Danyel Lou Sparpana

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3 AP
Top Row and Bottom Left: Danyel, circa 1985;
Bottom Right: Age-progression to age 29 (circa 2011)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: November 2, 1985 from West Sacramento, California
  • Classification: Non-Family Abduction
  • Date Of Birth: June 23, 1982
  • Age: 3 years old
  • Height and Weight: 3'0 - 3'1, 38 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Danyel has a rust-colored birthmark on her kneecap, approximately one inch by two inches in size. Her ears are pierced, and her hair was cut short at the time of her November 1985 disappearance.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Danyel was last seen inside her family's residence in the 1900 block of Manzanita Way in West Sacramento, California on November 2, 1985. Her mother, Cynthia Mullennix Sparpana, was found deceased by police inside the residence on November 5; she had been dead for two or three days. Cynthia was the victim of a violent homicide; she had been beaten and shot in the back of the head. None of Danyel's belongings were missing from their home, but there were reported sightings of her wandering around the neighborhood between the time her mother was killed and the time the body was discovered. She has never been heard from again.

    Lionel Ernest Tholmer Jr. was named as the prime suspect in the Sparpanas' cases shortly afterwards. He had been an acquaintance of the family and sometime boyfriend of Cynthia's. Authorities believed that Tholmer was also responsible for the November 1985 slaying of California resident John B. Meadows. Meadows was Tholmer's ex-wife's stepfather and investigators believe Tholmer wanted to frame him for Cynthia's murder. Tholmer resided in Georgia, but returned to the Sacremento area to work at McClellan Air Force Base in the mid-1980s. He was convicted of Meadows's murder in 1987 and was serving a life sentence for that when he was charged with Cynthia and Danyel's murders.

    At his trial, Tholmer's lawyers argued that he was innocent of Cynthia's murder and that Danyel had not been murdered at all. There have been unconfirmed sightings of her since her mother's death. Tholmer was convicted of the Sparpanas' murders in November 1992. He was originally sentenced to death, but the sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. Danyel's remains have never been located. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

    Some agencies may list November 5, 1985, the date her mother's body was found, as the date of Danyel's disappearance.

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    West Sacramento Police Department
    916-375-6474

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    Source Information
    California Attorney General's Office
    Operation Lookout
    The Sacramento Bee
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    UC Davis School of Law
    Find a Grave

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    Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated July 20, 2012; details of disappearance updated.

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