A Raging Son
Produced by Patti Aronofsky, Jamie Stolz, Gail Zimmerman and Elena DiFiore
[This story first previously aired on Sept. 20, 2014. it was updated on Aug. 13, 2016.]
QUEENS, NY -- It was the horror that happened among the neighborhood streets of Astoria, with the glittering Manhattan skyline just across the river, that made one of a great city’s best detectives, Dennis Frawley of the NYPD, decide he didn’t want to be a cop anymore.
“This did it. This set the ball rolling,” said the now-retired detective.
“But you’ve covered thousands of cases,” “48 Hours” correspondent Troy Roberts noted.
“Not quite like this. Not quite like this,” Frawley replied.
It was early summer 2012 when cops at the precinct just around the corner got a tip over the telephone and investigators rushed to the Astoria apartment.
“Of course, I have very little information to go on ... And as I came in, the first thing I noticed was how clean this particular apartment was,” Frawley said. “I was directed to the bathroom ... there was a little dog protecting whoever was in the bathtub. ... And I thought to myself, perhaps this person fell -- a home accident.
“And I noticed she had terrible injuries on her head. ... And then I looked again. ... right by the drain where her feet were, I found several empty ice bags. ... Interestingly enough, on top of the toilet tank ... there was a large electric fan, and the fan was on ... the breeze blowing through this window which opens up.
“Now the scene’s startin’ to come together for me,” he continued. “And I said, ‘you know something? Somebody tried to preserve this body.’”
Assistant District Attorney Marilyn Filingeri took in the image of the broken body of a young woman.
“The door was open, but it didn’t look like anyone had broken in any way,” she said. “And she’s in the bathtub, her head and face are covered by her hair.”
The frantic dog that had been standing watch, already removed.
“I’m just examining looking, for an injury, maybe a fall,” said Frawley.
But in minutes, the cop knew this was no accident.
“It’s almost as if someone held her down and hit her head or maybe did this with his foot,” Frawley explained, kicking his leg.
The apartment was now a crime scene.
“This was murder. Pure and simple and it was vicious,” said Frawley.
And someone had already tried to manipulate the evidence. That fan venting the smell, those bags of ice now empty and drained.
“That threw the crime scene off by maybe 12 hours,” Frawley explained.
“How long do you think the body was there?” Roberts asked.
“Probably 36 hours,” Frawley replied.
Detective Frawley soon learned the battered young woman was a vibrant, successful New York City professional. But there was something else -- something gnawing at the veteran cop. It was a terrible realization once he learned her name, Danielle Thomas.
“I remember her,” Frawley said standing by the tub in the apartment. “I remember speaking to this victim not long prior to that awful day.”
Weight Watcher’s executive Danielle Thomas, 27, had been on the NYPD’s radar for weeks before she was killed, starting with an incident in May between her and her boyfriend witnessed by neighbor Sherette Corsey, who called 911:
911 Operator: Operator 2277, Where is the emergency?
Sherette Corsey: There’s an altercation going on next door to me. Where the guy seems to be forcibly holding this girl from leaving.
“And then I saw her run out of the door,” Corsey told Roberts. “And then he kinda chased her and grabbed her back into the apartment.”
“Did she say anything as he was pulling her back inside the apartment?” Roberts asked.
“No. she was just screaming,” Corsey replied.
But that night, May 24, police never connected with Danielle. It wasn’t until two weeks later when she came into Det. Frawley’s precinct, that police heard her story.
Danielle told police her boyfriend, Jason Bohn, had beaten her up the night her neighbor called 911.
Inside the 114th Precinct, Danielle Thomas showed police her still black-and-blue bruises.
That’s when Bohn called Danielle’s cell phone. She put him on speaker, right in front of police.
“And they heard him on speaker yelling like a mad, you know, very angry, very upset,” said lead Prosecutor Patrick O’Connor, who would soon review the details of that call.
“He said, ‘I’m gonna make your life impossible. I’m gonna hunt you down like a dog in the streets,” O’Connor told Roberts.
“This is war,” Filingeri added.
“This is war,” said O’Connor.
Jason Bohn would be arrested and charged with assault. But Danielle would eventually refuse to cooperate with prosecutors. Still, police tried to help her.
“And I pointed out to her that you did the right thing by coming to us. And of course we’ll protect you. You have an order of protection,” said Frawley.
