Judging by the police sheets,
that daily chronicle of urban jungle transgressions compiled for the
media by most police forces, knives seem to be back in vogue - much
easier to conceal than guns, up close and personal, noiseless of
course, and definitely bad-assed scary in tight quarters.
There are all sorts of knives - stilettos, switchblades, speed locks, flicks, front loaders, butterflies and Bucks.
But, despite their
effectiveness, knives don't tend to make the news like the loud bang of
guns do - which is one reason why Leeds-Grenville Conservative MP Gord
Brown likely got short shrift with a private member's bill seeking to
have mandatory minimum sentences handed down to killers who wield
"Knife 'nicked' man's heart," reads one recent headline harvested from The Toronto Sun's
archives. And then the library's computer punched out 67 other knifing
stories from its memory bank, with none of them old enough to be
considered outside the trend.
Henry Danninger once had a
"bad-assed knife." It was his description of the weapon that he drove
through the heart of Brockville's Andrew Moffitt, a high-achieving
engineering student at the University of Ottawa who, as a reward for
stepping into a barroom fracas that was not of his making, was
posthumously awarded the Governor General's Award for Bravery.
If there were ever a poster boy
for Brown's private member's bill for tougher knife laws, Henry
Danninger was that boy. Not only was Danninger from Brockville, the St.
Lawrence Seaway city that's the focal point of Brown's federal riding,
so was the young man he killed - even though their lives had never
crossed paths until that night in an Ottawa tavern when Danninger went
to settle a drug score and shanked an innocent bystander.
Sometime today, following the
signing of some paperwork, the gates will open at the Bath Institution,
the medium-security prison on the outskirts of Kingston, and Henry
Danninger will walk out into the sunshine.
If whoever picks him up happens
to take the scenic route back to Brockville, along the Thousand Islands
Parkway and then along County Road 2, they will eventually drive past
the St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Cemetery.
That's where Andy Moffitt is today.
He went to that cemetery at the age of 23, and will remain there forever, never getting a day older.
Not so Henry Danninger. He got
older while serving his five years in prison after finally copping a
guilty plea to manslaughter in the stabbing death of Moffitt in late
He's now 33.
However, as Danninger told the
National Parole Board hearing I attended in Kingston last year, the one
in which his bid for early parole was denied, prison made him healthy.
"Surprisingly, I have a better
life here," he told the NPB tribunal, comparing his days in prison to
his time under house arrest at his parents' home in Brockville awaiting
"I've lost 80 pounds, and I don't smoke," he said.
The NPB has no choice but to
cut Danninger loose today. As of this morning, he will have served
two-thirds of his sentence and has therefore reached his statutory
According to the statutory-release documents obtained by The Sun,
the former drug-dealing Danninger must abstain from drugs, must stay
out of bars and taverns, and must not associate with known criminals.
That's the only real tether on
Danninger until his "warrant" totally expires on April 25, 2008, and
his debt to society is supposedly paid in full for the loss of Andy
He must also avoid any direct
or indirect contact with his victim's family, a tough row to hoe
considering he will be moving back to the same town where the Moffitts
"My worst nightmare is bumping into Henry Danninger in a mall," says Paulette Moffitt, Andy's mother.
"And it is bound to happen. Brockville is small."
Back when Danninger was under
house arrest, and Brockville police could somehow not nab the sicko who
was dumping urine and feces on his car, Darryl Amoroso decided to
become his own private eye.
He installed a small
surveillance camera in his yard - at his own expense - and then sat
back to see who he would capture in the act.
It was, of course, no one other
than Henry Danninger whose house arrest awaiting trial had by then
grown to three years, so slow is the justice system.
Darryl Amoroso's backyard camera caught Danninger on tape, not once or twice, but on 24 separate occasions.
The assaults were virtually nightly. Urine over the car, feces in the driveway, sardines on the doorstep.
After Amoroso turned his tapes
over to the Brockville police, Danninger's bail was yanked for breach
of conditions, and he was once again behind bars.
All that ends today when Henry
Danninger - the poster boy for tougher knife laws - walks out of the
Bath Institution, with all the days necessary for statutory release
having been served, including the two-for-one credit he got for his
months of in-house custody, as well as for the time he spent tossing
urine and feces on his neighbour's car.
While he is still almost three
years shy of being totally untethered from his parole conditions,
Danninger will nonetheless be on the sunny side of the sod if the
scenic route home is taken past St. Francis Xavier Cemetery.
The same cannot be said for Andy Moffitt.
Mark Bonokoski is a columnist for The Toronto Sun.
Published in Section A, page
1 in the Tuesday, August 15, 2006 edition of the Brockville Recorder & Times.
Posted 4:31:37 PM Tuesday, August 15, 2006.