Posts by joy.the.curious

Danny Newville – A talk with his dad

As I’ve gotten to know Russ Newville over the past year, I’ve figured out that he is passionate about four things:

  1. Finding his son
  2. Serving his country
  3. Vikings football
  4. Fishing

On Monday, August 6th, I had a chance to sit down with Russ and interview him for this article. Just two days earlier, on Saturday, August 4th, I had joined Russ and his family for the 5th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk.

**Download a flyer for the 6th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk on Saturday, August 3, 2019**

It was a rainy morning, and by 6 AM, I was worried that the sky wouldn’t clear in time for Danny’s walk, which started at 11 AM. I texted Russ to ask if there was a Plan B, and whether I should put out a post on the “Find Danny Newville” Facebook page, alerting people to whatever that Plan B might be.

“No Plan B,” Russ replied. “I think we’ll be OK.”

As it turns out, he was exactly right. By 10:00 AM, the steady rain had reduced to a drizzle, and by 11:00 AM, the dark rain clouds had moved off to the east, and we were ready to go.

**View all the photos from the 2018 Danny Newville Memorial Walk**

Russ had ordered neon yellow t-shirts for several of us with a photo of Danny and the word “MISSING” in red, and “In Memory of Danny Newville” across the top.

A group of 40-50 people gathered in the parking lot at New London Spicer High School to take part in the 5th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk. Many were family members and close friends who had attended the walk every year. Others had never known Danny or his family, but had come anyway, just to show their support.

Before the walk started, we gathered in a circle and held hands as Pastor Paul McCullough said a short prayer. He has been a good family friend to the Newvilles over the years, and has attended Danny’s Memorial Walk each and every year.

As the walk began, Russ took the lead, followed by two of Danny’s closest friends, Jamie and Morgan. They walked with pride and resolve as the line behind them winded its way out of the parking lot and onto Main Street. Cars stopped in reverence as we crossed the street, and people waved or nodded in support as we passed.

When we reached Old Grey Park, we gathered around Danny’s tree that had been planted five years earlier. Many marveled at how much it had grown, especially in the past year. Kathy, a mutual friend of both mine and the Newvilles, told me she had created the stainless steel memorial plaque at the base of the tree. In large bold letters, it read, “DANIEL NEWVILLE,” and underneath, “DANNY IS ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS.”

Russ posed for a photo under Danny’s tree with his father and brothers, then he asked if I would mind sharing a few words. I said I would be happy to, although I hadn’t prepared anything. First, I thanked Russ and his family for trusting me with Danny’s story, and for sharing their memories with me. I also thanked Danny’s friends for being so open with me and supporting my efforts to keep the conversation going.

After the walk, we gathered at Red and Tara’s place on Henderson Lake for a BBQ and picnic. (Red is Russ’s dad and Danny’s grandpa.) As I sat and ate my brat, Russ explained to me that his parents had moved from Fairmont to Spicer when he was 12 years old. They had purchased this piece of lake property, turned it into a resort, and the whole family helped run it until 1978.

——–

Now, two days later, as I sat with Russ in his front yard in Willmar, I asked him to tell me about his only child, Danny. What kind of kid was he? What did he like to do?

“He always loved to go fishing,” Russ told me.

He told me a story about the first big fish Danny almost caught. It was a 12-13 pound northern that got away when they were fishing on the Crow River in New London.

Danny was only nine or ten years old at the time. “It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance to reel it in,” Russ said. “He would have been in for the fight of his life.”

Russ jumped up at that point, like he had just remembered something. “You sit there,” he told me. “I’ll be right back.”

When he returned less than a minute later, he was holding a fishing rod. “This is Danny’s” he said. “I used it this year in the northern tournament for luck.”

“Did it bring you luck?” I asked him.

“Nope,” he laughed.

It DID bring him luck though, back in June of 2001… the year before Danny went missing. He and Danny had registered as a team for the annual Crow River Fishing Tournament in New London. They arrived early for the 7:00 send-off, only to find out that the motor on Russ’s boat wasn’t working. Instead of forfeiting, they decided to just limp along using the small trolling motor instead.

They had a good day, catching several fish between the two of them. However, since it was a northern tournament, they could only keep three northern pike that went “over the stick” (i.e., were at least as long as the judge’s measuring stick). The winner would be determined by the combined weight of all three qualifying fish.

Russ caught the first two fish. One was just over 9 pounds, and the other not quite 8 pounds. It was around 1 PM, and they had trolled so far away from where they had launched, they were worried they wouldn’t get back in time with their little trolling motor. Russ flagged down one of the judges in another boat and asked if he could tow them back toward the landing so they didn’t miss their chance to enter their qualifying fish.

After the tow, they still had about 30 minutes left to fish, so Danny took a few more final casts. It was then that he hooked the third 8 pound northern that helped them win the tournament that year.

