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McEntee: Like shooting victim's mother, we want answers
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What are we to make of all this? After nearly five months, the investigation into Danielle Willard's Nov. 2 death at the hands of two undercover West Valley City detectives remains under wraps and as murky as ever.

Now, though, after some disclosures by police caused a fresh demand for information, there is a little more. And virtually no one is hungrier for the facts than Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, who has for too long awaited clarity — and, one way or the other, justice — in the death of her daughter during a drug bust in a parking lot.

On Friday, the police department unsealed search warrants that said a "brown, tar-like substance" in a plastic baggie was found in the car in which Danielle Willard was killed.

No weapons were found.

The two plainclothes officers said they witnessed a drug transaction and Willard "attempting to use illegal narcotics," so they closed in. They said they identified themselves as police officers, and Willard then backed her car into Detective Shaun Cowley, injuring his leg. Cowley and Detective Kevin Salmon opened fire, hitting Willard in the head.

But there are still so many questions, especially for Kennedy, of Vancouver, Wash., who hopes to be in Utah next week when West Valley City police officials are to meet with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill to go over the investigation.

"The most important thing is, I want to know the truth," Kennedy told me Friday. "I still don't now what happened, why they needed to shoot her."

Kennedy describes her relationship with Willard as wonderfully open and that her daughter "shared pretty much everything with me. People will say, 'Right, young adults don't do that.' "

Evidently, Danielle did.

"She came to me and told me when she first started heroin," her mother said. "She told me when she wanted to get clean and go to treatment. She also told me when she didn't want to go."

Once, when Willard had a cold, she called her mother "bobby," meaning "mommy." That turned into Bubbabaloo.

"My Bubbabaloo knows everything," she'd say. And, as Kennedy put it, "every mother wants to have a relationship with their children."

The day before Willard was killed, she called her mother and told her, with great excitement, that she had found a new apartment.

Was she using drugs then? I asked.

"From what I've heard, she was, but it's still very questionable about how all that started," Kennedy said. "Within a two-week period of time, everything just kind of blew up. I don't think she knew who she was getting involved with.

"Everyone says Danielle met someone to get drugs in her apartment," her mother said. Even so, Danielle "wanted them out. She told them to leave her alone … or she'd go to the police."

Officers did come when called, Kennedy said, but told Willard it was a civil matter and they couldn't help her. We've probably all been there, when we've called the cops and gotten the same honest answer.

Kennedy is realistic about not being able to sit in on the discussion between Gill and the West Valley City officers. "My hope is, we will get answers in the end … and justice."

I don't know about that. After all these years, no one knows what really happened in another West Valley City case: the disappearance of Susan Powell.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, pegmcentee/facebook

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