VICTIM'S FAMILY IN HELL WAITING FOR A HEARING THAT'S BEEN POSTPONED FIVE TIMES, MARK BONOKOSKI WRITES
By Mark Bonokoski
answered the phone at her family's home in Brockville a little after 8
p.m. Wednesday -- thinking it was a little too late in the day to be
anyone but family or friend. As it turned out, however, it was neither.
was the National Parole Board's Carol Sparling, calling to inform the
Moffitts that their heroic son's killer had asked for yet another
postponement of his parole hearing -- a hearing that was slated to be
heard this coming Tuesday -- and that the board had agreed to his
fifth time now, this time near the 11th hour, a drug
dealer-turned-killer named Henry Danninger had been given leave to
bring more turmoil to his victim's family.
Now they will have to circle July 27 on their calendar.
And again start counting the days.
truly eating away at us," Paulette Moffitt says. "I really think I have
an ulcer. I haven't slept through one night in the last two weeks
thinking about next week's hearing, and when I get up I get a migraine
so bad that it turns my stomach. And now this phone call comes.
"This is no way to live. It's hell on earth -- hell for me, hell for my husband, and hell for our other two sons.
"Imagine how they must feel," she says.
Paulette Moffitt's middle son, Andrew, a 23-year-old computer whiz in
his final year of engineering at the University of Ottawa, was stabbed
to death by two-bit drug pusher Henry Danninger in 1998 -- on the eve
of Christmas Eve -- when he tried to bring calm to a violent
confrontation at the Coyote Bar in Ottawa's Sandy Hill district.
The act of
courage that cost the young Brockville man his life saw him
posthumously awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery in 2003.
"When it is
my turn to leave this planet, I hope to bring his medal to him," his
mother told me the last time we spoke. "I know he is waiting for us.
Only time keeps us apart.
"I pray to
God that I am the first to go. I am his mom, and I want to hang the
Medal of Bravery around his neck and give him the biggest hug.
"He won't be
alone anymore," she said. "And maybe, just maybe, the rest of our
family will be able to go on with their lives. This is my prayer."
says she understands the stress and strain on the Moffitts, the parole
board's Carol Sparling also says Henry Danninger's request for a fifth
postponement met the necessary criteria and was therefore accepted.
"There is no question this has dragged on for some time," Sparling admitted yesterday. "But his request is valid.
"It was a procedural requirement that could not be met, and something that was out of the offender's control."
privacy laws, however, Sparling would not elaborate on exactly what
"procedural requirement" had not been met, other than to state that it
rendered the postponement of Danninger's parole hearing "justifiable."
On the first
day of his trial for second-degree murder in 2003, after four years of
feigning innocence, Henry Danninger, now 31, copped a guilty plea to
manslaughter and received a five-year sentence.
He had seen
the writing on the wall. He had heard a friend testify about being with
him when he bought his "bad-ass knife" and how he set out to the Coyote
Bar with the sole purpose of bringing on trouble.
He saw the list of witnesses.
Moffitt sums it up, "He buys a knife two hours before meeting his
former roommate thinking he had taken his stash of drugs. He breaks a
bottle over his head. He knees a patron in the groin two times ... and
he stabs my Andy for getting up to help.
'DIDN'T HE TAKE A LIFE?'
"And then he runs out of the restaurant, still holding the knife dripping with Andy's blood.
"Why are we even thinking about parole here?" she then asks. "Didn't he take a life?"
Paulette Moffitt is loath to utter Henry Danninger's name. Instead, she calls him the "killer." Or "he."
he is in jail where he belongs helps us all get through this terrible
ordeal," she says. "We know Andy would want him in jail for taking his
life -- a life that he was so looking forward to.