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Donnelly fund on 'bittersweet' mission

August 25, 2010
STURBRIDGE — Patrick Donnelly will never know the joy of getting married and raising a family.

That is not an opinion. That is a fact.

A prosecuting attorney for the Duval County, Jacksonville, Fla. district attorney's office focused on that fact during closing arguments in the 2008 trial of Donnelly's killer, then 37-year-old Harens Aleydi Erazo.

Erazo, who was found guilty of shooting Donnelly, is now using that statement as the basis for an appeal of his conviction.

First filed in February of this year, Erazo's appeal was initially rejected by the Florida Attorney General's office according to Donnelly's mother, Kathy Johnson of Sturbridge, who maintains regular contact with John Guy, head of the homicide division for the Duval County district attorney.

The appeal has since been resubmitted in the state's appellate court.

"It is sitting with the appellate court right now and we will have an answer in three to seven weeks," Johnson said.

Erazo's appeal, she explained, is based on two factors: the first being the idea that prosecutors should not have been able to make such a statement to the jury in closing arguments. The second factor is the response given by the medical examiner during the trail regarding the cause of death.

The statement that the cause of death was homicide rather than a gunshot is being used to refute the conviction as well.

For Johnson, every day the appeal drags on is an excruciating waiting game.

"This really, pretty much, is his one and only big chance because he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole," she said of her son's murderer.

As she awaits news on the outcome of Erazo's appeal, though, Johnson's energy and dedication to the memorial scholarship foundation established in honor of her late son.

The Patrick Donnelly Memorial Foundation somberly awarded its first scholarship earlier his summer and has a full calendar of events ahead of them, including a dinner and dance party at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in October.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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