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Jury convicts man of Cordelia cold-case murder

Lonnie J. Kerley, left, was was indicted Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, by a Solano County grand jury on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the 1996 death of Danna L. Dever, right, of Cordelia.

Lonnie J. Kerley, left, was was indicted Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, by a Solano County grand jury on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the 1996 death of Danna L. Dever, right, of Cordelia.

By
From page A1 | January 03, 2013 |

VALLEJO — For more than a decade, Lonnie J. Kerley, 53, likely believed he had gotten away with murder.

Danna L. Dever, his girlfriend and the mother of their daughter, disappeared in June 1996. A jury trial for Kerley that started in October, more than two months ago, ended Wednesday with Kerley found guilty of second-degree murder.

The long, painful journey for justice for Dever’s family spanned nearly 17 years. It began with a decade of not knowing what had happened to their loved one, who they believed would never just walk away from her beloved 9-year-old daughter, as Kerley claimed Dever had done.

The initial police investigation into Dever’s disappearance began with scrutiny of Kerley, largely because he did not report Dever missing until six weeks after he said she just walked out the front door of their home. The investigation went cold and even though Dever’s body was found that summer, it went unidentified until 2007.

In 1996, farmworkers found a woman’s badly decomposed body in a ditch alongside rural pastureland south of Dixon. When authorities learned the body was Dever, the case was reopened with Kerley as the focus of the investigation. Kerley had little to tell police, sticking with the story that Dever had just walked away and the case went cold for a second time.

In 2010, a pair of cold-case investigators reopened the Dever case for a third time. Kerley was arrested and in August 2011 prosecutors got a grand jury indictment against Kerley on a second-degree murder charge.

Prosecutors believe Kerley likely beat and killed Dever at their home and possibly crushed her with the lid of a tanning bed at their home before he loaded her body into his car and dumped it a short distance from a motorcycle track where Kerley raced as a teenager.

The jury trial included testimony from Kerley’s parents, who both said they had watched Dever simply walk out the door of their son’s home and disappear. Prosecutors said Kerley’s parents were both lying. Kerley did not take the witness stand.

Jurors deliberated the case for two days in December before the court started a protracted holiday and work furlough period of nearly two weeks that ended Wednesday.

Judge Allan P. Carter ordered Kerley, who has been in jail without bail since his arrest, to return to court Jan. 31 for sentencing.

Kerley faces a sentence of 15 years to life, according to prosecutor Krishna Abrams, who along with Deputy District Attorney Julie Underwood, garnered the conviction.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or jsullivan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
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Discussion | 27 comments

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  • Patiently waitingJanuary 02, 2013 - 7:56 pm

    I have waited for this day to come for soooo long! Justice has been been served!!! The Dever family and many others can finally have some peace!! I know I will!!

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  • Linda C.January 03, 2013 - 8:05 pm

    justice is served! Things are right now, Danna can rest her soul and Lonnie can serve his punishment for his sin. To the Dever Family Thank the lord its over and justice is served. We all miss Danna and she will be in our hearts and memories forever.

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  • Patiently WaitedJanuary 02, 2013 - 8:18 pm

    This has been long awaited! The Dever family, and I, can have some closure to all of this! I didn't get to know the Dever family, but I did get to know Mr. Kerley, wish I didn't!!! To the Dever family, I'm so sorry for your loss I wish I could have helped more! Many things were not said as we were not allowed to talk about it in court. But let me say, he was not a nice man! Justice has truly been paid. Happy New Year!!

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  • Patiently WaitedJanuary 02, 2013 - 8:18 pm

    This has been long awaited! The Dever family, and I, can have some closure to all of this! I didn't get to know the Dever family, but I did get to know Mr. Kerley, wish I didn't!!! To the Dever family, I'm so sorry for your loss I wish I could have helped more! Many things were not said as we were not allowed to talk about it in court. But let me say, he was not a nice man! Justice has truly been served. Happy New Year!!

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  • Patiently WaitedJanuary 02, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    sorry got so excited and found an error but it printed it twice!!

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  • Fly on the wallJanuary 02, 2013 - 11:25 pm

    Dana we heard you loud and clear honey rest in peace sweetie I will never forget you although I never met you. There is justice after all. Thank you Jesus our prayers were answered.

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  • lilchrisJanuary 03, 2013 - 11:11 am

    Closure, peace, and justice. I'm glad my sister got away when she did, she was lucky, unlike Danna. Hopfully he will stay in a place where he can never hurt anyone again. Danna spoke very loudly, Peace to the Dever family.

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  • SueJanuary 03, 2013 - 1:25 pm

    Dear Patiently waiting and lilchris, thank you for your comments ... I wish I knew who you were so I could personally thank you. And dear Fly on the Wall, your comment has so touched me and my family. Our prayer all these years would be that someone, anyone would finally hear Danna's story and believe what we have known for so many years....that she didn't abandon her daughter; but was brutally murdered.

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  • Patiently waitingJanuary 03, 2013 - 5:44 pm

    I plan on being there at the sentencing! Maybe we can meet.

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 03, 2013 - 5:51 pm

    Let's plan on it!

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  • JessicaJanuary 03, 2013 - 11:49 pm

    What time is the sentencing?

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  • patiently waitingJanuary 04, 2013 - 7:59 am

    I heard it is January 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm

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  • Juror #2January 04, 2013 - 8:56 am

    I'm very glad your family now has some closure and can ahve a bit of peace..!! Juror #2

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 04, 2013 - 1:44 pm

    Dear Juror #2, words alone cannot express how grateful my family and I are to you and the other 11 jurors who were able to see the truth. There was so much that you were not allowed to hear but I know when you find out more of the details it will only affirm your decision. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU.

