GIRLFRIEND, BROTHER RULE OUT SUICIDE TWO SPEAK FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE DEATH OF USC KICKER DANELO.
USC kicker Mario Danelo couldn't have been happier. He'd had a great day with his family and girlfriend and spent the evening drinking with his buddies on the last night of school vacation. The last night of his life.
``No one knew how happy he was,'' said his girlfriend, Jackie Sandoval. ``He was in his peak. He won the Rose Bowl. He was so happy. We just had an amazing Christmas with his family.''
By the afternoon of Jan. 6, Danelo was dead, his body discovered at the bottom of a cliff, below Point Fermin Park in San Pedro.
Coroner's officials on Monday released a report saying they could not determine whether Danelo died in an accidental fall or if he committed suicide.
On Tuesday, one of Danelo's brothers and his girlfriend said suicide is out of the question. Danelo once told his girlfriend he believed that was one of the most selfish things a person could do.
In their first interviews since the death of the San Pedro High graduate, Sandoval and Joey Danelo expressed very different suspicions about what happened.
Sandoval said she suspects her boyfriend died in a simple accident, slipping down the cliff while urinating at the edge during a walk. Danelo's older brother, however, questions whether he even fell from the cliff.
Both denied that Danelo had argued with his father -- a former NFL kicker -- before he died, disputing a line in the coroner's report that quoted a family friend about a ``disagreement'' the two had earlier in the day.
``They didn't have a fight,'' she said. ``Every time we came home on the weekend, they had long talks. His dad is amazing, and Mario respected him so much.''
Sandoval, 19, said Danelo never had a problem with his father.
That night, Danelo had been hanging out with his friends, drinking at bars in Hermosa Beach. It was the last night before they'd all head back to their colleges.
Sandoval joined them as the party moved to a house in San Pedro.
Knowing Danelo was intoxicated -- the coroner's report showed his blood-alcohol level to be 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit for driving -- he and Sandoval called his parents to pick them up.
His parents, Joe and Emily, arrived. Danelo went with his father. Sandoval rode with her boyfriend's mother, who was taking her to her father's house in Carson. Sandoval spoke to Danelo on the cell phone along the way. In no way, she said, was he suicidal.
``He said we were going to go out to breakfast the next morning at the Pacific Diner,'' she said. ``He was in a really good mood. He was really lovey with me.''
Danelo's cause of death was ruled multiple traumatic injuries. However, his manner of death -- accident or suicide -- remained officially undetermined.
Sandoval said she believes the answer to what happened is easy. After a night of drinking, Danelo needed to urinate and never would have stopped in the park, where others could see him. He would have climbed the 4-foot wall and stood near the edge of the cliff out of sight.
``I just figured he went over there to go pee,'' she said. ``He peed all the time. He had a little bladder. We couldn't watch a movie. I thought it was cute.''
Joey Danelo, however, isn't convinced that an accident occurred. He said he respects the work of police and coroner's officials, and will accept their version if they say his brother fell.
Danelo, he said, had walked down that cliff to the tide pools below hundreds of times since he was 3 years old.
``I don't believe he fell from the top of a cliff. I believe there are other possible ways to get those injuries he received other than falling,'' Joey Danelo said.
He said he wonders if his little brother could have been struck by a sport utility vehicle or beaten in an attack.
``He didn't look like he fell from anywhere,'' said Danelo, who viewed his brother's naked body following his death. ``I don't believe there was actually a fall. They found him at the bottom. How do they know he actually fell?''
Los Angeles police Detective Kathy Mayer said Tuesday that detectives have no evidence to show anything but a fall. Harbor Division investigators long ago ruled out foul play and, at this point, are leaning toward calling the death an accident.
``Hopefully, over the course of events, I know people feel guilty and somebody will let something out,'' Joey Danelo said. ``I don't want them to go out there and put up a wanted poster. If somebody did do something, then something will come out eventually.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 7, 2007|
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