Danny Sledge

Jimmy

You never do get over it because the littlest thing will take you right back to that terrible day. 

Joseph Daniel (Danny) Sledge was murdered by two teen brothers on a Friday evening the 12th of March in 1999.  It was the next morning before he was found dead and we wondered for months how long he lay there, alone, suffering and dying.  Law enforcement spent that weekend looking for the killer(s).  We spent the weekend trying to hold each other up, sharing memories, notifying people, and wondering if we were safe.  One family member refused to leave her home as it was the only place she felt safe.

That Monday we got the call that they caught them and we headed for the first of many trips to the courthouse.  We were told the father of the two teens turned them in because he was afraid he was going to be next.  The two were Nathan Boyd age 17 (214724) and Eric Boyd age 19 (216553).  Nathan was well known to law enforcement.  We would find out he was supposed to be in jail but someone’s mistake did not keep him there.  The two murderers had spent the stolen money on drugs, partied at a club then stayed high in their apartment that weekend.

Danny knew Nathan from work.  Danny ran a restaurant called “The Galley” on the banks of Shoals Creek in Florence, Alabama.  Nathan had been thrown out of his house like his brother Eric when the parents got tired of dealing with them.  We learned during the trials they had been abused by their parents as children and now were big enough to fight back.  So frightened of retribution that the parents put them out to fend for themselves.  Danny had given Nathan a job more than once but he only worked long enough for drug money and would not show for work.  In July of 1998 we had a cousin murdered doing his job as a police officer.  Danny gave Nathan another chance to work at The Galley so Danny could leave town with the rest of us for the funeral.  It made the national news and Nathan and Eric assumed that we were a rich family given the funeral our cousin had.

Halloween was the first time they stalked him, they had a gun that time, watched the restaurant, waiting for Danny to be alone.  Something happened and they left.  There would be other times as well, bringing in different people with them who told their stories during the trials.  Why none of them went to the police, we’ll never know.

The Galley’s busy season was during the warmer months and was pretty boring in the winter.  That evening it was rainy and Danny let the one worker leave early and he was left alone.  The brothers were there and went to the door as Danny was locking it and pushed their way in.  Different family members have had their own businesses and the attitude had always been life over money.  So we knew the fight that followed wasn’t over money, Danny would have given it to them.  Both Nathan and Eric were much bigger in size than Danny but he fought back through each of the 27 stab wounds and then a knife broke off in his back. 

They estimated this all started about 8 PM. The next morning the first worker to come in was Bonnie, she knew something was not right, the door was not locked, their appeared to be a struggle that ended up in the kitchen and she found our father, son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend sitting up against the wall in a pool of blood, his eyes were open.

A sister, Mary Anne, lived just down the road and was leaving her home when she looked in the direction of The Galley and saw all the police cars in the parking lot.  She was the first of the family to learn that Danny was dead.  The word had to spread fast because in such a small town someone might hear it from the press or a stranger.  Family members were awakened from their last night of sleep for some time to the terrible news that Danny was gone.  Questions were answered with “I don’t know”, not wanting to be the one to tell the terrible details of Danny’s last moments alive.

St. Patrick’s Day had always been great fun for our Irish family but from now on it would be the day we buried Danny.  He was not eulogized by anyone that knew him for we were all in shock and crying non stop.  The words were left to strangers to most of us.  “Butterfly Kisses” a favorite of Danny’s was played at the service as it was at his oldest daughter’s wedding and would be again in few months ahead at his youngest daughter’s wedding.  “Danny Boy” never brought so many tears to a room.  The one thing we knew for sure was that he was always at family gatherings and that made his absence even greater, he would have loved it.

There is a lot more to tell but what matters is that his death was described as heinous, like a passion killing.  The two teen age brothers ravaged Danny and the horror of the crime scene confused the law enforcement officers.  The detectives asked questions about his personal life that were painful to hear.  We answered no, on and on but they continued to ask.  They needed our help but we were at a loss as why anyone would want him dead and do so so brutally.  He had made a bank deposit that morning which was his usual, if it was robbery it could not have been for very much money.  And we always said, hand over the money, it all did not make sense.  But then we were trying to make sense out of something that was senseless.

When we first saw the teen brothers in court we were surprised at their height and build, Danny did not stand a chance against them.  He liked to say he was 5 10 but that was pushing it.  At his heaviest he was probably 160 pounds but he had lost weight those last few months.  The difference in size did not stop Danny from fighting, he left many a wound on those two, but he had to have known they were there to kill him to fight back as hard as he did.

Both were charged with capital murder, there was a trial for each of them, a change in venue for the second to be sure he got a fair trial.  Nathan, the younger and biggest of the two, the one with the criminal record was sentenced to life without parole.  It was probably all those stories of the father’s drinking and abuse of prescription drugs that led to frequent beatings, one of which broke Nathan’s arm that kept him from the death penalty.  Eric, the older of the two got life but could possibly be paroled.

