Dannielle H.

Danielle Hadley (PA)
SCI Muncy
DOB 03/24/64
Crime: Accomplice to a single murder
Sentenced 1988/12/13: LWOP
Time Served 25 years.

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She Gets Life For Staging Victim's Date With Death

By Dave Racher, Daily News Staff Writer

POSTED: December 13, 1988

When the Southwest Philadelphia woman called to make a date with a man she had been seeing for two weeks last year, she had larceny, not romance, in her heart, the prosecutor said.

Danielle Hadley, 23, of Angora Terrace near 54th Street, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday after being convicted by a jury of setting up the robbery-slaying on Sept. 11, 1987, of Robert Wilkens in his home on Pentridge Street near 57th.

"She set him up for murder," said Assistant District Attorney Michael McGovern. "She opened the door so two accomplices could come into the house. Wilkens was then beaten, strangled, stabbed and robbed."

Wilkens' decomposed body was found five days later. His home had been ransacked, and various household items had been stolen.

Wilkens, a United Parcel Service employee, met Hadley at a party and began dating her regularly, McGovern said.

The night before the slaying, the prosecutor said, Hadley and two others met to plan the crime.

"Hadley beat Wilkens on the head with a beer mug, then handcuffed his hands behind his back," said McGovern. "One of the other two then strangled him, and then he was stabbed three times in the throat."

Hadley admitted being with Wilkens when he was killed, but denied being part of the team of killers. She said she was "stunned" when she witnessed his death.

Christine Edwards, 21, Hadley's cousin, is presently serving a 10- to 20- year prison term for the murder. A third defendant, Thomas Humphrey, 21, of 58th Street near Florence Avenue, is awaiting trial.

Hadley was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Michael R. Stiles, who deferred sentencing on charges of robbery and conspiracy.

No Two Ways About It


Life means life in Pennsylvania-but perhaps it should mean a little more.shim
by Frank Rubino
WCJN Note: Life without parole is a death sentence in and of itself.
Despite Rubino's dreadful suggestion, the article that follows is not bad.

I'm sitting in the tiny Southwest Philly living room of a comely 64-year-old woman who, after all these years, still doesn't believe her daughter did it.

"No, I don't," says soft-spoken Mae Hadley, reclining on her sofa and wearing a floral print blouse over blue workpants and slippers, her straight black hair mixed with strands of gray.

"She did say she was there, but I don't believe she really took part in what they say she did. I don't believe she set it up."

"It" would be the Sept. 11, 1987 slaying of Robert Wilkens, a UPS worker whom Dannielle Hadley, then 23, had been dating for two weeks.

In December 1988 a jury convicted Dannielle Hadley of arranging the murder after prosecutor Michael McGovern convinced them that she visited Wilkens at his Pentridge Street home, then opened the door so her two accomplices could beat, strangle, stab and rob him.

According to a Dec. 13, 1988
Philadelphia Daily News story, McGovern argued that Dannielle Hadley took part in the assault, striking Wilkens on the head with a beer mug and handcuffing him.

Now 41, Dannielle Hadley is 18 years into Pennsylvania's mandatory sentence for noncapital first-degree murder convictions-life without the possibility of parole-at the State Correctional Institution Muncy.

"She's not happy about where she is," says Mae Hadley, a KFC custodian who raised Dannielle's sons, now 23 and 21. "But she isn't moping."

Mae Hadley adds that Dannielle, whom she concedes "had gotten mixed up with the drugs" before Wilkens' killing, has matured in prison, and will soon graduate from an electronics training program.

Which is great, though it's hardly Mae's idea of a happy ending to her daughter's story. She's hoping there's another chapter in which Dannielle and every other Pennsylvania lifer receive parole eligibility.

I'm not certain I want to read that chapter. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I met Mae Hadley two weekends ago at Temple University, at a conference aimed at galvanizing those who oppose Pennsylvania's 64-year-old Parole Act, which stipulates that prisoners convicted of first- or second-degree murder never get parole consideration. (Pennsylvania is one of only six states in which life literally means life.)

Kristi Brian of Fight for Lifers Inc. invited me to the conference back in November, after I wrote a story detailing the plight of Graterford lifer Tyrone Werts, who's been in prison for second-degree murder since 1975 for participating in a North Philly stickup that resulted in a young man's shooting death.

Werts' case epitomizes my opposition to our state's one-size-fits-all parole law. He was the getaway driver, and never entered the Arizona Street speakeasy where the killing took place. Moreover, he's served almost 30 years, and Department of Corrections officials describe him as a model inmate who's clearly been rehabilitated.

Yet he'll never sit before a parole board. I have problems with that.

But I'm not sure I agree with Brian and others in her organization, who want life without parole abolished. Probably because I suspect we're becoming desensitized to what a heinous crime murder is.

As assistant district attorney Mark Gilson puts it, "When you murder someone, you take everything they are, everything they've ever been and everything they might ever become. You take it all."

Those in the Fight for Lifers camp counter that the corrections system is supposed to be about, well, corrections.

"If we really want to say we have a system that involves rehabilitation," Brian says, "then we have to allow for the fact that people can change. Their hearts and motivations can change. They can change with respect to every decision they've ever made."

I hear her, though I'm distracted by the image of Robert Wilkens lying dead in some cemetery, forever deprived of
his opportunity to change-to go back to school, say, or to take up guitar, join the French Foreign Legion or read Dostoevsky.

Wilkens never got the chance to evolve, or to continue just as he was for that matter. Somebody pulled the plug on his universe. With extreme brutality, I might add.

So maybe some sort of compromise is in order. Maybe the solution is to expand juries' latitude. Maybe, particularly in the case of first-degree murder, juries should have the option of sentencing defendants to life either with or without parole. Seems fair to me, since the jurors have heard all the testimony, and know how abhorrent a defendant's behavior was or wasn't.

Getting back to Dannielle Hadley, I certainly don't know whether she's innocent or guilty, though if she's innocent, I hope she's able to exonerate herself. I really do.

If she's guilty, I feel Robert Wilkens' pain a lot more than hers. But I also feel for Mae Hadley, a courageous woman who's stayed strong enough throughout a nightmare to raise two grandsons. A woman who says she feels "just terrible, right to this day" for Robert Wilkens and his loved ones.

Mae Hadley, of course, also loves her daughter unconditionally, as any good mother would. You can't hold that against her, regardless of your views on life without parole.