Danny Schneider Jr., the murder victim on “The Pharmacist,” was just 22 years old when he was gunned down during a drug deal in a New Orleans parish in 1999. His father, Dan Schneider, made it his mission to find his son’s killer.
The quest was a difficult one. The Lower 9th Ward, where Danny Jr. was killed, was a dangerous area. Residents and witnesses regularly refused to talk to the police out of fear of retaliation. A $10,000 reward offered by Danny Jr.’s family was the tipping point that made a 15 year old, Jeffery Hall of New Orleans, come forward. However, Hall was actually Danny Schneider Jr.’s killer.
Danny Jr.’s story is being told on a four-part Netflix series, “The Pharmacist,” focused on his father. Dan Schneider helped solve his son’s murder and went on to take down a notorious pill mill doctor, Dr. Jacqueline Cleggett. Read more about him here and more about the doctor here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Danny Jr. Was Studying Drafting in College & Had a Steady Girlfriend When He Died at Age 22
Danny Schneider Jr. was a student at Nunez Community College at the time of his death, according to the The Times-Picayune. He was studying drafting. He also worked at Pizza Hut, and delivered pizzas in the evenings. Schneider had a girlfriend, Brynn, who he planned to marry, his father told the newspaper. His mother, Annie Schneider, said on the Netflix series he would drive back and forth to University of Southern Mississippi every weekend to visit her. He would drive to visit his sweetheart in his Ford Ranger, which he bought new, Dan Schneider said on the show.
At the same time, Danny Jr. was having struggles he hid from his family.
“I think Danny was just struggling with what to do with himself,” his sister, Kristi Schneider, said on the show.
His girlfriend, Brynn, wrote a tribute to Danny Jr., which was published on Find a Grave.
“Your beautiful spirit and eternal love with remain forever in my heart,” the tribute said. “Danny, I will always remember and cherish the love that we shared. I will never forget you. Love always, Brynn.”
Daniel Jason “Lil Danny” Schneider was born September 27, 1976 and died April 14, 1999. He had a younger sister, Kristi Schneider, who was 18 when she lost her big brother.
2. Danny Jr.’s Parents Did Not Know He Was Addicted to Drugs
Danny Schneider Jr.’s parents were shocked to learn of their son’s death, but struggled even more with the circumstances surrounding his murder. At about 2 a.m. April 14, 1999, sheriff’s deputies knocked on the door of the family home of Dan Schneider, The Times-Picayune reported. They said his 22-year-old son, Danny Jr., had been shot in the head while sitting in his truck in the Lower 9th Ward. He had cash crumpled in his hand, and police believed he was trying to buy crack. Dan Schneider and his wife, Annie, did not believe the news. They said their son was only studying with a friend that night, and he was sleeping in his room upstairs. Their 18-year-old daughter, Kristi, ran to his room to check.
“He’s not in his room, Daddy!” she came back, screaming.
His family members recalled the night on the Netflix series. He left earlier in the evening, saying he was going to his friend’s house to study.
“He said, ‘Love ya’ll,’ and he left,” said his mom, Annie Schneider. “He said, ‘I’ll be back soon.'”
His parents didn’t know he was struggling with drug addiction, although there were some warning signs they noticed retrospectively. He struggled in his senior year of high school, and barely graduated, his dad, Dan Schneider, said on the show.
“Some people would say these were warning signs, but we didn’t see it at the time,” he said.
The family lived a happy and normal life. Danny Schneider Jr. was born in 1976, the year after Dan Schneider became a pharmacist, and his sister, Kristi Schneider, was born in 1980.
“It just felt like the perfect life,” Annie Schneider said on the show. “We didn’t want for nothing else. We had everything.”
Schneider designed their home with 17-foot vaulted ceilings. Every year, they would put up a Christmas tree that filled the space and invite the neighborhood over to decorate it, according to The Times-Picayune. For extra money, Schneider got a real estate license and he and Annie opened an old fashioned snowball stand.
“We had a very happy life together,” Schneider told Lipinski. “Then the nightmare happened.”
3. Shortly Before His Death, Danny Jr. Said He Wanted to Help Kids Stay Clear of Drugs
Just a few days before Danny Jr. was murdered during a drug deal, he told his parents he wanted to convince children never to try drugs, the The Times-Picayune reported. His family did not know he was struggling with addiction.
“And yet there were warning signs,” wrote journalist Jed Lipinski. “Danny’s grades had fallen that winter, and he’d dropped a few classes. Days before he was killed, he’d entered his father’s bedroom and announced his desire to discourage kids from trying drugs. Schneider took this to mean his son was drug-free. Now he sees it as a cry for help.”
