Cary, N.C. — 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.
"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.