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James Mitchell Homicide Victim Danielle Keller remembered for tender heart

From – One large photo prominently displayed at Danielle Keller’s memorial service showed her wearing a halo and angels’ wings. The symbolism did not go unnoticed Thursday at the Novato Seventh Day Adventist Church, which hosted a tribute to the 29-year-old Novato woman who was beaten to death Sunday.

Keller was remembered for her tender heart, wicked sarcasm, striking beauty and dedication to motherhood. Her own mother, Claudia Stevens, held her emotions together as she read a poem from the perspective of someone looking down from heaven having just left Earth.

Mourners were given tiny ladybug stickers as a reminder of Keller’s 1-year-old daughter, Samantha, whose nickname is Ladybug. Stevens said the baby is with Marin County Child Protective Services and that she is attempting to gain full custody of her granddaughter.

“It’s a process. It’s going to take some time,” Stevens said after talking to a CPS representative on her cell phone after the memorial service.

Samantha has been in protective custody since her father, James Raphael Mitchell, was apprehended by police near Sacramento about five hours after Keller’s body was found in her Diablo Court backyard. After a statewide Amber Alert, Novato police tracked Mitchell to Citrus Heights using cell phone technology.

Mitchell, 27, of Pittsburg – the son of the late San Francisco porn king Jim Mitchell – was charged with murder, domestic violence, kidnapping, child abduction and child endangerment. He is being held without bail.

Stevens said she spent some time with Keller’s body at a mortuary earlier Thursday. Stevens said she has been comforted by people expressing their sympathy even if they didn’t know Keller, and that she has received support from the Novato Mothers Club, the Marin County District Attorney’s Office and Marin Abused Women’s Services. She plans to join MAWS.

“I’m struck by what a beautiful community Novato is and how lucky we are to live here,” she said. “Let’s pray that something like

Flanked by supporters, Claudia Stevens (center) reads a poem at her daughter’s memorial service in Novato on Thursday. (IJ photo/Frankie Frost)this doesn’t happen anymore. I am encouraging everyone to take a stand against domestic violence.”

Family friend Elena Keating sang three songs and led the mourners in “Amazing Grace.” After the service, some of Keller’s favorite songs were played including the 1972 hit by Melanie, “Brand New Key,” which many people call “The Roller Skate Song.”

Gina Stahl-Ricco, a close friend of Keller’s, said dozens of local businesses made donations to the memorial service and to the fund created in Keller’s name.

“People coming together, even amid this tragedy – to come out in full force like that shows that this is a great community,” she said. “It was a horrible, horrible thing that happened, but it’s beautiful to see this come together today and I know she would be touched to see people supporting each other.”


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