Police had no problem finding that order of protection. It was found just a few feet from her lifeless body along with a bouquet of flowers and handwritten notes from her boyfriend, Bohn, 33, a Wall Street lawyer.
“What did the notes say?” Roberts asked Filingeri.
“One of the notes said, ‘Dani, I will love you forever. J,” she replied.
Danielle’s grandmother Juanita Hardgrove, and mother Jamie Thomas Bright, live in a world changed forever by the loss of the child they both adored.
“She just loved adventure,” Bright said of her fearless daughter. “She loved skydiving, swimming with sharks, Bungee jumping.”
“She truly was beautiful, inside and out,” Hardgrove said. “When she was a little girl, I told her, ‘Danielle, just shoot for the stars.’ And she said, ‘I’ll do that Nana,’ And she did.”
She’d graduate from the University of Florida with an MBA, and was soon working as a revenue analyst at Disney World.
There were boyfriends. “Danielle always dated,” Bright said. “She always said, ‘Mom, always marry the nerd...’”
Then in October 2011, at a tailgating party, Danielle met an intense young man, a lawyer, who also seemed to be shooting for the stars.
“...I think a friend introduced them,” Bright said. “That’s what she looked for intelligence and ambition.”
His name: Jason Bohn.
“This was a whirlwind romance?” Roberts asked Bright.
“Yes,” she replied.
Danielle wanted her family to meet Bohn. She paid for them all to take a Disney Cruise. Bohn turned on the charm.
“And when you were with them together, how did he treat Danielle?” Roberts asked Bright.
“He always called her his princess. He never took his eyes off her. But you know, I just thought they were in love,” she replied.
Then in March 2012, just five months after they met, Danielle followed her new beau to New York City, taking a job as an executive at Weight Watchers and moved into an apartment with Bohn in Astoria, Queens.
But Danielle’s mother wanted assurances about Bohn. She was thrilled when a trip was scheduled to tony Greenwich, Conn., to meet his mother, Maureen O’Connell.
“I even bought a new dress for the occasion, you know, because Jason’s mother was the Chief Financial Officer at Scholastic Books. I wanted to make Danielle proud,” said Bright.
But at the last minute, Danielle told her mother the visit was off.
“She just said, ‘We’re not going.’ That was it. And that was the dress I wore to Danielle’s funeral,” said Bright.
What her family did not know was that Danielle’s world had become a hell, caught up in a gruesome web of domestic violence.
“Why didn’t she tell me? Why couldn’t she tell mom or me?” said Bright.
Searching for safety, Danielle was sleeping in hotels or with friends. But she eventually began living with Bohn again and on June 23, she suggested drinks with Jason and his work friends at a bar near New York’s famous Times Square. As the night grew late, they’d argue. Danielle would confide in one of Bohn’s friends that he was abusing her and she would be urged to spend the night in a hotel. Then Danielle remembered he had threatened her dog.
“And she goes home because she’s afraid for her dog,” said O’Connor.
So, to protect her dog, at 2:15 a.m., Danielle Thomas walked back into their apartment. Just 16 minutes later she dialed 911. The phone call is chilling:
911 Operator: Ma’am where’s the emergency?
Danielle Thomas: [sobbing] Please. Just let me leave. Just let me. Just let me...
“She called 911 and the police failed to respond,” Roberts noted to Danielle’s mother.
“That really hurts me. It really hurts me,” she replied.
It’s not clear precisely what happened. But that would be the last time the NYPD had a chance to help Danielle Thomas.
“And the next time I saw her she was dead,” said Frawley.
A SIMMERING RAGE
Hours after brutally beating to death his girlfriend Danielle, Jason Bohn is seen on surveillance video at the local Rite Aid store shopping for cleaning supplies and ice.
“He was trying to buy time - to extricate himself from the situation, to figure out what he was going to do,” Prosecutor Patrick O’Connor said. “Putting the ice in the tub, putting her body in the tub ... neighbors wouldn’t smell her body for some time.”
Prosecutors say Bohn picked up Danielle’s blackberry and, pretending to be her, sends texts that she’s just walking the dog and indicates that she hasn’t seen Jason.
“... saying that ... ‘everything’s OK. Jason spent the night at a friend’s house,’” Assistant D.A. Marilyn Filingeri said. “We think that one of initial attempts to set up an alibi that he wasn’t even there when she was killed.”
