Shooting victim battled drugs; Many questions unanswered by police

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3 2012 6:08 p.m. MDT

"The last time I saw her was probably the best way I could have ended it because it was when she was completely sober and she was just so happy and back to the way she normally was when we were closer together and she was not on the drugs," Kayleen Willard said.

Kayleen said her father encouraged Danielle to stay. Instead, she returned to Utah. Kayleen believes it was because of her addiction.

"She's just had such an addictive personality and the heroin has controlled her life, and I believe she didn't want to be sober. She wanted to be on the drugs. I don't think her rehab changed her mind at all.  She liked the way she was and she didn't want to change. They ultimately controlled her life," she said.

Despite her addiction, Danielle Willard's family believes when the shooting happened, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"She's never been known to be a violent person. She's 100 pounds soaking wet. She's only 21 years old. She's a tiny little thing. What could she possibly have done, other than having a gun, what could she have done to provoke them to shoot her? Even at that, they have to tell her to stop first. She would have stopped. I know she would have. I've never ever known her to keep a gun with her or anywhere around here," Kennedy said.

Her mother conceded, however, that if Danielle was back on drugs, she might have tried to fight with officers. 

Growing up, Danielle Willard was a star track runner. She also played soccer and volleyball, her mother said. Kayleen said she and her sister fought when they were younger. But she admired her older sister.

"I always wanted to be like her. She always inspired me, because she was always so happy. She always seemed to be the crowd pleaser. She always seemed to brighten up a room," Willard said. "She was an inspiration to me, she made me be the person I am today. She made me want to be a better person growing up. She will always be in my thoughts and my heart, and she's in a better place right now and I'll see her again some day."

Danielle Willard started getting into trouble in high school. She was convicted of misdemeanor theft in 2009 and 2011 in Oregon, according to records.

Kennedy said she is trying to keep a realistic perspective of what was going on with her daughter's life at the time of her death. Although she had had drug use problems, her mother did not believe she was dealing drugs.

As for the public, Kennedy hoped they wouldn't judge her daughter based on the violent and tragic ending to her life alone.

"She obviously had a lot of conflict inside her. But what people need to know is she had a very good soul. She was a giving person," her mother said. "I know that Danielle made mistakes. I know a lot people are saying, 'Another piece of (expletive deleted) off the street.' If she was doing drugs, if she was dealing, yeah, that's the bottom line.

"But that little girl had a family. All the people that do bad things out there have families who love them. It would be really, really nice if people would realize that."

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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