D’Annunzio’s law combats violent crime

A bill aimed to extend the Michigan statute of limitations for violent crimes in response to a more than decade-old murder case in East Lansing passed the Michigan Senate on Tuesday and now will move to the House for consideration.

The bill, which would extend the statute of limitations from 10 to 20 years for certain violent crimes such as manslaughter, was formed in response to a case involving the death of 24-year-old Brandon D’Annunzio, who died Oct. 11, 2000, after sustaining a punch outside Buffalo Wild Wings, 220 M.A.C. Ave., in downtown East Lansing.

While attending a bachelor party at the bar then named BW-3, D’Annunzio got into a confrontation outside with two strangers walking across the street. A punch to the face and he fell backward, hitting his head on the concrete. His skull cracked, his brain swelled and a blood clot formed. He died in a Sparrow Hospital bed 11 days later.

The suspect evaded police for more than a decade. Then in 2010, the police got new tips on the suspect after The State News ran a story on the 10th anniversary of D’Annunzio’s death.

But the decade long statute of limitations period had run out.

Now, the bill — named Brandon D’Annunzio’s law — would extend the statute of limitations for kidnapping, attempted murder and manslaughter from 10 to 20 years. Open murder investigations have no statute of limitation under state law.

“(After) 11 years of trying to find the people that killed Brandon, it’s amazing that something has come out of it,” Brandon’s mother Shawn D’Annunzio said. “It’s not going to bring Brandon back, but it sure will make me feel good.”

Such limitations are in place for most crimes to protect the legitimacy of criminal cases, as evidence can dry up and witnesses’ memories can fade with time.

Shawn D’Annunzio said she plans to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee when the bill is heard. A date for her to testify has not yet been set.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who sponsored the bill, said the law would help police use new DNA evidence to catch suspects.

“With modern DNA and other scientific evidence we have, there probably should be no limit for a crime as horrible as kidnapping or when there’s a death involved,” Jones said. “The Brandon D’Annunzio case could have been brought to trial, and there could have been justice for a young man and his family if the law didn’t hinder that justice.”

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, who dealt with Brandon D’Annunzio’s case directly, said the law could help bring more criminals to justice.

“There can be crimes that for some reason go unsolved. … Then we’re not barred from moving
forward because the suspect was able to hide or cover up the evidence,” Dunnings said.

Although justice for her son’s murder never will be granted, Shawn D’Annunzio hopes the bill will help other families who have been stricken by similar tragedies.

“It’s going to, I think, help a lot of people find closure,” she said.

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