It’s one of the last pictures Russ ever had taken with his son. Danny is holding the first prize check for $300 in his mouth, along with the two smaller northerns in each hand. Russ is holding the larger northern, and a second check for $1,000. (He had also bought their team in the Calcutta the night before, and they won that, too.)

I asked Russ if this was the same fishing rod Danny had asked him to set out by the garage the day before he went missing.

“Yep,” Russ said. “This is the one.”

On July 31, 2002, Danny Newville had just gotten out of the county jail after serving 37 days for a probation violation. He and his friends had made plans to go fishing the next day, so Danny had called his dad and asked him to set his fishing rod out so he could swing by and pick it up later that afternoon.

Before he left for work that day, Russ set Danny’s fishing rod out against the garage door. When he returned from work, he noticed it was still there, so, he set it to the side, figuring Danny would be by the next day to pick it up. However, after a few days had gone by and the fishing rod was still sitting there, Russ started making a few phone calls. That’s when he realized no one had seen Danny for several days.

I asked Russ if this was the same house they’d been living in at the time Danny disappeared. He told me no. They were living on the north side of Willmar at that time, in a house on Lake Avenue.

“It was a big blue house with a big double garage,” Russ told me. “The last time I saw Danny was probably two weeks before he got out of jail. I told him, ‘We’ve got this nice house with a big bedroom upstairs. That will be yours when you get out. You come stay with us.’” But, it never panned out. Danny never got the chance to move back in with them.

——–

I asked Russ to tell me about the day Danny was born.

“Oh boy,” he said. “You want to talk about that?” he said with a laugh.

He went on to explain that Danny’s mom, Cyndy, was in labor with him for over 20 hours. “I think she called me every name in the book, plus she made up a few!” Russ said.

Danny was their first baby. He was born on May 7, 1984 at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar.

“I was hoping he would hold out until my birthday on May 10th, but he couldn’t wait that long,” Russ told me. “He wanted out.”

Russ said Danny didn’t have a lot of hair when he was first born, but within a few months he had a full head of bright red hair.

“Did he get that from you?” I asked.

“I suppose,” Russ chuckled (whose nickname is Rusty).

Russ and Cyndy lived in a small cabin on George Lake in Spicer when Danny was first born. After about a year, they moved to a house on Medayto Drive and lived there until Danny was five. Not long after, the two of them decided to call it quits.

Russ was awarded custody of Danny in 1989. For a while, they both lived at his dad’s house on Henderson Lake until Russ had saved enough money to buy a small two-bedroom house on Harriet Street in Spicer. They lived there until Danny was about 13. Russ was working a night job in Willmar during that time, so Danny often stayed with his aunt Gail and uncle Ryan who lived nearby in Spicer.

——–

It had been over an hour since Russ and I had first started talking when Lidia (his second wife) came home from work. She had just stopped home to change clothes and needed to leave right away to attend a memorial service for a friend. We said a quick hello, and before long, she was off again.

I asked Russ how he and Lidia had met.

“I met Lidia in June or July of 1991. I gave her a ride home from the Armory in Willmar, then I didn’t see her again until October of that year. I happened to bump into her and found out it was her birthday the next day, so I asked her if I could take her out for her birthday. We ended up going out to Hi-Tops in Spicer to listen to the band.”

Lidia has four children: Daniel, Sonia, Jai, and Mari. Her youngest daughter, Mari, was just a few months younger than Danny and had plans to go to college for nursing after graduating in 2003. Unfortunately, with Danny going missing and a lack of college funding, her plans were put on hold.

Then, one day, Russ (a 17-year Army veteran) said, “Mari, do yourself a favor. Go down and talk to the recruiters. Not just one or two… talk to ALL of them… and do your own thinking. You don’t have to join, but just listen to what they have to say.” So, she went. She talked to all the recruiters like Russ had suggested, and then decided to join the National Guard. Russ and Lidia were both proud of Mari and happy that she would be able to pursue her goal of attending college and getting a nursing degree.

Mari got through Basic Training and went on to Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Then, around Thanksgiving of 2004, she came home and announced to Lidia and Russ that she was going to Iraq.

“Oh shit,” Russ said.

The constant stress of Danny’s disappearance was already taking its toll on Russ and Lidia’s relationship. Now, Russ worried that Mari’s deployment would cause even more conflict between them. After mulling things over for a few days, he came up with a solution.

“I decided to take my sorry old ass down to the recruiting office and see if they’d take me back in.”

Russ figured he’d be killing two birds with one stone. First, he was hoping Lidia would feel better if he and Mari got deployed together; and second, he thought it might help him sort things out in his own head so he wasn’t dwelling on Danny’s case so much.

He was 45 years old by this time and had been out of the service for 10 years. But, he had 17 ½ years prior service in both the Reserves and Guards, so he figured it was worth a shot. The recruiter told him he just needed to pass the physical exam. He passed and was enlisted into the National Guard.