Then with Danielle’s lifeless body in the bathtub, Bohn flees New York and drives through New Jersey. Surveillance cameras show him at an ATM in Washington D.C.
“He ended up in Chicago, I believe,” said O’Connor.
“...at one point,” added Filingeri.
But while it looks like Jason Bohn is trying to get away with murder, his lawyer, Todd Greenberg, says something entirely different was going on.
“He was not running away from this,” Greenberg said. “He wrote a letter. He makes an admission.”
Bohn left a letter cradled in Danielle’s arm in the bathtub. It reads in part:
“It was an accident, it was an accident, it was an accident ...I’m so sorry.”
Greenberg says the letter is evidence that Bohn wasn’t trying to hide anything. And remember that phone tip that police responded to and found Danielle’s body? It was Jason who made that call.
“There is no hiding this crime. There is just no hiding this crime,” said Greenberg.
So what was Jason Bohn doing? Greenberg says, “He was contemplating suicide and he was biding time.”
Bohn’s defense says he accepts that Jason killed Danielle, but doesn’t actually remember doing it. And that could be very important at trial. Bohn says he remembers arguing with Danielle, grabbing her wrists and maybe even pushing her -- but not much more. After his arrest, he told investigators what happened the next morning.
“Waking up and my head was spinning. I was still in my clothes,” he told police. “I went into the bedroom, she was unconscious. I picked her up and ran her to the bathroom. Stripped off her clothes and ran cold water on her. ... and tried to revive her.
Slowly, Jason says he understood he must have killed Danielle.
“I just started crying hysterically,” he told investigators.
He left this message for an ex-girlfriend:
“I’m in serious trouble. Danielle and I went out together on Saturday night. We both were -- got intoxicated had a disagreement and I blacked out and Danielle is dead...”
Bohn’s defense believes his lack of memory about the murder could be symptomatic of a serious mental illness.
Dr. Alexander Sasha Bardey is a Harvard-educated forensic psychiatrist and a consultant for the TV show “Law & Order: SVU”.
“I spent a total of about 6 or 7 hours with him ... over the course of three different sessions,” Bardey told “48 Hours”.
Now working for the defense, he spoke with Bohn and others who know him.
“What conclusion did you reach?” Roberts asked.
“I concluded that Jason was suffering from ... intermittent explosive disorder,” Bardey replied. “It’s a mental illness ... characterized by bouts of loss of control and bouts of anger and bouts of violence.
“I described him as the Hulk,” Bardey continued.”I mean this is a metaphor and the metaphor is for someone who is one minute calm and rational and then -- because of some trigger-- turns into an angry monster.”
“It sounds preposterous,” Roberts commented.
“It sounds preposterous,” Bardey agreed.
But Dr. Bardey says it’s very real and is supported by hundreds of documents from Jason’s childhood, including psychiatric reports. And they draw this startling conclusion: this Ivy League graduate was an abandoned child.
“... he developed -- a mental illness because of his genetic background, because of his experiences as a child, because of the trauma he endured,” said Bardey.
And Bardey says that trauma begins with Bohn’s mother. Maureen O’Connell, the wealthy accomplished executive at a children’s book company, lives in a Greenwich, Conn., mansion worth almost $3.5 million. But it wasn’t always that way.
O’Connell was once a pregnant teenager living in the Bronx. She married Jason’s father and had a second child, Jason’s brother. But Jason Bohn claims his mother was ready to move on.
“My mother kicked my father out,” he said.
“And from the age of 3 to 9, his mother gradually disengaged from Jason and his brother,” said Bardey.
Bohn was primarily in the care of his grandmother, who may have been schizophrenic.
“She used to like talk to herself and pee on the floor,” Bohn said. “...there were imaginary people that she dealt with.”
Then when Bohn was 9 years old, his mother remarried.
“She completely severed ties and turned her back on Jason and his brother - wanting to put them into a group home,” said Bardey.
Instead, Bohn was sent to live with his father in Miami and the story he told social workers is heartbreaking.
“His father turned out to be an abusive crack-addicted man who abused his sons - emotionally, physically, would point loaded guns at them,” said Bardey.
“He put my hand on the stove ‘cause I told him I turned the stove off and it wasn’t turned off,” Bohn said. “Another time he was drunk ... brought out his shotgun. So I ran.”
