Family fights to keep killer behind bars with petition

Posted at 7:57 PM, Jan 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-04 19:57:43-05

A Lake County family is fighting to keep a killer behind bars 30 years after he was sent to prison.

Police said it was one of the worst crimes the community of Willoughby has ever seen. "His objective was to kill everyone in the house," said Kelly Casteel Coates.

In the early morning hours of September 19, 1986, Danny Desellems walked into an Eaglewood Drive home, poured gasoline in it, left Molotov cocktails and set fire to the house as he walked out the door. "The crib was sitting there, and he put a molotov cocktail three feet from the crib," said Coates.

Boyce, Barbara and Kevin Casteel were killed. Coates and her then toddler daughter should have been home the night her brother and parents were killed, but they weren't. It happened more than 30 years ago. Coates would like to forget but can't help by remember. "It absorbs your thoughts, it comes in your sleep," added Coates.

The police investigation revealed Kevin Casteel had gotten into a scuffle with Desellems hours before he set the fire. Desellems took a plea deal and was sentenced to 20 years to life. "We think life in prison means life in prison, it doesn't," said Willoughby Police Victim's Advocate Susan Hodali. 

Desellems is up for parole for the third time. "I don't think it's fair we go through this every five years," said Charice Layman, Coates' daughter.

One of the firefighters that battled the fire that night was Pete Gammiere. He was a firefighter for 20 years. He remembers that night and that fire. " Plain as day, plain as day. It's something you don't forget," said Gammiere.

Gammiere is one of 1,300 names on a petition to keep Desellems in prison. The family would like to have more. The clock is ticking. The petition is due Friday morning and Desellems parole hearing is set for January 12.

If you would like to view or sign the petition, it can be found here