We tried to take comfort that maybe we would not be on the national news fighting for the death penalty for Nathan as it was cruel and unusual punishment for someone who was 17 at the time he did the crime.  Maybe it was God’s way of protecting us from that battle.  Maybe so but now it’s legislatures trying to save a buck or two in the budget that we struggle with.  There was one session that a bill was introduced to release terminal prisoner’s home to their families.  And now it’s the efforts at the national level to consider the convicted criminal a child.  There was nothing child like in that crime scene or what had been delivered as so hard a blow as to break the handle off of a knife.  No child ended Danny’s life at age 43 years old.  No child fought with him to enter 27 stab wounds.  These murderers were not children in any shape or form; they were calculating, cold blooded murderers.

10 Responses to Danny Sledge

  1. mary anne rippey says:

    This Saturday March 12, 2011 will mark the 12th anniversary of my brother Danny’s murder. Our family has endured two trials with two convictions, and dread the day we must face one parole hearing after another for one of the defendants Eric Boyd.

    Danny’s children have married and have children of their own, life goes on. Their struggle became more difficult when they also lost their mother two years ago to an inoperable brain tumor. Patti was divorced from my brother but she was there for the trials and tended my brother’s grave until her illness took charge of her life.

    I honor both Danny and Patti lives by continuing standing up for victims and speaking out when injustice rears its ugly head.

    Their memory lives on in all of us and they are never gone form our hearts and prayers.
    Love and miss both of you.

  2. Amy Greer Cruce says:

    Cried all the way through this…God bless your family, and the good you’ve done.

  3. Bobbie says:

    Rest in Peace Danny, you are not forgotten. Now one more person knows your story. Blessings and Prayers ongoing for your family.

    Response about Boyd Brothers is not worthy to be placed in the same paragragh as as even the name of such a loving caring individual. If those boys think theyve got it rough here on earth, I cant wait until their ultimate JUDGEMENT DAY!

  4. Deborah Hale White says:

    Like others, I think of Danny everytime I cross Shoals Creek Bridge. There was no better person that Danny. I hope & pray that those two boys are NEVER released from prison.

  5. Sherry_cox23 says:

    I live near where this happened. I never cross that bridge that I don’t think about what happened. I hope they keep them forever in jail and show no mercy. They sure didn’t have any mercy for Danny. Still praying for the Sledge family.

  6. Marippey says:

    Still waiting, another Monday gone by. I have dreaded the day that we must attend Eric’s parole hearing in the near future. Now we might face a resentencing of Nathan and future parole hearings for him. How is this justice, how can we move forward. My stomach turns flips just thinking of the possibility of facing these two monsters again. Praying daily that this to will pass and Nathan will serve out what the jury and judged sentenced him to. Life in Prison without parole.
    Mary Anne Rippey

  7. Anonymous says:

    Praying that if our family must endure a resentencing of
    Nathan Boyd that it comes soon and whatever the outcome is ends quickly.  The very thought that we might have to see
    that monster again sucks up a lot of energy out of my day and just   he doesn’t
    have the right to keep doing this to all of us. 
    I was thinking the other day that Nathan and Eric took the best part of
    my family, Danny of all of eight kids, was the most forgiving and the peace
    maker. 

    In his business he hired a disabled veteran (Joe) to work in
    the kitchen.  He always looked disheveled
    and people would make remarks about him working there.  When I spoke to Danny about this, his reply
    was they could go eat somewhere else.  That
    was Danny.

    Joe has passed away now, but I remember him coming to the
    funeral home, my husband saw him in line and brought him to the front.  It was hard for Joe to walk and his legs gave
    him constant pain, but he would have stood there waiting his turn to speak to
    the family, he was Danny’s friend. 

  8. Anonymous says:

    Praying that if our family must endure a resentencing of
    Nathan Boyd that it comes soon and whatever the outcome is ends quickly.  The very thought that we might have to see
    that monster again sucks up a lot of energy out of my day and just   he doesn’t
    have the right to keep doing this to all of us. 
    I was thinking the other day that Nathan and Eric took the best part of
    my family, Danny of all of eight kids, was the most forgiving and the peace
    maker. 

    In his business he hired a disabled veteran (Joe) to work in
    the kitchen.  He always looked disheveled
    and people would make remarks about him working there.  When I spoke to Danny about this, his reply
    was they could go eat somewhere else.  That
    was Danny.

    Joe has passed away now, but I remember him coming to the
    funeral home, my husband saw him in line and brought him to the front.  It was hard for Joe to walk and his legs gave
    him constant pain, but he would have stood there waiting his turn to speak to
    the family, he was Danny’s friend. 

  9. DPhillips says:

    Danny was a member of our 1973 class at Brooks High School and helped plan our 20th and 25th reunion. He was not there for the 30th and now as we attend our 40th on June 22, 2013, we will honor his memory by signing a petition and sending it to the Alabama Pardons and Parole Board in protest of the upcoming parole hearing for Eric Boyd in 2014. He and his brother took the life of a wonderful man, a friend to us all, and we miss him so much. They do not deserve to be free and we can only pray that this never happens.

  10. Mary Anne Rippey says:

    Still waiting on the courts to decide if Nathan Boyd will be resentenced. There are 62 families in the state of Alabama waiting on this decision. It know has been 15 years since the murder of my brother Danny and we still are waiting on the court decisions. Also this year our family will have to face a parole hearing for Eric Boyd the second offender. We have not gotten an official notice but we understand one will likely take place this year.

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