Bohn says he called his mother for help.
“I was telling her that my father was beating me, she would say, ‘Oh, you know, just stick it out. You know, once things settle down I’m gonna take custody of you,’” he said.
But his mother was never going to bring Jason to live with her. Instead, she found an apartment to rent in Westchester for Jason to live again with his grandmother.
“I was you know, hanging out with bad kids, stealing stuff,” Bohn explained, “and just angry that I wasn’t gonna be living with my mother.”
His grandmother moved to an assisted living facility. At 14 years old, Jason was living alone -- until authorities got involved. Court papers were filed; Jason is a neglected child, left alone without adequate food to sustain him.
“My mother was charged with neglect and abandonment. I became a ward of the state,” said Jason.
Maureen O’Connell submitted papers of her own, saying Jason was verbally abusive, brought knives to school - requested he be placed with social services. Bohn would spend the rest of his youth in group homes. One psychiatrist noted Jason is “seething with rage” and shows resentment particularly in regards to his mother.
“Records from the group homes repeatedly document efforts to engage his mother in Jason’s treatment. And consistently the records indicate that she refuses any involvement. She’s too busy with her work, she can’t come to a meeting, she can’t be part of the treatment planning, she can’t be part of any assessment that has to do with her son,” Bardey said. “...she just didn’t wanna have anything to do with them. And Jason knew this. “
Then a miracle happened. Jason Bohn met Dr. John Piacenti, who himself overcame a rough childhood. Dr. Piacenti encouraged Jason to get a GED and go to college. Bohn got a scholarship to Columbia University - the Ivy League. He became a lawyer. But Bohn’s deep-seeded anger, his defense believes, never went away.
“The rage at 13 years old that never, never left him and that was exhibited again on the night of the murder,” said Greenberg.
The defense will argue Bohn believed Danielle was going to leave him. Just like his mother left him. It was too much for him, and because of his mental illness, he snapped.
“Patently absurd to believe ... that he somehow lost control and killed this young woman because of that past trauma,” said O’Connor.
What’s more, prosecutors say they have evidence Jason wasn’t suffering from mental illness when he killed Danielle. They have tape to prove it.
THE POCKET DIAL
Prosecutors Patrick O’Connor and Marilyn Filingeri still can’t quite believe it. They know Jason Bohn brutally beat Danielle Thomas to death. But Bohn’s defense is claiming he’s mentally ill -- his anger stemming from his mother abandoning him almost three decades ago.
“It’s ridiculous and it makes a mockery of the judicial system. This is why people ... have a problem, with science, psychology, with psychiatry, because they come up with these concepts which are meant to excuse us from taking responsibility for our actions,” said O’Connor.
“I’ve covered thousands of cases and I’ve heard all kinds of creative defenses ... like the Affluenza case where the person couldn’t know the consequences of being a spoiled kid. I’ve heard the Twinkie Defense ... where the person acted out because they were too hyper,” Murray Weiss, a veteran crime reporter and “48 Hours” consultant explained.
“This case was an extraordinary one,” Weiss continued, “the tabloid newspapers had a field day with this case. They called it ‘Blame it on his mother’.”
But intermittent explosive disorder is not something Jason’s defense team has made up; it’s been listed in psychiatric manuals for 30 years. And three doctors, including one who works for the prosecution, say Jason suffers from it.
“Over the years Jason Bohn exhibited some deeply violent and disturbing behavior. It ranged from choking girlfriends to flying off the handle at people over insignificant things, there was even an incident where a friend of his put his feet up on his table and he became so intensely angry about it that his pupil took over his eye and it went completely black,” Weiss explained. “One of his friends even recalled a time when he talked to him about his mother and he would suddenly go from being this nice guy into like Jekyll and Hyde.”
But Jason never killed anyone before.
“He ended numerous relationships before he met Danielle?” Roberts asked Dr. Bardey.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Why was his relationship with Danielle different?” Roberts asked.
“I thought it was different because it was a deeper more profound relationship and they had begun to speak about marriage and a life together,” Bardey replied.
A woman who he thought wouldn’t leave him like his mother did. And strangely, a woman who his mother really liked.
“After he went to law school ... and he was involved with Danielle, his mother came back into his life,” said Bardey.
Bohn says, out of the blue, his mother contacted him, apologizing for what happened in his childhood. He says his mother even offered to help Danielle with her career.
