Nine years ago a Rowan sophomore walked with some friends near an off campus convenience store. It was the weekend before Halloween, the week of Homecoming and they were headed to an off-campus party.
His name was Donnie Farrell. He was just like us.
Donnie’s friends described him as outgoing. He went to concerts, he was a founding member of the school’s men’s lacrosse club team and he liked to run. His mother said that “he was very popular, he was handsome, he was outgoing, he was funny as can be [and] everyone loved to be around him.”
But on that night, a group of unknown individuals stopped Donnie and his friends while they were outside of the Xpress Mart on Route 322. They didn’t know he was funny, he played lacrosse or everyone around him loved his company. They asked Donnie for directions to a nearby party, offered to sell him “Skittles,” according to previous reporting, then attacked him when he wasn’t expecting it.
Donnie fell to the ground after taking two blows to the head and was then kicked by his assailants who stole his wallet and phone before fleeing the scene. Minutes later the police arrived. During the ambulance ride to the hospital, Donnie had to be revived twice. He died the next morning.
Despite offering a $100,000 reward for the last nine years, Donnie’s killers were never caught. It is remarkable after all this time no one has come forward, not one of the people there that night, their friends, or their families, have come forward to give Donnie and his family justice. There has been no confession, and tips have led to few findings. Donnie’s death has been without due process.
On Rowan’s campus the only sign of Donnie’s tragedy is a small memorial site near Triad Apartments, and the annual LAX for Donnie lacrosse tournament started in 2015, where through a GoFundMe and t-shirt sales it raised $4,800 to use for multiple years of a scholarship in Donnie’s name. But each year that goes by there’s nothing to remind the student body that Donnie’s killers are still out there, and that he was a student like any of us, ripped from his prime too soon.
In life we don’t always get what’s fair. Husbands cheat on wives. Kids grow up and never call. And papers we stayed up all night writing come back as C’s. But none of our everyday misgivings compare to the daily injustice suffered by Donnie’s family: his death produced no punishments for those responsible, and they go on living, while Donnie was denied the opportunity.
Nine years later we don’t look any closer to knowing who killed Donnie Farrell. So Donnie’s legacy is left outside of the courtroom, left only on the field of the sport he played and in the minds of the students and friends he touched.
But there’s not a student currently attending this university who was enrolled when Donnie was here. His story is nothing but fact, regurgitated like trivia when someone asks about “that kid that died a long time ago.”
Donnie was one of us. He went here, he went to parties with his friends and he did nothing to deserve his fate.
If we forget Donnie Farrell there will be nothing left of his impact here. His killers seem to have already gotten away with their crime and his friends have had to move on, grow up, and continue their lives. But on this campus we’ll all always be Donnies. Every year a new class of Donnies will come in, and every year a class of Donnies will graduate Any one of us could be, and could have been, Donnie Farrell. We owe it to him, his family and his friends to never forget that. He didn’t deserve what happened to him, and he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
Visit http://www.gloucestercountynj.gov/depts/p/prosoffice/invunits/unsolved/dfarrell.asp for more information on Donnie’s case and what you can do to help.
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