“I was up in Long Prairie for about six months. The whole time, I’m telling them, ‘I want to go to Iraq,’ but nothing was happening. Then, in the summer of 2005, we were at Camp Ripley for two weeks. I knew who the commander was that was taking the Red Bulls over, and he happened to be eating breakfast in the mess hall at the same time I was. I said to myself, ‘Here’s my chance.’”

Russ quickly dumped his tray and ran the two blocks back to his barracks to get Danny’s missing poster that he always kept with him. He returned to the mess hall and waited by the back door until the Lieutenant finished his breakfast. When he came out, Russ saluted him and said, “Excuse me, sir.” The Lieutenant saluted him back, then Russ handed him Danny’s missing poster.

“Sir, I’d just like to say one thing. This is my son. He’s been missing for three years now. I was out of the service for 10 years, but I have 17 ½ years prior service. I came back in because I want to go fight for our country in Iraq. I’ve wanted to do that my whole career. I also think it will help me with my head. You know, since I got here, I see all these kids packing to go that are only 19, 20, 21. In college. Even married. With kids. Why do they have to go? I’ve got 17 years experience. One of them could stay home, and I can go in his or her place.”

The Lieutenant saw Russ’s name on his shirt and asked what unit he was with. He told him, then the Lieutenant said, “OK. Someone will get in touch with you.”

That afternoon, Russ’s Sergeant came to him and said, “Hey, Newville. At 9 AM tomorrow morning, you’re supposed to go talk to the Chaplain.” So, at 9 AM the next morning, Russ went and met with the Chaplain. They talked for about an hour, then he returned to his unit.

Later that afternoon, Russ’s Sergeant came to him again and said, “Hey, Newville. Tomorrow morning, you need to report to Psych.”

So, the next morning, Russ reported to Psych. He met with four different people that day… each for about an hour. After the last meeting, they led Russ into another room.

“So, now there are seven people in the room… the four I talked to earlier, plus three others. The head guy starts talking, and for the first 2-3 minutes, I thought, ‘Oh shit. This doesn’t sound good.’ Then, it changed. He said, ‘We’re all amazed at what you do. We don’t know how you do it, but we all commend you. You are fit to go to Iraq.’”

——–

As Russ tells me about his time in Iraq, he is animated and full of life. He rises to his feet and explains that he served as a T.C. – Truck Commander – for the 134th Brigade Support Battalion of the 34th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Red Bulls.” He points to the emblem on his t-shirt and tells me about a photo they took of his whole division before they left for Iraq. He’s in the upper right corner of the number “1”.

Lidia’s daughter, Mari, also served with the Red Bulls as a Supply Clerk for the motor pool. Although they served with different companies (Russ with Alpha, and Mari with Bravo), their motor pools were located right next to each other, so they were able to see and visit with each other several times a week.

Russ served an 18-month extended deployment with the Red Bulls in Iraq. As the 4th anniversary of Danny’s disappearance approached, Russ wanted to prepare a letter for the local newspaper in Willmar. He had done the same thing each of the previous three years, but by year four, he was especially frustrated with the lack of progress on Danny’s case.

Two women from his convoy support team helped Russ write the letter. One was his driver; the other was his gunner.

“I’m not very good at spelling or typing,” he told me. “They were. So they helped me.”

On Monday, August 1, 2006, the fourth anniversary of Danny’s disappearance, the local newspaper published a front page article about Danny’s case. A friend scanned a copy of it and emailed it to Russ in Iraq. He was furious.

Rather than publishing Russ’s letter, the reporter had contacted the Sheriff’s Office and written what Russ felt was a very one-sided article about the investigation.

“All it did was make them look good and me look bad,” Russ said.

He ended up showing the article to his commanding officer in Iraq who, in turn, contacted the newspaper to ask why they hadn’t published Russ’s letter. It ran a few days later on the Opinions page (though Russ says several sentences were deleted).

I commended him for getting Danny’s article on the front page, and for following up.

“That’s my job,” he replied. “It’s the only real job I have in life is to find Danny.”

——–

As we started to wrap things up, I asked Russ if there was anything else he wanted to tell me about Danny.

“He was a great artist,” he told me. “With a pen, or pencil, or whatever… my God, he could draw.”

This was a surprise. In all the conversations I’d had with people over the past year, this was something I’d never heard before. I asked him to tell me more.

Russ told me that Danny was really into drawing the last couple years of his life. Russ even talked to him about the possibility of supporting him if Danny wanted to pursue it as a career.

“He brought this thing home that was in a magazine or something. It said ‘Draw this Pirate’ and then he was supposed draw it and mail it in. If they thought he had talent, it said they would get back to him. He drew the pirate and sent it in, and after a few weeks, he got a letter back from them. It said they wanted him to attend a drawing school, but he had no car, no money. That was probably six months before he went missing.”

I wondered about this. I sort of remembered the “Draw this Pirate” ad from back in the day, so I decided to do a little Googling. I found out that the ad originated from a drawing school based in Minneapolis called the “Art Instruction School.” Apparently Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame also saw one of their ads and submitted a drawing, equally curious to see if he had any talent.

