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

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