Some residents and town officials here are calling for more oversight of volunteer groups after Habitat for Humanity was forced to reclaim a home that the charity had built for a murderer and his family.
With the house now up for sale, neighbors in this community say they wish Habitat had been more cautious in its selection of who would live here, and more sensitive to community concerns.After Donald Dannemiller and his family were chosen in late 1995 to live in the Habitat home, some residents raised objections about Dannemiller's criminal history. Dannemiller, 37, had been convicted of second-degree murder for the 1976 slaying of his 13-year-old stepsister and served six years in prison.
Habitat for Humanity did not reveal his past to residents, who learned of it from fliers distributed in the community.
Neighbors said all was quiet until May 15, when Dannemiller was arrested on charges that he abducted a 12-year-old girl in nearby Manassas and shot her with a pellet gun as she tried to flee. He was charged with abduction, malicious wounding and possession of a firearm by a felon. He remains in jail awaiting trial.
In the aftermath of his arrest, outraged residents have called for Habitat to re-evaluate its screening process.
"By all means, Habitat should involve the community more in their decisions," said Michael Long, a former neighbor. Dannemiller's wife and children left the home in May after his arrest.
Habitat officials, however, stand by their decision and their methods. "Habitat for Humanity is all about giving people a second chance," said Ulysses White, the president of the Prince William County affiliate of Habitat.
Habitat has decided not to give the house to another family, a sign of the tension between the community and the organization.