As a high school senior in St. Paul, Minnesota, Charles Schulz knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. He also knew he didn’t want to go to college or pursue any formal art education, afraid of being told he couldn’t cut it. Instead, Schulz asked his father for $169 to enroll in Art Instruction Schools, a Minneapolis-based correspondence course that promised students they could become proficient in any number of artistic pursuits by taking a 12-step lesson via the mail.

Despite the exorbitant cost to his father during the Great Depression, Schulz enrolled. Thanks to the debut of his Peanuts strip in 1950, he remains their most famous alumnus.

(SOURCE: Could You Draw This Turtle? | Mental Floss)

I loved this story, and was so happy Russ shared it with me. In that moment, I could see that Danny was a kid with hopes and dreams, just like the rest of us. He was 18 years old and right on the verge of making that big leap into the great unknown… the leap that would catapult him into the rest of his life.

Danny had so much more to give to the world… so many more lives to touch. Today, Russ is left to wonder if Danny might have been a husband or a father by now. That would make Russ a grandfather… maybe with a whole brood of little gingers to teach how to fish.

He is convinced someone knows the answer to the question that has haunted him for 16 years.

Where is Danny?

He continues to hold out hope that one day… in his lifetime… he will find the answer.


If you have information about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

If you’d prefer, you may also contact me using the Contact form on this site.

You may also mail anonymous tips to:

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

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Danny Newville – A talk with his aunt and uncle

Ryan and Gail Newville

There were two people in Danny’s life that I know were hugely important to him. Their names are Gail and Ryan… his aunt and uncle. In my quest to learn more about Danny and the kind of person he was, I knew I wanted to talk to them to get their perspective. So, about a week ago, I contacted Gail and Ryan and asked if I could interview them for a blog story I was hoping to publish prior to Danny’s Memorial Walk this Saturday. They graciously agreed.

**Join us for the 5th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk this Saturday, August 4th**

I drove to Gail and Ryan’s house in Spicer, about five miles from my own house in New London. They live near Lake George, on a secluded street that ends just as their driveway begins. As I pulled in and parked, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful flowers in full bloom and the well-tended garden just to my right. It was beautiful here… and peaceful.

As I got out of my car, Gail came out of the house and met me with a smile. We shook hands and introduced ourselves, even though we both felt like we already knew each other. “Ryan’s in here,” Gail said, as she directed me to the garage on my right.

As I entered the garage, Ryan also greeted me with a smile and shook my hand. On quick glance, I could tell that Ryan was the tinkering type. His garage was immaculate, with clean white cabinets and a precise spot for every tool. It had only been about 60 seconds, but I could already tell that I liked these people. A lot.

I thanked them for agreeing to meet with me, and before I knew it, we had already launched into a full conversation, blasting right past all the formalities. I’m sure they had intended for me to come into the house and sit down at the kitchen table, but instead, we just pulled up some garage stools, and kept right on talking.

It had been a year since I’d been writing about their nephew on my blog. All that time, they had been watching, reading, and following along, but until then, we’d never taken the time to actually sit down and talk. Now that we had, the words just spilled out like waterfalls.

Well… let me clarify. It was really Gail and me spilling forth like springtime waterfalls, while Ryan mostly sat back and tried to get a word in.

You see, Gail was Danny’s “other-other” mom. He had his real mom, Cyndy, and his step-mom, Lidia. And then he had Gail… his “other-other” mom.

When Danny was about 13, he and his dad, Russ, moved from Spicer to Willmar, a much bigger town about 15 miles away. Because Russ had a new job working nights, Danny would often stay with his aunt and uncle in Spicer, and Ryan would drop him off at school in Willmar on his way to work.

Danny hit some bumpy patches during this time, and after a few stints in juvenile detention, he eventually came to live with Ryan and Gail full time in September of 2000. He was 16 years old, a sophomore in high school, and trying to ease back into a school he had left three years earlier.

Fortunately for Danny, he was likable. He was fun, and funny, and he loved to make people laugh. It wasn’t long before he was making new friends and getting used to his new/old school.

In January 2001, Ryan and Gail bought a new boat. They all looked forward to getting it out on the water later that spring, but one month later, Gail broke her leg. It was a bad break, and required her to be in a full cast for six months.

“I couldn’t put any pressure on my leg at all, so Danny helped me a lot during that time.”

Danny was a big help to Ryan, too. Gail and Ryan built their house in 1998, and when Danny came to live with them, they were just starting to finish their basement. Danny helped Ryan put up walls, hang sheetrock, and install custom wood planks on the walls and ceiling. After it was done, they spent a lot of time hanging out with friends and neighbors, playing pool, darts, or watching movies in their new space.

When spring rolled around, they were all anxious to get the new boat in the water. Danny and Ryan went out fishing several nights a week, but Gail couldn’t go because of her cast. Eventually, Ryan and Danny devised a way to get Gail into the boat so she could come along.