Daniel Schneider had no plans to become a criminal investigator. But when his son was murdered, and the police were not making any arrests, he took matters into his own hands.
“Like most people, when my son was murdered, I expected the police to do their job,” he said in an interview with WDSU in New Orleans. “But it didn’t really work out that way.”
While Schneider was grieving the loss of his son, he feared other parents may have to face similar pain if his son’s killer remained on the streets.
“I couldn’t stand to think not only would my son’s (murderer) get away with it, but he might kill again.”
While Schneider had concerns about the way the police handled the investigation into his son’s death, he said their jobs are not possible without the public giving information in criminal cases. He said he has compassion for the police, and knows they have a difficult job.
“I wasn’t thrilled with the job the police did, but I have some compassion for them,” Schneider said. “They have a big job and without the community helping them, we’re not going to cut down on these murders and car robberies, so stand up.”
4. Danny Schneider Jr. Was a ‘Compassionate’ Person & a ‘Peacenik’
Although Dan Schneider admitted he had misconceptions about drug addiction before his son’s death, he said that all changed when he learned his son had been killed as a result of drug addiction. The Times-Picayune reported that when he heard about three young men who were shot to death while trying to buy drugs in the same neighborhood where his son was killed, he privately thought the victims should have known better, although he sympathized with their families. His son’s death changed his perception, and made him realize that drugs steal many aspects of a person’s life before leading to their death.
Danny Jr., he said in a written statement after his death, was “polite, gentle and compassionate.” He had no criminal history. He described him on the Netflix series as a “peacenik.”
His sister, Kristi Schneider, said her brother was a person that many girls liked. Her friends had crushes on him, she said on the Netflix show.
His family had no idea he was struggling with addiction, although he still lived at home.
“He was buying crack in the 9th Ward,” his dad, Dan Schneider, reflected on the Netflix series. “I couldn’t believe it.”
5. The First Witness to Come Forward in Danny Schneider’s Death Was a 15-Year-Old Boy
In the 9th ward, few witnesses would ever come forward when a crime was committed. The mindset was “you don’t snitch,” said a resident on the Netflix show. It was risky for Dan Schneider to canvas the area, police said on the series.
However, witnesses began coming forward after the family compiled $10,000 in reward money. A 15-year-old boy, Jeffery Hall, told police he witnessed the murder and identified the shooter as a man named “Scar Face.” However, when police went to pick up the suspect, they learned he had been in jail at the time. It was a blow to the family, they said on the show. But the investigation continued.
Hall, who lived in the Lower 9th Ward, was identified as Danny Schneider Jr.’s killer. He had sold drugs to Schneider in the past, and came forward as a witness claiming he saw the shooter. Hall was later identified by another witness as the suspect.
A friend of Danny Jr., Randy Applequist, wrote a poem for him after his death, which he posted on Find a Grave.
ON THE DAY OF COLUMBINE
I LOST A DEAR FRIEND OF MINE
THE MOON WAS SHINING WITH A SHARPNESS
THEN A BULLET SHATTERED THE DARKNESS
HE WAS GUNNED DOWN IN THE NINE
MY FRIEND WAS GONE LONG BEFORE HIS TIME
HE WAS FOUND IN HIS RANGER
INSIDE ME IT BREED SUCH ANGER
HE LOVED THAT TRUCK IT WAS HIS TOY
WHY OH WHY DID SOMEONE KILL MY BOY
HE WAS HUNCHED OVER HIS WALLET ON THE SEAT
NOW SOMEONE HAS A MURDER WRAP TO BEAT
TO ME HE WAS LIKE A BIG BROTHER
HE WAS LOVED SO MUCH BY HIS FATHER AND MOTHER
HIS GIRLFRIEND WAS BEAUTIFUL HER NAME WAS BRYNNE
SUCH A SHAME SHE WILL NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN
HE WAS QUIET AND STAYED TO HIMSELF
BUT WAS ALWAYS THERE IF SOMEONE NEEDED HELP
I CANT BELIVE ITS BEEN SO LONG
HIS UNTIMELY DEATH WAS JUST WRONG
SO YOUNG OF A MAN HE WAS JUST 22
THINKING OF HIM I GET SAD AND BLUE
THIS IS REAL IT IS NOT A PLOY
STILL SHED A TEAR WHEN I HEAR OH DANNY BOY
Danny Schneider Jr. is buried in Saint Bernard Memorial Gardens.