then when it is an accident...a true accident...as I do not think for a minute that Janet meant to hurt anyone, much less, kill anyone....she got life without parole....(read about the case of Tolly Carr which is one example)...Janet served 10 years....and we call this FAIR AND JUST????????

  • Wendellcatlover Jul 23, 2012

    Sorry Danahey, a life sentence is a life sentence. I don't care if it was a prank or not! Four people died because of her negligent stupidity and she need to take the punishment like a big girl.

  • dollibug Jul 23, 2012

    For anyone who is interested in supporting Janet on this case please see the following link: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-governor-of-nc-grant-clemency-petition-for-janet-danahey or http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-817919 Please be sure and read the details that seems to get left out from what happened....

  • katiespark Jul 23, 2012

    This is reprehensible. Janet Danahey is responsible for killing four people. She chose to set the fire. She chose to run and dispose of evidence instead of calling the authorities or doing anything to warn people about the situation she created. She chose to run to her parents' house to hide out instead of coming forward. She chose to plead guilty to the charges given rather than have to face a trial. She did this because she didn't want to face the death penalty. She chose life in prison. How nice that she's had all these opportunities for choice that the people she burned alive never got. This woman is exactly where she needs to be, and I hope she stays there.