“I think having his mother back in his life was very much ... a mixture of emotions for him. On one hand, he was still the child that really wanted his mom. ... but at the same token, having her back in his life reignited a lot of the anger,” Bardey explained. “He still had, in my opinion, murderous rage toward his mother that was turned to Danielle on the night of the murder.”
In the weeks leading up to the murder, Bohn was violently threatening Danielle. He sent her a series of emails accusing her of “repeated lies and broken promises...”
“I think it was all around whether she was reacquainting herself with an ex-boyfriend,” said Bardey.
Evidence, Bardey says, that Jason feared Danielle was leaving him.
“It’s pretty clear that Jason felt that Danielle was lying to him,” he said.
On the morning before the murder, Jason says they fought again about Danielle’s ex-boyfriend. And then after a night of drinking, Dr. Bardey believes, Bohn - in the throes of mental illness -- lost all control and killed her.
“Do you think he’s mentally ill?” Roberts asked O’Connor.
“No. He’s just a person with an anger issue... he controls it if he wanted to but he has a problem doing that,” the prosecutor replied.
Ultimately, prosecutors say, it doesn’t really matter whether Jason has this illness -- it’s whether in the course of murdering Danielle he was actually suffering from it. And they believe they have proof he was not.
“What we have here is a small snippet of a longer period of time ... where ... Jason Bohn, is strangling Danielle Thomas ... killing her,” said O’Connor.
They call it the pocket dial:
Jason Bohn: So what happened?
Danielle Thomas: I can’t breathe, help me.
“At some point in the process of him killing her ... her phone was activated,” said O’Connor.
And a recording of Jason killing Danielle was made.
“He speaks in a very calm voice at several times throughout the tape saying, ‘Listen, Danielle, you have to listen to me. You don’t have a lot of time,’” said O’Connor.
It’s extraordinarily graphic, so “48 Hours” decided just to share a small portion of it:
Jason Bohn: You have 5 seconds. I’m gonna let you up and then you need to answer quickly or else you die.
“Danielle on this tape is begging for her life ... she’s being strangled repeatedly ... and at various points, she is saying that she can’t breathe. She repeatedly claims that she loves him,” said O’Connor.
What’s worse, the recording was made an hour after Danielle called 911. That means, prosecutors say, Jason was attacking Danielle for at least 60 minutes.
“There are seven seconds on this voice mail recording that’s silence. That’s a period of time when you hear Snoozer, her dog, bark two times,” O’Connor said. “That seven seconds of silence is indicative to me that the defendant has his hands around her throat and was strangling her to the point where she couldn’t even make any sounds.
“He taunts her,” said O’Connor. “’He taunts her you’re so stupid. You think I’m gonna stop, I won’t stop.’”
Jason Bohn: Danielle you’re so stupid, you think I’m gonna stop, I won’t stop.
“It made me sick to my stomach,” O’Connor continued. “Her last seconds of life were nothing but horror and ... I can’t imagine.”
It was the prosecutor’s smoking gun. Evidence they say that proved Jason Bohn knew exactly what he was doing that night. And he took his time doing it.
“This tape is going to be the crucial piece of evidence,” said O’Connor.
A RARE DEFENSE
Defense attorney Todd Greenberg concedes that Danielle Thomas’ pocket-dialed voice mail is chilling.
“It’s never, never a pleasant, pleasant experience when you have to dig into these type of facts,” said Greenberg. But he hears a different story in that recording. “When I heard that tape, I heard howling.
I heard shrieking from Jason. ...it’s almost like somebody else coming out of him.”
At trial, Greenberg hopes to persuade jurors that when Jason Bohn was beating and strangling Danielle, he was overwhelmed by his emotions.
“Jason has never denied the act of killing Danielle Thomas. It has been the defense’s position that he did so when he was suffering from a mental illness and under extreme emotional disturbance,” Greenberg said. “Jason Bohn is a classic case of intermittent explosive disorder.”
It’s a rare defense used in less than one percent of murder cases in New York State: Jason Bohn should have a reduced degree of responsibility because he suffered an extreme emotional disturbance. Greenberg likens Bohn’s actions to those of a man who finds his wife in bed with a lover.
“He goes to his drawer. He pulls a gun. ‘You son of a gun!’ Shoots him in the head. ‘You’ll never sleep with my wife again!’ Shoots him in the head,” Greenberg said as an example. “You know, he’s in control, but he can’t control his emotions.”
