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Danny Williams

Real Name: Daniel Wynn Williams
Nicknames: Danny, Dan
Location: Galesburg, Illinois
Date: June 30, 1991

Case[]

Details: On the night of Sunday, June 30, 1991, in Galesburg, Illinois, longtime residents Larry and Lois Williams had finally given in to two days of worry. They had been trying to reach their twenty-three-year-old son, Danny, since early Saturday morning. They decided to drive to his house at 950 Florence Street. Larry knocked on the door but received no answer. He decided to break into the locked house. He called out to Danny, saying “Danny, this is your dad.” He did this because Danny had a gun for protection, and he did not want Danny to accidentally shoot him.
When Larry entered the den, he found Danny slumped on the couch, sitting in an upright position. When he looked at Danny, he could tell that he was dead. A gun was in his lap and a gunshot wound was in his forehead. When he saw the scene, he said to himself, “Oh Dan, don’t let this be what it looks like.” Danny was Larry and Lois’s youngest son. For two years, he had managed distribution for the family’s multimillion dollar apparel manufacturing company, Protexall. He had recently bought his first house, the one where he died.
Larry called the Galesburg Police. They identified the gun as a 9mm semi-automatic Smith & Wesson pistol. According to Police Chief John Schlaf, the position of the body, the type of wound, and the absence of any specific evidence of foul play indicated to him and the other officers that the gunshot wound could have been self-inflicted. Within a month, the case was classified by the police as a suicide. The pathologist who performed the autopsy and a clinical psychologist also concluded that it was probably a suicide.
Larry says that he grew up in the South handling guns. He knows how they operate, and he has shot every kind that exists. He claims that it would be almost impossible for an individual to have shot themselves and have the gun laying in their lap in the position it was in Danny’s lap. He says that it just was not a natural position.
Convinced that Danny had not committed suicide, Larry hired Steve Johnson, formerly of the Knox County Sheriff's Department. However, Johnson quickly concluded that, in his opinion, the death was a suicide. On July 10, Larry hired another private detective, Mike Turnquist. The time of Danny’s death had been estimated to be 2:30am on Saturday, June 29, but Turnquist immediately found a neighbor who said she had seen Danny several hours later, at approximately 10:30am. The neighbor, Darlene Sayrs, admits that she “watches everybody’s business.” She is certain that on Saturday morning she saw Danny get in a blue car with a woman. She “looked the woman over real good” and could tell that the woman had dark hair and was between twenty-five and thirty.
The police knew that Danny, whose license had been revoked, was picked up by Lois on Friday, the day before he died. They believe Mrs. Sayrs had her days mixed up. However, she is adamant that she saw Danny leave with the woman on Saturday, not Friday. Furthermore, she is certain that the woman in the car was too young to have been Lois.
Several witnesses had also noticed activity at Danny’s house on Sunday, a full twenty-four hours after the estimated time of death. One of the people later seen outside the house was a young man with curly brown hair, approximately 5’4”. Chief Schlaf believes that the witnesses were mistaken. He believes that there may have seen some activity there, but that the witnesses had their days confused on when they saw the movement.
Turnquist says that the Galesburg police did not follow up on tests for powder burns on Danny's hands. Chief Schlaf, however, says such testing is inconclusive. He claims that the tests react to other elements on the skin, such as tobacco and urine. It is not known if the tests were ever actually done, and if so, what they revealed.
Larry claims that some of the physical evidence turned up by the police themselves seemed to argue against suicide. The bullet which they believe had killed Danny exited through his head and lodged in the wall. Curiously, when the police removed the bullet, there was only one small spot which appeared to be blood on the paneling. According to Turnquist, with Danny’s head being that close to the wall, one would expect to find large amounts of blood splatter, either at or near the back of the couch and on the back wall.
Chief Schlaf says that the police department does not agree that there would have to be a large quantity of blood behind Danny. According to him, the theory that there would have to be a large amount of blood is based on what is seen in movies and TV. According to him, that is not necessarily consistent with what happens in the real world.
Larry next brought in an independent forensic scientist, Mark Boese, to determine whether someone else had been in the house when Danny died. Boese says that, initially, he had a feeling that he was going to go to Danny’s house, see a "typical" messy scene, and have to tell Larry that Danny committed suicide. From the pictures of the crime scene, it appeared to Boese that it was a contact wound on the forehead. He concluded that it was either suicide or an execution-type murder. However, when he got to the house, he found a lack of evidence to support the theory that it was a suicide.
Boese used a laser luminescence scanner to search out organic matter, including blood, which might not be apparent to the naked eye. He discovered evidence of blood in several places, even on the TV set. Boese says that if Danny had just shot himself sitting on the couch, there would not be a pattern of blood at all behind the TV set. He says there is nothing to indicate that Danny got up and walked around after shooting himself. He is certain that someone else dropped the blood droplets that were found elsewhere in the room.
The blood found on and behind the TV is still awaiting tests by a forensic scientist who specializes in blood pattern analysis. However, samples found in other parts of the house have been typed. Danny’s blood was type B. Boese found types B and O in the den where Danny’s body was (including on a sheet underneath his body). Oddly, he also found type O blood in the bathroom and inside the pocket of Danny’s jeans. According to forensic scientist Cecilia Guzman, it is not possible for all of the blood in the room to have come from Danny. The evidence suggests to her that two people were in the room and were bleeding.
The official police position is that the alleged type O blood samples had been compromised when the crime scene was cleaned. According to the Illinois State Crime Lab, the adulterated samples could not be typed definitively. Guzman says that she would question the lab’s procedures if they claim they did not find type O blood on the evidence. She guarantees that if they sent that same evidence to five different independent laboratories that have no idea what this case is about, and that have no idea that it was a murder or suicide or anything, they will come back with type B and type O blood.