“Before it docked, I would just use my one leg, hop up, and then hop in. Danny was pretty happy about that,” she said. “Because he knew I was bummed when I couldn’t go.”

Before long Danny had taken up kneeboarding. “He got to be pretty good at it,” Gail said. “He could do jumps and turns… I think he could even spin around twice.”

“Danny loved that boat,” Ryan said. “Sometimes his girlfriend would come over, and the two of them would just sit in it and talk… while it was parked in the driveway,” he added, laughing.

I asked about his girlfriend.

“She was a few years younger than Danny, so we would go and pick her up or drop her off all the time. She would come over for dinner a lot.”

Ryan told me about a bird house he and Danny built for his dad, Red… Danny’s grandfather. “It was a great big birdhouse… a martin house. When we got done building it, we went and picked up his girlfriend, and then the two of them painted it. I’m pretty sure they got more paint on themselves than they did on that birdhouse.”

That was one of Danny’s first Christmases at their house. Danny loved family, and he LOVED Christmas shopping. He would spend a lot of time thinking about what gifts to get for people, and he would often ask Gail for her opinion.

“He really enjoyed that,” Gail told me. “He’d ask, ‘Do you think so-and-so would like this?’ or, ‘I think this would be good,” or, ‘Where do you get those?’ I’d tell him, ‘No, I think this would be better.’ We’d sit and talk for a long time before heading to the mall.”

I asked Gail if there were any special gifts she remembers Danny giving to her.

“That first Christmas, Danny talked Ryan into getting me a heart-shaped necklace made from Black Hills gold. I loved it… and it is treasured.”

Gail told me another story about Danny. “It was the first summer after we got the boat, and I was still in my cast.  There was a tornado warning, and the weather was getting really bad. Danny was outside trying to find our cat, Alex, and finally I told Danny we had to get downstairs. The neighbor came over with her dog, and Danny ended up carrying the dog down the basement.”

The tornado went up and over their property, sparing the house, but taking down several trees in their yard. After the wind had subsided a bit, Ryan looked out the window and said, “Danny! Look at the size of that hail!” It was still hailing, so Danny put on Ryan’s leather biker jacket and motorcycle helmet, then went outside to pick up some of the hail. When he got back inside, they took pictures of it. It was the size of baseballs.

After the storm, there was a lot of clean-up to be done, and Danny chipped right in. One of their favorite pictures of Danny is when he was helping clear trees after that storm. He was up in a tree, hot and sweaty, with a huge smile on his face.

“That was Danny,” Gail said. “He was always really smiley… from the time he was really young. He was just a happy guy.”

(By the way, Alex the cat survived the storm. No worries.)

Danny had another good friend that he met in choir. Her name was Amanda, and she would often pick Danny up and give him rides to different places.

“He liked choir and met some good friends there,” Gail said. The day before his choir concert in 2001, Danny suddenly remembered he needed a white shirt and a tie. Gail took him shopping to get a shirt, Ryan loaned him a tie and taught him how to tie it, and Amanda picked him up so he could get there an hour early.

They were a good team.

“He had a good home here,” Gail said. “We really tried.”

In 2002, they started to worry that Danny was using drugs again. It was subtle, but they began to notice a gradual shift in his attitude. He wasn’t checking in, and began missing his curfew. They reached out to his probation officer, but received very little support.

Not long after, Danny got in trouble for stealing the van. He spent some time in juvey, but Ryan and Gail felt it was just a slap on the wrist.

“He needed help,” Gail said. “And he didn’t get it.”

In May of 2002, things got even more difficult after Danny turned 18. As a legal adult, he felt he no longer needed to follow their rules, and he got more and more disrespectful. Eventually, he told them he was moving out and going to live with his grandfather on Henderson Lake… about a half mile away.

“I feel like we failed him,” Gail said. “But we just couldn’t live that way.”

The pain is still raw. They still have some of Danny’s clothes in a bin in their attic.

“I’m just not ready to give them up,” Gail said. “I don’t know why.”

Ryan nodded. “I look at Danny every day,” he said, pointing toward his tool bench.

I looked over and noticed a hand-drawn caricature on the wall.

“Is that him?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s Danny,” Gail replied. “At the Renaissance Fair.”

The artist had exaggerated all of Danny’s biggest and best features – his curly hair, twinkly eyes, smirky grin, and a splash of freckles across his nose.

In that moment, I looked at that face and saw only a boy… not a juvenile delinquent, or a drug addict, or any of the other labels so many people have tried to put on Danny Newville.

He is none of those things.

Danny Newville was a boy who made a few bad choices, but those choices didn’t define him or the kind of person he was. He was kind, and funny, and had plans for his future. He was loved deeply by his father, mother, step-mother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and friends.

Danny Newville was a lover of life… a twinkly-eyed, freckle-nosed kid with a smirky smile and a heart the size of Texas. He loved hanging out with his family, playing chess and 31, making mix CDs, and going fishing with his dad. More than anything he just wanted to be liked… to fit in… and to make people laugh.

