My imperfectly perfect man

Danny Elliott was a mistake. Unwanted and unplanned, he was the accidental product of drunken strangers whose only agenda was to fornicate and forget. He often jokes about being conceived on a pool table; because, to this amazing man I married, laughter is the best medicine for deep wounds from a childhood no child deserves, and gratitude is the remedy for all that ails.

Raised by an abusive mother (God rest her soul) whose life circumstances caused her to treat him as little more than a welfare check, in crime-ridden projects in the seediest part of north Tulsa, Danny should never have become the man he is today. The odds were always against him. Imagine your mother sending you to the apartment of her drug dealer with food stamps instead of cash. A kindergartner should never have to choose between a beating from his mother and a beating from the neighborhood drug dealer. Only by God’s grace do you overcome such horrors.

Like many children of abject poverty and abuse, a college degree was not in the cards for Danny. Most careers won’t even consider an applicant without one; but Danny never gave up. Admirably, he found a long route to his dream job.

You wanna be a what?

A few years into our marriage, as I settled into a position with a large school district, Danny suddenly announced he wanted to give up a lucrative career as a mortgage banking professional and live his dream of becoming a police officer.

Wait… what?! Do you realize police officers make half what you’re accustomed to making??

He knew, but ithis was his lifelong dream. And, he mused, God had already allowed him to live two of his dreams – being a Christian singer and marrying me (nicely played) – and this dream was burning in his soul and wouldn’t let go. What kind of wife would I be if I didn’t support him?

While serving on the cabinet of the school district superintendent, I had the great fortune of befriending the chief of the newly-formed police department. Any other chief might have passed on Danny – who just barely made the age cut-off and who had zero experience in law enforcement – but Gary saw his potential and gave him a shot.

When God wants something, He creates a path

A consummate law enforcement professional, Gary insisted his officers obtain CLEET certification – just like police officers and deputies in every other department in Oklahoma. The district paid for training we would never have been able to afford.

The struggle was real. Not only did we lose Danny’s income, but our bond was strained over the 19 weeks he left me for training. I wasn’t the patient, supportive wife Danny deserved; but he did his best to coddle me through the separation while working hard to earn certification. A fiercely competitive perfectionist, Danny excelled at CLEET and developed friendships that endure to this day with officers and deputies from other departments throughout the state.

Schooled in law enforcement

Given that almost 15 percent of suspects arrested in America are school-aged kids and countless more are victims of crime, we shouldn’t be surprised at what school resource officers encounter on a daily basis – especially in an urban setting. Danny was forced to use his defensive tactics training far more times as an SRO than he ever dreamed of as a deputy. In addition to thwarting physical assaults, SROs routinely confiscate guns, knives and other weapons; investigate drug deals, sexual assaults, abuse and other violent crimes. Believe it or not, gang members attend school – often for free meals or to make drug deals – and several students wear ankle monitors as they serve their sentences for violent or sexual crimes.

Sleeping with a dark and dirty stranger

Danny gained valuable experience as an SRO, which contributed to his being hand selected for his next position. His maturity and hard-knocks life experience made him the perfect candidate for a sheriff wanting to infiltrate the seedy underbelly of rural America. For months, my meticulously clean, well-groomed husband gave up bathing and shaving, and spent his nights pretending to drink and drug in strip joints and dive bars across the county (he’d pour full bottles of beer out on the “carpet” of bars so sleazy, no one even noticed).

I worried about him every night, terrified some thug would blow his cover and get him killed. (I didn’t really relish the thought of him hanging out in strip joints either, until he reminded me they were establishments where he could pour out a full beer on the carpet and no one noticed.) It’s hard enough on the spouse when her loved one is on the streets in a bulletproof vest and uniform; but knowing your husband is alone, armed with only his wits, among criminals who wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if he looked at them wrong… that’s a whole different level of worry. And then when Danny told me he’d have to get booked into jail for a few nights to catch an especially bad guy… let’s just say our bond was tested yet again.

But after months of sleeping with this dark, stinky, hairy stranger, I finally got my squeaky-clean hubby back when his operation ended with 18 total arrests and 26 indictments. Not bad for a “lowly” SRO officer.

God’s perfect plan emerges

Since then, Danny has quietly solved numerous high-profile crimes – purposely avoiding the spotlight, which he believes belongs to the victims. Danny did go on camera long after he closed the Jarret Clark cold case, and spoke with a reporter when he solved the case of a man who murdered a young mother and tried to make it look like suicide.

Most people wouldn’t know that Danny also solved the murder of Brennon Davis – the 15-year-old Okay boy who was fatally shot and torched by two men he believed were friends. He took a former Tulsa deputy off the streets so he couldn’t molest other children; investigated and arrested Mike and Wayne Smith, now serving time for killing a family’s animals and torching their home. Danny also helped secure murder charges for a couple who dealt a fatal dose of morphine to a Wagoner couple. Johnnie Hinds was convicted of murder while Nancy copped to a lesser charge.

Danny stayed under the radar once again while one of his biggest cases made national news. Elizabeth Rodriguez is serving a 45-year sentence for her role in a fatal home invasion that took the lives of three teenage boys.

These are just a few of Danny’s headline-making cases. He’s seen some of the worst of humanity and investigated scenes and evidence that leave an indelible mark on a soul. In fact, the public will never hear about some of his most painful investigations; nor will they ever know how many threats to society Danny’s helped to remove. Too frequently, he gets called to scenes where children have suffered cruelty, abuse and neglect that strikes an all too familiar cord in a man who suffered (and overcame) similar adversity. Only by the grace of God can one investigate the unimaginable depravity adults can inflict on the most vulnerable and innocent among us and still maintain his faith, optimism and sanity.

Danny Elliott is exactly the thoughtful, prayerful and purposeful warrior you want protecting your family and community.

We believe with all our hearts, God carried Danny through many painful passages and opened the doors that would make him an instrument of His compassion, wisdom and justice. We know that no trial is too great when it can be used for God’s greater good, and Danny overcame many to get to where he is.

When broken roads converge…

Danny reappeared in my life 20 years after we met and worked (flirted) with each other at a drive-through bank, at precisely the moment I had accepted I would never find true love. My standards were far too high and my tolerance far too low to settle for a man who lacked the honesty, integrity, confidence, humor and compassion required to hold my heart.

But God had other designs. The twisted and broken roads of two flawed souls converged into one perfect path, where our imperfections and failures provide the depth of experience and unconditional love we need to carry out what we fervently believe is God’s will.

Danny Elliott should never have clawed his way out of poverty and despair to become a steadfast and prayerful instrument of justice for the voiceless and weak. He’s not a perfect man; but I thank God every day for blessing me with the perfect love of the best man I know.

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