The police also point out that there was no way to determine how long the alleged type O blood had been there. Further, they say that Boese’s samples, taken six weeks after Danny’s death, were not fresh enough to type. Guzman does not understand why they would argue that point. She notes that King Tut’s blood was typed, and he was thousands of years old. Chief Schlaf says that the independent lab feels very confident in their results. He says that he and the police department feel just as strongly about the results of the Illinois State Crime Lab, that there was no evidence of type O blood in the house.
Boese’s investigation appeared to turn up a piece of evidence which had been previously overlooked and which supported the theory that the blood of two different people was shed in Danny’s house. While Boese was processing the room, he opened the couch up and a shell casing fell out. Later tests showed that this shell came from Danny’s gun, and it had been recently fired. Now, there were two shells found on the couch that came from the gun. Larry wondered if Danny had shot someone, or if someone else used Danny’s gun and shot him. Boese says that from the crime scene photos that he saw, Danny’s gun was laying on his lap and his hand was laying on top of the gun, just as if he shot himself and then set it back down. He says that is inconsistent with a suicide.
Larry and Boese then tried to re-enact the shooting based on the trajectory of the bullet. Boese determined that if Danny shot himself in line with the trajectory, he would have fallen onto the floor. He would not have moved back into the position he was found in, and the gun would probably not have been in his lap. It probably would have been on the floor or the coffee table. Chief Schlaf says that their investigation indicated that the position of the hole in the wall was consistent with the way the body was found, primarily based on the fact that they cannot say specifically how Danny was sitting and exactly where on the couch he was sitting at the time the gun was discharged.
Boese has come to believe that Danny was probably not shot in the den. One theory is that there was an altercation somewhere else, during which Danny’s blood and another person’s blood was spilled. Perhaps that person took Danny’s keys out of his pocket, leaving behind a trace of type O blood. Finally, the crime scene was arranged to make Danny’s death look like a suicide.
Chief Schlaf says that theories can be advanced all day long. But, he says, he feels comfortable with the factual data that the department has gathered on the case, which points towards suicide. According to friends and some family members, Danny was upset that he did not get a promotion at his work. Larry disagreed with this, claiming that Danny was a partner in the business and a distribution manager and that he "could not go much higher" in the company.
Friends, family, and police say Danny's girlfriend moved out of his house in May 1991. According to some sources, they had broken up before his death. She told police he had called her at 2am on Saturday, June 29 (shortly before they believe he died). According to her, he had been drinking and asked to see her; she refused. Other friends and family members indicated that he was depressed before his death and did not get along with his coworkers. It was also claimed that he was a heavy drinker and used drugs. Indeed, drug paraphernalia was found in the house, and his blood alcohol level was 0.274 (above the legal limit of 0.1). However, Larry claims this finding was misleading because other pathologists have told him that ethanol levels build up in the body after death.
Police files also indicate that the house was locked with deadbolts from the inside and all the windows were locked. Also, the house appeared to be "orderly", with no signs of struggle. However, Larry says that furniture and other small items were out of place, indicating that someone else had been there.
According to the police, there was one final fact to support the suicide ruling. They say that Danny’s girlfriend described an argument which had also resulted in a shooting incident six months before his death. According to her, he had twice threatened suicide during it. At one point, he placed a handgun to his head. She then turned and started to leave the room and heard the gun discharge. She turned around and found that he had discharged the gun into a wall. Apparently, according to Chief Schlaf, he had considered committing suicide before, he had discussed doing it before, and he had taken a “substantial step” towards committing suicide by discharging the gun during the argument.
Larry believes that the police came up with the conclusion of suicide and have gone to a great degree of effort to try to support their theory. He says that if the police had put as much effort into trying to find out what the truth was and what happened, they would be working along the same lines that he and his family are today. He says that the investigators and crime labs that he has had working on the case saw the evidence in the house; they remain convinced that it was murder. However, Chief Schlaf believes that it was a suicide, and says that the department has tried to cooperate with Larry and kept the investigation open.
In this most perplexing case, one issue has never been addressed. If Danny was murdered, who killed him and why? Questions even Larry has been unable to answer. On August 8, 1991, a coroner’s jury ruled that Danny’s death could not be classified conclusively either as a suicide or a murder. The manner is listed as "uncertain". Larry says he has received several anonymous phone calls from people who claim to know Danny’s killer, but say they are afraid to name names. Larry has placed ads in several newspapers, offering a $25,000 reward for information which leads to an arrest and conviction.
Suspects: Larry claims that Danny had been in fights, had enemies, and had been threatened before his death. He believes that this is related to his death.
A neighbor witnessed Danny being picked up by an unidentified woman on the same morning he supposedly died. She had dark hair and was between twenty-five and thirty years of age. Also, an unidentified man described as 5'4" with curly hair was seen at Danny's house the day after he died. Neither of these people have been identified and it is not known what connection they may have had to this case.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the September 29, 1993 episode.
Results: Unsolved. After the broadcast, several calls to the telecenter were accidentally forwarded to Turnquist instead of the Galesburg Police Department. Unsolved Mysteries apologized for this error. Turnquist claimed that the tips were promising, as some had mentioned names that had come up previously during his investigation.
Sadly, Danny's parents have since passed away: Larry in 1998 and Lois in 2010. His brother, also named Larry, passed away in 2017.
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