Read next… “Danny Newville – A talk with his dad”


If you have information about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

If you’d prefer, you may also contact me using the Contact form on this site.

You may also mail anonymous tips to:

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

Read comments

Danny Newville – His friend Morgan

Click to download PDF

We are less than one week away from the 5th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk taking place on Saturday, August 4th in New London. The walk starts at 11 AM at New London Spicer High School, and continues down Main Street for about one mile, ending at Danny’s tree, planted five years ago in Old Grey Park. I’ll be there, and I encourage everyone who has followed this story to join me in supporting Danny’s family and friends in their efforts to find answers and keep the conversation going. Click the flyer for more information.

Along those same lines, I also helped Danny’s dad, Russ, set up a new Facebook page last week called “Find Danny Newville.” Please take a moment to check it out and “Like” the page in order to continue following Danny’s story and to receive ongoing updates. The address is www.facebook.com/finddannynewville.

As I near the one year mark since I started writing about Danny’s case, I have been taking the time to reach out to some of his best friends and family members to learn more about Danny and the kind of person he was.

Last week, I sat down with Danny’s good friend, Morgan, at Zorbaz on Green Lake in Spicer. We sat outside on the patio while he and a co-worker were on break from a construction job in the area.

Morgan is 37 now and owns his own contracting business in the Alexandria area. I told him that when I’d asked Russ for a list of Danny’s best friends, he’d given me Morgan’s name and told me about a tattoo he had on his arm in memory of Danny. I asked Morgan about it. He showed me a picture and explained what it meant.

“The blue cross represents peace on Danny’s soul. Red was for blood shed. The stone wall represents a grave, and a question mark for where the grave is.”

Clearly, Danny had been an important person in Morgan’s life. I asked him how they had met.

Morgan told me that in 1993, when he was 12 years old and in 7th grade, his family moved from Willmar to Spicer. He met Danny Newville at Saulsbury Beach on Green Lake, right next to the restaurant where we were now sitting. He said they hit it off right away. Danny was friendly, funny, outgoing, and liked to joke around. They quickly became friends.

Morgan’s family lived on a smaller lake not far from Green. It was a new development back then, and their house was one of the first to be built in the neighborhood. Danny would always come over and help Morgan finish his chores so they could go biking, swimming, fishing… or whatever else was on their agenda that day.

“Danny was always helping me mow the lawn, pick rocks, or rake weeds on the beach. He was kind… the type of guy who would give you the shirt right off his back. He had high hopes for his life, even though he had it kind of rough. He was always positive, never down.”

He said they rode bike together all the time with two other friends, Steve and Jason. They liked to ride the trails through the woods behind the Spicer cemetery.

Morgan was three years older than Danny, and when he was about 15, he started getting in trouble.

“I had to learn the hard way,” he told me.

Morgan moved away from the area for three years. When he returned to the New London-Spicer area at age 18, he and Danny didn’t see each other as much, but they remained good friends.

In the summer of 2002 (the year Danny disappeared), Morgan convinced Danny to move to Florida with him and another friend, Travis. Danny was all-in, but couldn’t go because he had recently been arrested for a probation violation and had been sentenced to 60 days in jail.

To this day, Morgan regrets that Danny couldn’t go with them when he and Travis left for Florida.

His younger sister is the one who told him that Danny had disappeared. Morgan had only been living in Florida for a short time, but when he found out that Danny had gone missing, he packed up his things and was back within 24 hours.

He started knocking on doors and asking questions. At one point, the police even told him to cool it, otherwise he was going to end up looking like the bad guy. So… he cooled it.

He admits it has been a long and frustrating 16 years waiting for answers. I asked Morgan what he thinks happened to Danny.

“I guess I’ve always assumed it was drug related,” he told me. But, then, almost as an afterthought, Morgan asked me something that kind of threw me for a loop.

“What do you think about that guy who killed Jacob Wetterling?” he asked me. “Do you think he could he have taken Danny?”

I asked him why he thought that.

“Because I was also attacked,” he said.

In the summer of 1997, Morgan was 16 years old and was home on a pass from the juvenile detention facility where he was staying. His younger sister (who was 13 or 14 at the time) wanted to sneak out after dark and go to a party at her friend’s house. It was about 2 1/2 miles away… a 15 minute bike ride from their house… but it was late, and she would be biking on the Glacial Lakes State Trail all by herself in the middle of the night. Morgan was worried about her going by herself, so he agreed to go with her.

When they got close to the house where the party was being held, they got off their bikes and hid them in the weeds.

“We’re only staying for a little while,” Morgan told his sister. “A half hour or 45 minutes at most.”

They left their bikes and crossed Highway 23 to get to the party. Less than an hour later, they returned to the trail and hopped on their bikes to ride home. Something wasn’t right. Morgan’s tires were flat.

