Where is Danny Newville?

I’ve been trying to piece together more details about the day 18-year-old Danny Newville went missing from my small town of New London, Minnesota. It happened on August 1, 2002, however, in speaking to investigators, it seems the hardest part for them is trying to piece together what happened in the 54 days AFTER August 1st.

Here’s why.

Danny disappeared on a Thursday. He had just been released from jail after serving a 45 day sentence for a probation violation. He had asked his dad, Russ, to leave his fishing pole out for him before he left for work so he could swing by and pick it up later that day.

Danny had just turned 18 a few months earlier, on May 7, 2002. Up to that point, he had been under the guardianship of his aunt and uncle who lived in neighboring Spicer, but after turning 18, Danny decided to move out and go live with his grandfather who lived just a few blocks away, on Henderson Lake. He was a legal adult, doing his own thing, and keeping his own schedule. Often, he would stay with friends without checking in with his grandfather, so it wasn’t unusual that he would be gone for long stretches of time.

On August 1, 2002, Danny left the Kandiyohi County jail and, at some point, arrived at the “party” near downtown New London. It wasn’t so much of a party as it was an all-day get-together with people dropping in and out throughout the day. According to partygoers, it was around midnight when Danny said he was leaving to walk back to his friend’s house in the Peaceful Hills neighborhood of New London. It was about a mile away and he should have been able to make it in 15-20 minutes or so.

He never made it.

Here’s a Google map that shows the general path Danny would have taken. (Note, these are not actual addresses, just general locations of where the party took place and where his friend lived.)

There is a lot of speculation as to what actually happened at the party that night, and whether Danny really did leave on his own to walk back to his friend’s house. I, myself, have heard many rumors over the years, so I decided to contact the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) last week to get an update and make sure my facts were straight.

I spoke with Detective Kent Bauman and Sheriff Dan Hartog last Tuesday, August 8th. Detective Bauman has been assigned to Danny’s case since they first started investigating it back in 2002. Unfortunately, the investigation has been particularly difficult because they got such a late start on it.

Danny was a legal adult and it wasn’t unusual for him to be “off the grid” for a few days at a time. However, when Russ noticed that Danny still hadn’t stopped by to pick up his fishing pole after several days, that’s when he started asking questions. He called some of Danny’s friends, but got the same basic answer… they hadn’t seen Danny since the party on August 1st.

Russ told me that he first made contact with Willmar Police within 10 days of Danny going missing. However, an official signed report was never filed at that time.

Authorities first learned of Danny’s disappearance when he failed to contact his probation officer in mid-August. By then, he had been missing for two weeks, but because he had turned 18 just months earlier, law enforcement could only issue an “Attempt to Locate” bulletin versus an official “Missing Person” bulletin. I asked Detective Bauman what the difference was.

“An ‘Attempt to Locate’ basically means that if an officer sees the missing person, or has contact, they would then contact that person’s family and let them know. This would be something that is done inside our jurisdiction only, and short of a ‘signed’ missing person’s report that would be put into a state/national database. Typically, an ATL is put out when the subject is not believed to be a runaway or endangered, etc.”

Then, on September 24, 2002, things abruptly changed. Fifty-four days after Danny had last been seen, Kandiyohi County Dispatch received an anonymous phone call from someone who said Danny Newville’s body had been dumped near his grandfather’s property in Spicer.

Law enforcement immediately started investigating the lead and got a signed missing person’s report from Danny’s parents. The information about Danny’s body turned out to be a rumor, but still, they brought in cadaver dogs and did air searches of the area, hoping to find some clue. Unfortunately, they found nothing. They began interviewing partygoers and giving polygraphs, but by then, the rumor mill was already churning and it was hard to distinguish fact from fiction.

Detective Bauman says that’s another part of what makes this investigation so difficult. These rumors of what may have happened to Danny Newville scare people and prevent them from talking. Most believe he was a victim of foul play, but Detective Bauman says they can’t even be sure of that. People have told him that Danny was killed the night of the party and that his body was dumped somewhere, but they can’t be sure of that either. Most people also believe that drugs played a part in Danny’s final hours, but rumors range all the way from a simple overdose, to Danny owing someone money, to Danny being a jailhouse snitch.

Here’s the deal. At the end of the day, that is not my battle. All I know for sure is that Danny’s family wants to find him, and if there’s anything I can do to help in that effort, I’m willing to try.

I asked Detective Bauman what people could do if they had a lead but were too afraid to talk. He said the best thing to do is just mail an anonymous letter to their department. They take every lead seriously, but he says they can’t just go digging up properties with a backhoe unless the information is credible and fits with what they already know. For that reason, he encourages people to be specific, even though they may absolutely remain anonymous.

Here’s the address:

Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
2201 NE 23rd St, Suite 101
Willmar, MN 56201

Finally, here’s Danny’s official missing person flyer from the Minnesota BCA. If you have any information about Danny’s whereabouts, please share. It’s been 15 years. It’s time.

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