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  • patiently waitingJanuary 07, 2013 - 6:47 am

    Thanks again! As you have read in the comments that you have not even heard the half of what really went on. You have no idea of how evil and mean this man really is. I'm just glad that I am still alive to speak up for those who cannot. God gave me the strenght to make it through this, because I tell you if he was not charged guilty, it would have not been a happy life for me. I can now get on with my life knowing that he will be miserable as he made my life to be! God Bless all involved!

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 07, 2013 - 9:55 am

    Thank you to all of you who have left such nice messages for the family. We are so grateful to all of you. But most especially to God, who carried us through, not just the past few years of court proceedings; but all those long years of waiting. In 1996, after Danna was reported as missing and we knew that he had done something to her, Danna's dad and I went on a pilgrimage to Israel. There we were able to give Danna and this whole situation to the Lord; knowing that whatever happened to Lonnie Kerley in this life...that God knew and that the day would come when he would have to stand before the ultimate judge and pay for his crime. The fact that all these years later he is going to have to answer in this life is testament to God's faithfulness. Dear Patiently waiting.... I thank God that you did get away. You have no idea over the years how many times Danna's dad and I prayed for your safety and that you would not end up like our Danna. After the verdict was read and the family was leaving the courtroom I looked at his current girlfriend, wiping the tears from her eyes and said a prayer for her as well....thanking God that she will never have to live through what Danna or what you did. I hope that you will speak at his sentencing. The world needs to know just how evil this man is and that getting out of prison someday should not be an option. hugs to you.

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  • ArA88January 07, 2013 - 11:43 am

    HAPPY NEW YEAR! Our family is very thankful for all of the prayers and support. Auntie you are an amazing woman. Words could never express how pleased Uncle must be. You have been diligent and steadfast throughout this whole process. The courage and strength that you and all of the sisters have shown have proven to be un-parallel… Patiently waiting, we have already met but I don’t think I ever said thank you, this could not have been easy for you either and it has not gone unnoticed by our family. I am happy that you got your justice too… Juror #2 you’re just simply amazing… Fly on the wall, I don’t think “fly” is a good descriptor! ;)

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 29, 2013 - 10:39 am

    Just wanted you to know... According to the DA's office, the sentencing has been moved to Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 in judge Carter's courtroom.

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  • RestoringFaithJanuary 03, 2013 - 7:26 pm

    Thanks be to God, the twelve amazing citizens and our two beautiful angels on earth! "The reality is that we don't forget, move on, and have closure, but rather we honor, we remember, and incorporate our deceased children and siblings into our lives in a new way. In fact, keeping memories of your loved one alive in your mind and heart is an important part of your healing journey." ~ Harriet Shiff I wish for the Dever family the ability to now start to heal. Danna may your soul and the souls of your mother and father now FINALLY rest peacefully.

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  • Fly on the wallJanuary 04, 2013 - 10:52 pm

    I was there everyday except the day of the sentence. I will be there on January 31, at 1:30 to finish my support for Dana .

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  • Fly on the wallJanuary 04, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    To the jurors on this case, I give you all a standing novation for you all were awsome, we were all on the same page. Great minds think alike. Bless you all!

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 05, 2013 - 9:54 am

    Thank you so much.

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  • ErikaJanuary 06, 2013 - 5:57 am

    All our prayers have been answered!! Our Family Prayed, and our hearts were Heavy, even though we never met her. She's a Beautiful Daughter, Mother, Granddaughter, Sister, Friend, Aunt, etc.... Danna L. Dever, Very Beautiful Life, taken by a VERY EVIL DEVIL!! Your Spirit is free. Now your Loving Family, may have some peace. Still, our Family will say our prayers, to ask our Father in Heaven, to watch over each and everyone of you. To wrapped his arms around you and comfort you each and everyday. Our Hearts go out to All, and Healing Hugs Too. OOOOOOOXXXXXXX God Blessed your Beautiful Danna, she is soaring with the Eagles, and she is an Angel watching over each and everyone of you. Too, an Angel watching over us All. Thank You Sweetie, may you rest in peace. We Love YOU.... Love to All Danna Dever Family, too ; ) AMEN.....

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 29, 2013 - 10:38 am

    According to the DA's office, the sentencing has been moved to Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 in judge Carter's courtroom.

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  • Patiently waitingJanuary 30, 2013 - 10:39 am

    I just found out about the date change. I'm so upset! It's too late for me to be there! I so much wanted to meet the family of Danna! Maybe we can get together sometime. I hope someone was there to represent Danna at the sentencing. Waiting to hear what the outcome was. LIFE please!

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  • LizJanuary 30, 2013 - 11:37 am

    Waiting to hear, I couldn't get a last min sitter I had one for tomorrow's date. Danna was a great mother & I hope her daughter will come around and get to know the devers! Life please.

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  • Susan DeverJanuary 30, 2013 - 2:15 pm

    Our family was there to support our daughter, sister, aunt, niece and cousin. I spoke on behalf of my beloved hubby, Danna's father, who died before he could see justice in her case. My niece, who is a much more eloquent speaker than I am also spoke on our family's and Danna's behalf. Lonnie was given by law 15 years to life, which means he will not even be considered for parole until the 15 years is up. The time he has been in prison counts towards the 15 years which means he will come up for parole in approximately 12 years. The family will ALWAYS make sure that Danna's story is known. Patiently waiting....find me on facebook and let's get together.

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