“It’s a viable psychiatric illness that people suffer from,” said Psychiatrist Alexander Sasha Bardey, who is a key defense witness.
“You hear him strangling her and then stopping. Asking her questions ... telling her she’s gonna die in five seconds. It sounds like someone who is in control to me,” Roberts commented to Bardey.
“Being out of control doesn’t mean you’re just screaming gibberish and - and -- and waving your arms and flailing around,” he replied. “You’re just doing something that you really shouldn’t be doing, that you don’t wanna do that your rational reason tells you not to do, but you can’t help yourself.”
Despite all of Jason’s achievements, despite that law degree, says Dr. Bardey, Bohn was unable to overcome his horrendous childhood.
“He grew up thinking that he was a worthless individual. His own mother abandoned him,” Bardey said. “The fact someone died is an unfortunate consequence of who he is, what he -- how he was raised and -- and his illness.”
Maureen O’Connell, the financial executive at the heart of the defense’s case, is a no-show at her son’s trial. Yet, surprisingly, she’s the one footing the bill.
“The mother did retain me to help him,” Greenberg explained. “I will say that she stood behind him at -- at this trial, even knowing what the defense was gonna be.”
Bohn’s mother refused an interview with “48 Hours”. Her spokesperson says: “Maureen O’Connell is horrified by this tragedy and her heart goes out to Ms. Thomas’ family.”
Asked if he had an opportunity to interview O’Connell, Bardey told Roberts she declined.
“I met her -- but she did not want to -- provide any background or history of her own,” he said.
“Were you surprised that she was paying for his defense?” Roberts asked.
“I mean, (sighs) it’s unfortunate. I think it’s a little too little too late. I mean, I think none of this, I believe, would’ve happened if-- if-- his life had been different early on,” Bardey replied.
“Many people who ... survive horrific childhoods don’t go onto being a killer, right?” Roberts asked Greenberg.
“Of course. Of course,” he replied. “But in Jason Bohn, and that’s what we’re talkin’ about here, that childhood caused him to suffer from a mental illness.”
Greenberg is not asking jurors to let Bohn go free. Instead, he says, they should convict him of a lesser offense.
“He knows that he -- he deserves to be punished, he always knew that,” Greenberg said. “I hope that the jury is going to find him guilty of manslaughter and not murder in the second or first degree.
But Richard Brown, the district attorney, says once he heard that voice mail and realized what happened in that apartment, the state had only one option.
“The voice mail ... confirms in your mind that this was murder, not manslaughter?” Roberts asked Brown.
“Certainly so. And it fits -- very clearly in the definition of -- murder in the first degree, which is a torture murder,” he replied. “... the victim is ... tortured prior to being killed.”
The prosecutors, who report to Brown, point to a text message that Bohn sent to a friend just a half hour after that voice mail ends.
“’I just wanted her out of my life. She’s been nothing but trouble,” O’Connor said of the text. “He actually was able to type on a phone using perfect grammar, punctuation ... on the ‘she’s been nothing but trouble.’”
Danielle’s mother and grandmother say Bohn even tried to manipulate them.
“Jason knew exactly what he was doing. There’s not a doubt in my mind,” Juanita Hardgrove said. “I got a Christmas card ... from Jason ... expressing how sorry he was.”
“I cried till my eyes bled,” Bohn told them. “I don’t even remember our fight that night. I have had mental and emotional issues since childhood.”
“Do you believe that he could not recall killing your daughter?” Roberts asked Jaime Thomas Bright.
“Oh, I believe -- I believe he remembers it. I believe he does,” she said.
Prosecutors say Jason Bohn has no one to blame but himself.
“He deliberately did it. He was totally in ... control of himself,” said O’Connor.
But what will the jurors believe?
“I am a very firm believer ... the environment of the child has a lot to do of what he becomes,” said jury forewoman Elena Rodriguez.
“What did you think of Dr. Bardey’s testimony?” Roberts asked juror Amanda DeNuto.
“I thought that he was ... helpful in getting us to understand,” she replied.
The stakes are high. First-degree murder could mean life without parole.
“How do I feel? I feel ... extremely nervous,” Greenberg said. “I’m on edge.”
But prosecutors say manslaughter could mean as little as five years.
“You never know what a jury is going to,” said O’Connor.
