Danny Newville – His last day

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last day Danny was seen before he disappeared. After speaking to so many different people, I’ve wondered what was going on his life, what his immediate plans were after getting released from jail, and what thoughts were going through his head on that day. After trying to piece together all those conversations in order to recreate his last day, I think I still have more questions than answers.

Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together so far.

On Wednesday, July 31st, Danny was released from the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar after serving 45 days for a probation violation. He had just turned 18 a few months earlier (May 7), so for the first time, he was serving out his sentence as an adult at the county jail versus Prairie Lakes Juvenile Detention Center.

I’ve wondered what was going through Danny’s head on the day he entered that jail. Danny’s physical stature was small and slight, and he was by no means a hardened career criminal. I’m sure he was terrified at the thought of having to spend 45 days at the adult jail. I’ve been told he was a good-looking young man, but the drug addiction was beginning to take its toll. He had lost a lot of weight in recent months, and the dark circles under his eyes spoke volumes about his lack of sleep.

On the day Danny was released, Wednesday, July 31, he called a friend to come and pick him up at the jail. She lived at the house where the alleged “party” would take place later that night, and she recalls that it was sometime between 1pm and 2pm that she picked Danny up and brought him back to her house.

The home where Danny was last seen, as pictured in a March 2017 news story on KSTP

I wondered about this, too. You’d think after being in jail for 45 days, Danny would have wanted to go home, take a shower, and sleep in his own bed. But, maybe Danny made this decision because “home” was a fuzzy term for him during this time of his life. He had spent the previous two years living with his aunt and uncle in Spicer, but after turning 18 in May, he had moved in with his grandfather at his home on Henderson Lake. More often than not, though, Danny would stay at his friend’s house in the Peaceful Hills development in New London. Maybe he was stir crazy and just wanted to see what was shaking. Maybe he was lonely and wanted to catch up with his friends. Who knows, but it surprised me that he wouldn’t want to get dropped off at home first… wherever “home” happened to be.

Some time around 2pm or 2:30pm, Danny called his dad, Russ, and asked him to leave his fishing rod out by the garage so he could swing by and pick it up later that day. (It was that fishing rod that gave Russ his first clue that something might be wrong when Danny hadn’t been by to pick it up after a few days.) I asked Russ where Danny was when he made this call, and he said it was from his grandpa’s house on Henderson Lake. I’m not sure how he got there or when he left. Still working on those details.

According to Danny’s friend who picked him up from jail:

“It was my older brother and I home that day… that’s it. Danny sat and chatted for about 30 minutes, then said he was going out to his friend’s house. He wanted to walk, so he did. He cut through our backyard, which was next to his friend’s Grandma’s place. That was the LAST time we saw him”

I wondered why he wanted to walk. Was it a beautiful summer day?

I decided to check Weather Underground. It turns out Wednesday, July 31, 2002 was extremely hot and humid in Minnesota. By 3pm, the temperature was almost 90° and the dew point was in the 70s. That’s oppressive. Who wants to walk in that kind of heat when they can get a ride instead?

If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that the heat and humidity continued throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. For Minnesota, it is incredibly unusual for the temperature to remain at 80° throughout the night. By our standards, that’s HOT.

Weather Conditions

DateTime (CDT)Temp.Dew PointPrecipConditions
Wed 7/31/200211:53 AM80.1 °F73.0 °FN/AMostly Cloudy
Wed 7/31/20022:53 PM89.1 °F72.0 °FN/AScattered Clouds
Wed 7/31/20025:53 PM90.0 °F72.0 °FN/AScattered Clouds
Wed 7/31/20028:53 PM84.0 °F73.0 °FN/APartly Cloudy
Wed 7/31/200211:53 PM80.1 °F72.0 °FN/AScattered Clouds
Thu 8/1/20022:53 AM81.0 °F69.1 °FN/AClear
Thu 8/1/20025:53 AM79.0 °F70.0 °FN/AMostly Cloudy

Source: https://www.wunderground.com

Some of this might explain why Danny didn’t show up to get his fishing rod that day. Understandably, it was too hot to even go fishing. Instead, it seems Danny decided to return to “the party house” at some point.

I’m not sure of the timing here. According to Danny’s friend who picked him up from jail, there was no party at her house that night. But, according to several other sources, there definitely was a gathering of some sort. People who were there told investigators that Danny left on foot sometime between 5:30am and 6am on Thursday, August 1.

I checked the sunrise on that date. The sun came up at 5:57am CST, so it would make some sense that Danny would wait for daylight before leaving to go back to his friend’s house. Again, partygoers said that Danny cut through the backyard, heading west toward Peaceful Hills. From what I’ve read, many of these people have been polygraphed, so the story seems pretty verifiable.

And, so… that would mean Danny did not die at the party. That is contrary to almost every story I’ve heard over the past two months. It seems most people believe Danny was killed at this so-called “party,” most likely over a drug debt.

From there, the urban myths get pretty horrible. I’ve heard Danny was beaten to death. Danny was dismembered. Danny was burned alive. Suffice it to say, Danny’s disappearance has been used to spread a culture of fear throughout our small community for the past 15 years. Young adults who were part of the drug scene when they were kids were regularly told, “Be careful or you’ll end up like Danny Newville.” I’ve heard this more than once.

So, what REALLY happened to Danny Newville on August 1, 2002? If he left the party on his own, where did he go? Did he O.D. and pass out somewhere? Did someone pick him up? Did someone follow him, kill him, and dump his body?

Danny’s friend told me about a shortcut between her house and Peaceful Hills.

“There was a shortcut to the trailer park. If you go down 2nd Avenue, over by the ball fields… there are houses back there now, but back then there was a gravel road. You’d go along the edge of the DNR property, and that would take you to a “snake trail” that went all the way to the trailer park. All the kids knew about the snake trail. You could get to the trailer park in five minutes instead of 15 minutes by road.”

She wondered if the land around the “snake trail” had ever been searched. I thought it was a good question, so I reached out to Detective Bauman and asked him. He said yes. They searched that area by foot, by air, and with cadaver dogs. I was also told by a DNR officer that the lake behind the “party house” had also been dragged.

Unfortunately though, all these searches didn’t start until 54 days after Danny went missing. Admittedly, that really put investigators behind the eight ball.

So… that’s what I’ve been able to piece together so far. In order to take this any farther, I think I need help. If you can provide more details, fill in gaps, or correct any misinformation, please leave a comment below or contact me using the online form.

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If you have a tip about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact:

Detective Kent Bauman:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us

You may also mail anonymous tips to:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
2201 NE 23rd St, Suite 101
Willmar, MN 56201

Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

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