“All of a sudden I heard this huge roar, and this guy tackled me off my bike and tried to stab me. He was about 5’8”, 250 pounds. He had a hunched back…  like he was bulky around his shoulders… and a hunched neck. He was wearing a dark mask. I’m sure this guy was watching us and overheard us saying we would only be at the party for a little while. It’s like he was waiting for us.”

I asked him to describe the mask. I also asked him whether the guy had tried to grope him.

“It was a full black leather mask. I felt it when I pushed his face away. I pushed back and scraped my back as I was trying to move out from underneath him because he was trying to lay on me. He made a stabbing motion 3 or 4 times downward. I had his arm and yelled for my sister to run. When I got out from underneath him, I kicked him in the face. He groaned and stood up and waved his knife at me in a slashing motion. Then he ran and dove into the woods.”

I asked Morgan if he had ever reported this story to police.

“We didn’t want to get in trouble, so we never reported it. But, some of the other kids at the party must have told their parents because someone called the police, and then the police called my mom. They came to our house and took my slashed tires for evidence. They also told us they’d found a pile of cigarette butts and candy wrappers in the woods, so it looked like this guy had probably been waiting for us.”

I passed all this information along to Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office. He was following up to see if he could find the original police report.

I asked Detective Bauman what the odds were that Danny’s disappearance wasn’t drug related at all. Is it possible he could have been the victim of a random act of violence?

“Nothing has been ruled out,” he told me.

So. Wow. Huh.

The things you learn when you start asking questions.

Read next… “Danny Newville — A talk with his aunt and uncle”

If you have information about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

If you’d prefer, you may also contact me using the Contact form on this site.

You may also mail anonymous tips to:

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

 

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Danny Newville – A talk with the lead investigator

As I begin to wrap up my year-long blog story about the Danny Newville missing person case, I’ve been taking some time to connect with Danny’s best friends and family members to learn a bit more about him, and to gather quotes and memories from the people who knew him best. Over the next few weeks, I plan to share some of those stories as the 16 year anniversary of Danny’s disappearance approaches on August 1, 2018.

SAVE THE DATE: 5th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk on Saturday, August 4, 2018

Along with friends and family, another person I wanted to interview was Detective Sergeant Kent Bauman with the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office. He has been the lead investigator on Danny’s case since the very beginning, so I wanted to get his perspective on how he thinks the investigation is going, and whether any of this new attention has made a difference in the past year.

I was able to catch up with Detective Bauman last week and he agreed to speak to me.

I first met with Detective Bauman and Sheriff Dan Hartog last year on August 8, 2017. It had been one week since I’d published my first blog post about Danny’s disappearance, and I was anxious to meet both of them and find out more information about his case.

I found Detective Bauman and Sheriff Hartog to both be polite and respectful. While they were happy to provide general background information on the case, they made it clear they weren’t able to share any confidential details with me since Danny’s case was still an active investigation. However, they were also quick to add that they welcomed my input and encouraged me to speak to anyone who was willing to talk to me.

Throughout the year, I passed along whatever information I could on Danny’s case, often leaving out names or other identifying information whenever someone asked to remain anonymous. While I’m sure this was frustrating, I always found Detective Bauman to be open and accommodating, never pressing for information, but also encouraging me to let people know they could put measures in place to maintain a person’s privacy.

When I sat down to interview Detective Bauman last week, the first thing I asked him was whether this uptick in activity over the past year had been helpful to Danny’s case.

“100% yes,” he said.

Detective Bauman went on to tell me that the new attention to Danny’s case generated a lot of discussion and a lot of new interest in the case. Not only was he receiving information through me and my blog, but also from other people who were contacting him directly.

“Danny’s name and story began to enter people’s conversations again,” he said. “And that’s exactly what we wanted.”

Next, I asked Detective Bauman how many new leads had been generated in the past year.

He had done his homework prior to our interview, and reported that he had received 20 new leads in Danny’s case since I started blogging about it. Specifically, that means he logged 20 new items into the case file… whether those be conversations with people he’d never spoken to before, or pieces of new information that hadn’t previously been investigated or discussed.

“It stirred up a lot of stuff I’ve never covered,” he told me. “When we went back and reviewed the timeline, we also looked at other events that were happening around the same time Danny disappeared. Some were of new interest… things we hadn’t heard before.”

Going forward, I was particularly interested to know what might be helpful to the investigation.

“Continue to talk about it,” Detective Bauman told me. “Someone knows something, and as people continue to grow out of old habits and vices, maybe they have something they want to get off their chests. Maybe it’s a secret that needs to be told.”

I mentioned to Detective Bauman that most people seem to believe Danny was killed over a drug debt. In my conversations with various individuals over the past year, I learned there were a lot of local drug dealers in our small town of New London. When Danny disappeared, it seems they all started pointing their fingers at one other, and this led to a culture of fear among that generation of kids. “Keep your mouth shut or you’ll end up like Danny Newville,” became a running threat.

