Tampa counselor who lost partner to murder found dead after home catches fire

Dan Kane waited years for justice to be served for the slaying of his longtime partner.

William “Bill” Denham was beaten to death by strangers in 2017 over what turned out to be a lie by a woman trying to hide her infidelity. The woman and her boyfriend were sent to prison for Denham’s killing. A third suspect who was set to be a witness in the case died a few years ago.

Kane lived to see those developments. But now the 66-year-old longtime Tampa counselor’s family and friends may have their own wait for justice ahead.

Kane was found dead Monday night after his Old Seminole Heights bungalow caught fire, his brother Clarke Kane confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa police have released few details but have said Kane’s death may lead to criminal charges.

According to police, officers and firefighters were called to a home on the 1000 block of East Crenshaw Street about 11:15 p.m. for a report of a house fire. First responders helped multiple people out of the home but found a man inside who died at the scene. Police detained a man at the scene, but as of Friday, they had not arrested him or anyone else in connection to the fire.

A Tampa police spokesperson said detectives were still investigating, so the department is withholding the names of both the man who died and the man who was detained while that investigation is underway.

The word of Kane’s death spread quickly to neighbors and friends who mourned the loss of a man they described as passionate about helping people, both in his career and personally, even after his own life was marred by tragedy. He had taken in multiple people in need over the years, and a neighbor told the Times that at least three people were living with him at the time of the fire. One of them was the man detained by police.

“He’s one of those people that has done so much good for so many, and nobody is gonna realize it until now that he’s not there,” said Ray Reed, a longtime friend of Kane’s.

A ‘rudder’ for people in need pushes for justice

A native of Philadelphia, Dan Kane grew up in New Jersey, his brother Clarke Kane said in an interview. Dan Kane graduated from Rutgers University in 1988 and moved to Tampa with Denham and a friend of theirs in the 1990s, the friend previously told the Times. Kane got a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and an education specialist degree from the University of South Florida, according to a biography on the website of Narconon Arrowhead, a previous employer.

He spent more than two decades working in Tampa Bay, counseling those with mental health and substance abuse issues while maintaining his private practice.

In a phone interview, Reed recalled three decades of friendship with Kane that began after Reed lost his partner of 11 years. Reed said he’d been unable to eat, sleep or function but found solace through Kane’s counseling.

After Reed stopped receiving counseling, the two became friends and eventually roommates. He said Kane helped struggling people get the care they need, like an uncle or a father.

“He was the rudder on so many people’s ships, he would right their course and help them out,” Reed said.

Kane was passionate and committed to the people he served, said Marcia Monroe, a clinical social worker in Tampa Bay. He helped people with substance abuse issues find treatment, housing and financial benefits, and he was available at all hours of the day for his clients, Monroe said.

“Some people don’t recognize when they need help, and he would really work with them and just be there to try to help them get on course and rebuild their lives,” Monroe said. “And that’s the Dan I knew.”

Over the years, Clarke Kane heard snippets about the impact of his brother’s work. He said one mother was in disbelief at how much Daniel Kane had helped her son.

“The work that he did, he was good at it,” Clarke Kane said.

Denham, Dan Kane’s partner, shared a similar career and passion for helping others. He had spent most of his life working as a counselor at agencies such as the Tampa AIDS Network and DACCO — a residential drug treatment facility in Tampa — as well as local methadone clinics. But Denham burned out in the profession, a friend previously told the Times, and at the time of his death was flipping houses and waiting tables.

In late 2016, Kane and Denham purchased the bungalow on Crenshaw Street. A couple of months later, on a cool and breezy night in January 2017 as the couple were in the process of moving into the home, Denham, 59, decided to take a walk. He headed to a nearby Walmart and bought a few frozen dinners.

As he headed for home sometime after 10 p.m., two men and a woman beat him to death at the intersection of North 15th and East Elm streets.

“His whole life was helping other people,” Dan Kane told the Times in the days after Denham’s death. “He didn’t deserve this.”