JASON BOHN’S FATE
“Jason committed the most terrible, terrible murder when he took Danielle from Jamie and me,” said Danielle Thomas’ grandmother, Juanita Hardgrove.
Danielle’s family, who relocated from Kentucky for the seven-week trial, have been waiting for some sense of closure for nearly two years.
“I was so--emotional,” said Danielle’s mother, Jaime Thomas Bright.
Now, after deliberating less than two days, jury forewoman Elena Rodriguez takes a final vote.
“...we went around. Everybody was, ‘Yes, yes, yes,” she said.
And with that, the jury returns.
“My heart was pounding out of my chest when Tommy, the clerk, began to speak to the ... forewoman,” said assistant district attorney Marilyn Filingeri.
Jason Bohn, the Ivy League grad and Wall Street lawyer, was found guilty of first-degree murder.
In the end, jurors decided he tortured Danielle, enjoyed killing her. That chilling 911 call and voice mail recording of Bohn murdering Danielle proved crucial.
“No one considered manslaughter?” Roberts asked Rodriguez.
“No. Nobody went for that one,” she replied.
They just didn’t believe that Bohn -- while in the midst of an extreme emotional disturbance ---lost control for some 60 minutes.
“I feel he would have been out of control if he would have grabbed her by the neck and that’s it, finish her right there. Then that could have been, like, a moment of madness. But when you release and you go again at it ... right there, there’s control,” said Rodriguez.
“We did get a just--verdict,” Hardgrove said. “My Bible teaches me that I have to forgive.”
Danielle’s mother and grandmother hope they can forgive Jason.
“I think it would help me if he would show some remorse. If he would speak at the sentencing to Mom and I,” said Bright.
They would soon find out. Five weeks after the verdict, on a cold, rainy, morning, everyone gathers back in the courtroom.
First, Danielle’s family gets the chance to confront Jason.
“I’d like to be able to see Jason,” said Hardgrove.
She wanted to look him in the eye and show him their heartache.
“You murdered Dani while she was gasping for breath, and begging for her life, Jason,” Hardgrove said. “Only a beast, Jason, could have done to her what you done to her.”
They beg to know how he could choke the life out of the woman who would have married him.
“Jason, three weeks before she died I asked Danielle, ‘If Jason were to propose, what would you say?’ Jason, she immediately said, ‘I’d accept’ with a big smile on her face,” said Bright.
Before the judge imposes his sentence, Bohn’s lawyer implores him to consider Jason’s horrific childhood -- the root of his mental illness. To this day, he points out, Jason lacks any loving support.
“I look around this courtroom, your Honor, and I -- I’m noticing, as I did throughout the trial, that there is not one person, not one person, who was here for Jason Bohn,” said Todd Greenberg.
Just as Bohn is about to learn his fate, he stands. To everyone’s surprise, he addresses the court for the first time.
“Dani and I were best friends that planned to marry. Nana and Mom were my adopted family,” said Bohn.
Then he turned to Danielle’s mother and grandmother.
“Nana and Mom, I don’t know what to say. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it. I don’t know how this happened,” Bohn said in tears.
The judge shows no mercy.
“As far as this court is concerned, with respect to murder in the first degree, you are sentenced to the rest of your natural life without parole,” the judge said.
Jason Bohn, 35, will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Before being led away, he again turns to Danielle’s family and mouths an apology.
“He said,’ I am so sorry. I love you,’” Hardgrove said. “In my heart, I feel that -- Jason meant what he said.”
“He showed remorse, I think, for the first time today,” said Bright.
For Danielle’s mother and grandmother, it’s the beginning of their journey of healing.
While Danielle’s life was cut down so tragically, they take comfort in knowing that she lived her short life to the fullest -- fearlessly. Her grandmother will always remember something Danielle liked to tell her.
“’Nana,” she said, “I would rather die young and do the things that I want to do ... and make good memories than to live ... with regret and not have done any of the things I’m doing,’” Hardgrove recalled. “ So she lived as much in her 27 years as a lotta people do in a lifetime. I think of that often.”
Danielle Thomas’ mother is suing the NYPD for not responding to her daughter’s 911 call.
Jason Bohn’s mother moved to have her son put into protective custody. He is there now.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INFO & RESOURCES:
- NYC Domestic Violence Hotline (Safe Horizon) 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
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