Detective Bauman agreed with this assessment. He added that, generationally, many of these “party kids” from the early 2000s are now adults with children of their own. He hopes that if someone does have something to share, this discussion might trigger a sense of parental instinct for them… something most of them didn’t have 16 years ago.

I wondered about this. Knowing that Detective Bauman was a parent himself, I asked him what it’s been like to work on a long term missing person’s case like this.

“It’s hard to be so attached to a case,” he replied. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and thought to myself… what about this, or why can’t I figure this out, or what am I missing? This one definitely tops the charts in that respect.”

However, Detective Bauman is quick to add that no matter what his level of frustration, he knows it’s at least tenfold for the family. More than anything, he wants to find answers for them.

“I’ve grown a lot in my job, and I’ve learned a lot with this case. It has been an unbelievably difficult case with lots of ups and downs. A lot of information has come to us over the years, and it’s my job to try and sift through what’s credible and what’s not. I’m constantly asking myself how we can verify things, because that adds strength to anything.”

As I neared the end of my list of questions, I asked Detective Bauman if there was anything else he wanted to add.

“You hear about cold cases getting solved all over the world,” he said. “I hope this is one of them. I’m still hopeful we’ll find that missing piece to the puzzle. After so many years, we all want to close this thing and provide answers for Danny’s family and friends. That’s what’s most important.”

Read next… Danny Newville – His friend Morgan

If you have information about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

If you’d prefer, you may also contact me using the Contact form on this site.

You may also mail anonymous tips to:

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

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Danny Newville – The snake trail

As we near the 16th anniversary of Danny Newville’s disappearance on August 1st, I’m going to start wrapping up my blog story about his case. Over the next few weeks, I plan to do a wrap-up interview with the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a tribute piece with quotes and memories from Danny’s friends and family. If you would be willing to share a few thoughts for this story, please send me a private message on my Contact page. I look forward to hearing from you!

Click to download PDF

Also, I want to remind everyone to put Saturday, August 4th on your calendar for the 5th Annual Danny Newville Memorial Walk. I’ll be there, along with Danny’s dad, stepmom, and several of his friends and family members. We’ll meet at New London Spicer High School at 11 AM and walk to Danny’s tree at Old Grey Park in downtown New London. I know Danny’s family would love to see a big crowd, so if you can, please join us and show your support! Click the image of the flyer on the right to download a PDF that you can print out and share. Thanks everyone!

OK… now on to the snake trail.

If you read my previous post titled “Danny Newville – A few theories,” you’ll remember that Theory #4 spelled out the possibility that something might have happened to Danny while he was walking to his friend’s house around sunrise on Thursday, August 1st.

Personally, I like this theory best because it seems to fit with what everyone has been telling me over the past year. According to witnesses, Danny left the “party house” during the early morning hours of August 1st. After cutting through the backyards and coming out to the main road, Danny would have either taken Highway 9 north to County Road 148, then turned left (west) and continued on his way until he got to the trailer park.

However, there was also another possible route that Danny might have taken that day. In 2002, there was a shortcut between downtown and Peaceful Hills that started behind the baseball field on First Avenue, and wound around the tree line and across a field, ending at the trailer park. The kids called it “the snake trail.”

Danny’s route if he would have taken the snake trail

So, just 25 days out from the date of Danny’s disappearance on August 1st, and under similar weather conditions, I decided to walk this route myself and see if I could re-trace Danny’s steps.

I first went to Google Earth and looked at a current satellite view of the area.

Imagery date 4/28/2015

Next, I accessed the historical imagery area of Google Earth to see what the same area would have looked like on August 1, 2002. Here’s a satellite view from May 31, 2003, less than one year later.

Imagery date 5/31/2003

As I walked the route with my black lab, Zoey, I took some video along the way and tried to figure out where Danny might have cut through to get to the trailer park.

As we walked, I also tried to imagine where Danny might have run into trouble along the route. Did someone jump him on his way to his friend’s house? Was he being followed? Did someone see him walking and offer him a ride? Was he forced into a car?

The more I imagined, the more questions I had.

How many people had cell phones in 2002? When Danny called his friend for a ride, did he call from a landline or a cell phone? If he called from a landline, was it a cordless phone? Is it possible Danny’s call could have been intercepted by a portable scanner? Was someone lying in wait for Danny somewhere along the route? If someone “got him” on his way to Peaceful Hills, was it drug related? Was he fronting drugs for someone? Behind on a debt? Was he taken, beaten, and accidentally killed? Was he taken, beaten, and intentionally killed?

Or… what if Danny Newville’s disappearance wasn’t drug related at all? And if so, where does that leave us? I’ll try to tackle that question next time.

For now, take a look at the video and let me know your thoughts. I’m especially interested to hear from any former neighborhood kids who actually did walk this path back in the day. (Where did you cut through??)

Read next… Danny Newville – A talk with the lead investigator

 

If you have information about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

If you’d prefer, you may also contact me using the Contact form on this site.

You may also mail anonymous tips to:

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

Read comments