Four months later, in May 2017, police made the first arrest in the case, taking Jadian Sinead Zeiders, then 26, into custody on a charge of second-degree murder.

Zeiders initially told police she didn’t know what happened to Denham, but later in the same interview told what would turn out to be a fabricated account.

“I don’t think they need the death penalty, but they do need to be in prison for a long time to think about what they did,” Kane told the Times after Zeiders’ arrest.

The two years that followed saw no more arrests. The lack of progress grew unbearable for Kane, who attended each of Zeiders’ court hearings.

Clarke Kane, who moved into the Crenshaw Street home with Dan Kane after Denham’s death and stayed for nearly three years, said he watched as his brother continually called police and prosecutors to get the case to move along.

”I think that punched a real hole in him — like it would with anybody,” Clarke Kane said.

Finally, in 2019, Zeiders agreed to plead guilty and, with her plea, submitted a handwritten account of what she said really led to Denham’s death. She identified Stephen Mitchell, who was her former boyfriend, and another man, Jeremy Todd Miller, who was 33 at the time of the attack.

According to Zeiders’ account, she, Mitchell and Miller gathered at the house on Escort Avenue. Zeiders was cheating on Mitchell with another man, she wrote, and phoned the man after Mitchell and Miller companion left.

Zeiders and the man she was secretly seeing were in the backyard when they heard Mitchell’s car pull up, she wrote. She told the man to hop a rear fence before Mitchell entered the yard. Zeiders wrote that Mitchell heard a noise by the fence and asked Zaiders what she was doing. She said she told him a lie about a man coming into the yard and masturbating “because I was scared that he saw my friend and what I was really doing,” she wrote.

Zeiders, Mitchell and the Miller left the yard in search of the man Zeiders said she had seen and encountered Denham near the corner of 15th and Elm streets. They asked what he was doing in the yard, Zeiders wrote, and Denham denied he had been there. Mitchell then attacked him, according to Zeiders, who admitted to kicking Denham a couple of times “only because I was high on drugs and scared of what Stephen would do to me if I didn’t back up the story I told him.”

Mitchell kept beating Denham as he fell, Zeiders wrote. Denham got up and tried to walk away, and Mitchell attacked him again, she said.

Mitchell, now 39, was arrested in March 2019 on a charge of second-degree murder. Last year, he pleaded to manslaughter, a lesser offense, and was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by five years of probation. His release date is March 2030, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Zeiders pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January of this year and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, with credit for the 5½ years she spent in the county jail while the case was pending, records show. Her release date is April 2029.

The third man, Miller, was set to be a witness in the case and had not been charged before he died in December 2020, said Erin Maloney, a spokesperson for the State Attorney’s Office.

‘A good guy just trying to help’

In 2019, as the cases against his partner’s killers were still ongoing, Kane moved to Oklahoma, where he served as the clinical director of Narconon Arrowhead, according to the substance abuse rehabilitation center’s website.

Kane returned to Tampa about a year ago, moving back into the Crenshaw Street home, Reed said.

Neighbors noticed other people living in and hanging out at the house before Kane left for Oklahoma and after he returned, said Meagan Berkstresser, who has lived on Crenshaw for about 12 years. When neighbors asked Kane about them, he said he was trying to help people in need, Berkstresser said.

“He explained that’s what Bill would have wanted,” she said.

Berkstresser said on the night of the fire, her husband heard someone yelling outside for someone to call 911, then looked outside, saw Kane’s house was on fire and called 911. She saw at least three people staying with Kane at the time make it out safely, including the man police detained.

“It’s unfortunate the way that it panned out because (Kane) was a good guy just trying to help some people get a new beginning,” she said.

On Tuesday, crews used a bulldozer to knock down what remained of the burned home, and by Wednesday the rubble was gone, leaving behind an empty lot of grass and dirt.

Reed went by the property and left near the mailbox a wreath of red-and-pink flowers and a handwritten message:

“Dan, you helped and cared for thousands of people in need. Rest easy, my friend, in the palm of God’s hand, in a place of joy, serenity and bliss, reunited with the ones you loved. Amen.”

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