Fayette County Public Schools officials had planned to suspend Jose Daniel "Danny" Donato from his job at Lexington's Leestown Middle School the same morning that he was shot to death at work, according to court testimony Thursday.
The plan, put into motion the night before the June 9, 2009, shooting, was for school system attorney Brenda Allen to write a suspension letter and take it to Fayette schools Superintendent Stu Silberman to sign; then school police were to serve Donato with the letter, Kiyon Massey, associate director for classified personnel in the school system's human resources department, said in Fayette Circuit Court.
School officials did not tell Brian McGuire what was to take place. McGuire's complaints about Donato were the motivation behind the suspension plan.
"That is not in our protocol," Massey said.
McGuire, 28, is accused of taking matters into his own hands and murdering Donato, a fellow school custodian helper, that Tuesday morning. McGuire is on trial for murder and possession of a weapon on school property. McGuire's attorneys don't dispute that he shot his co-worker, but they say McGuire had been the victim of many threats from Donato before the shooting occurred.
According to testimony, McGuire contacted or tried to contact several school officials by e-mail or in person on the day before the killing. He'd also tried to obtain an emergency protective order, but he was told he could not get one because Donato was not a member of his family, according to testimony.
Massey said McGuire came to her office at the school system's headquarters on Main Street the afternoon before the shooting and told her he wanted to file a restraining order against a co-worker.
"He said another custodian had pulled a knife on him and asked if he was afraid," Massey testified. "He was upset; he seemed shaken." But she said that when she asked McGuire if he was afraid, he said "no."
She said McGuire told her the knife-pulling incident occurred the previous Friday, and he identified Donato as the one who had made the threatening gesture.
Massey said she told McGuire she would help him. She said she contacted a school-system dispatcher, who told her that McGuire needed to get a police report from school police, and she told McGuire how to do that. She also told McGuire that she was going to tell Leestown's principal about McGuire's complaint, and she said she would follow up the next day, she said.
"He was close to tears when he first arrived but, by the time he left, he was fine," Massey said of her visit from McGuire.
Massey said after McGuire left, she sent an e-mail message to several school officials and the school board's attorney about McGuire's visit.
While McGuire was in Massey's office, school-system human resources administrator Melodee Parker was opening an e-mail message that McGuire had sent her earlier that day, according to testimony. In the message, titled "restraining order," McGuire told Parker about the alleged knife incident and said the Leestown principal had not been receptive to his complaint, Parker said. She said she forwarded it to Allen, Silberman and other school officials.
Parker said Leestown Principal Jennifer Kendall called her a few minutes later, and Parker told Kendall to keep Donato and McGuire separated at the school. Allen sent an e-mail message to school officials at 7:23 p.m. that day saying she would draft a suspension letter, Parker said.
June 8, 2009, was not the first time Massey had talked to McGuire, she said. She said an e-mail message sent by McGuire to her predecessor on April 29 and forwarded to her on May 5 mentioned an incident over a trash can involving Donato. In the message McGuire also said the incident was only one of "a ton of incidents of this type," that he'd tried to go through proper channels to resolve the situation and that he wanted to be transferred to another position. She said she called McGuire later on May 5, and he didn't sound extremely angry or upset about the situation.
The trial is expected to continue on Monday.