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Her son was brutally murdered in his Columbus apartment, then his friends received a $9,000 bill for cleanup

Eric Cavanaugh was stabbed to death in Columbus in 2021
Crime Scene Cleanuppng
Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-03 12:22:04-05

COLUMBUS — After Eric Cavanaugh was murdered in the apartment he shared with his best friends, they were left with a $9,000 crime scene clean-up bill.

It's something Eric's mother says makes no sense.

“It’s mindboggling, it’s nauseating, it’s infuriating,” said Susanne Cavanaugh, Eric's mother.

Eric Cavanaugh graduated from Columbus East High School. His mother says he was full of hopes and dreams like any other 19-year-old.

“He wanted to be a writer,” Susanne Cavanaugh said. “He was sweet, he was funny. He was a good, good kid."

Eric and his childhood best friend, Guy Coy, got a townhouse together and signed a lease with two other teens at Quail Run in Columbus.

Guy Coy’s mother, Connie, says the boys considered themselves brothers.

“The four boys went together and rented a townhouse and were so excited to be out on their own,” Connie Coy said.

The teens allowed a homeless friend to stay with them. That man's name was Daniel Denny.

Court records show Denny had an extensive history of mental illness including paranoid schizophrenia.

"They had no idea they were letting a mentally unstable person into their home,” Susanne Cavanaugh said.

On June 1, 2021, tragedy struck inside their apartment.

Police say Daniel Denny stabbed Eric Cavanaugh 30 times, killing Cavanaugh and leaving behind a bloody crime scene.

Connie Coy said the property manager at the time told her they would take care of the cleanup at her son's apartment and they even hired a company to do it.

"She did straight out say whatever the insurance does not cover we will take care of,” she said.

The teens’ renter’s insurance covered $2,000, the maximum under their policy for “biohazard cleanup.”

Pictures of the aftermath of the cleanup show the company ripped out blood-stained carpet and cut holes in furniture to remove blood stains.

“The walls they took a knife and cut a square,” Connie said.

The roommates never lived there again after their friend’s murder, but Connie said they still paid their June rent.

She said the surviving roommates are still struggling to move on from the tragedy.

“It’s very hard, because as a mom you still want to protect them,” Connie Coy told WRTV's Kara Kenney.

Nearly a year later, Guy Coy received a $9,181 bill from a debt collector for the crime scene cleanup.

“I thought no this isn’t right,” said Connie Coy. “Someone has made a mistake.”

"It infuriates me, and it makes me sick,” said Susanne Cavanaugh. “This is a fee for the cleaning up of their brothers' blood. That's what this is."

The debt collector also sent a bill with her dead son’s name on it.

"In what world should we receive a bill for this, for the cleanup of our son's blood,” said Susanne Cavanaugh. “This wasn't even something that ever crossed our minds as we were going through the process of burying our child. We didn't want to go there. We didn't want to know what the scene of our son's murder looked like."

The property manager at the time of Cavanaugh’s murder has since left the company.

They received an email from the new property manager at Quail Run Apartments.

“We did pay the costs and as the leaseholders it is your responsibility to reimburse the property as the final account statement showed,” read the email from the property manager to Guy Coy and the other roommates. “I understand that this entire situation was and still is very difficult to deal with.”

Connie Coy says the $9,181 debt is now appearing on some of the teens’ credit reports.

"It's ruining their financial credit,” said Connie Coy.

Out of options, they reached out to WRTV Investigates' Kara Kenney for help. She started by reaching out to the debt collection company, but never heard anything back.

WRTV also contacted the company that operates Quail Run Apartments.

“Thank you for reaching out,” said Carey Marshall, Director of Marketing at Real Estate Equities. “We decline to comment on this matter.”

WRTV Investigates then connected the families with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, which oversees the state’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Program, a fund aimed at helping people impacted by violent crime.

WRTV Investigates asked ICJI Executive Director Devon McDonald whether the families could get any money from the fund.

“We are in talks with the family to figure out what we can do. We are looking at what we can do to help them out,” said McDonald.

The program exists to help pay for things like medical bills, funeral expenses and counseling for victims of violent crime.


2020:     904 claims received
203 Approved for $900,744.19

2021:     1,154 claims received
255 approved for $1,141,611.27

2022:     1,124 claims received
141 approved for $671,735.92

On July 1, 2022, a new law took effect which added crime scene cleanup as an eligible expense.

“That can be a pretty significant cost,” said McDonald. “That could be something that comes into play a week or two after the fact, and then you realize you're stuck with a significant cost that you wouldn't have otherwise."

Aside from the Eric Cavanaugh case in Columbus, the state has received only one claim for crime scene cleanup expenses since the law took effect— a claim that is still being processed.

After WRTV Investigates got involved, Susanne Cavanaugh was approved for a $9,181 check from the state’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Program.

“We will be able to completely pay this off for the boys!!” Susanne Cavanaugh texted to WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney. “Thank you so much, Kara, for getting me in touch with the ICJI.”

Susanne Cavanaugh had received money from the fund for funeral expenses but was unaware crime scene cleanup could be covered.

She and Connie Coy hope this is a first step in helping the surviving friends move forward.

"We want them to heal, for this to be done and not ripped open again and again,” Connie Coy said.

They wish the apartment complex would have been up front that the roommates would be responsible for the cleanup bill.

"If they had just worked with us and spelled things out from day one,’ Connie Coy said.

Now, both mothers want others to know about the funds available to help other victims of violent crime left in similar situations.

“You don't realize how much money the cleanup will cost you,” Connie Coy said.

"In the middle of a crisis, this isn't something that crosses your mind,” Susanne Cavanaugh said.


As for Daniel Denny, he pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the murder of Eric Cavanaugh and received a 55 year sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction.

Denny appealed his sentence but lost the appeal.

A victim must meet the following conditions to be eligible for compensation:

✔ Innocent victims of a violent crime.
✔ A surviving parent, spouse, dependent child or other legal dependent of an innocent victim who has been killed as a result of any violent crime.
✔ A person who was injured or killed trying to prevent a violent crime or giving aid to a law enforcement officer.
Recent change: Starting July 1, 2022, family members of victims who have paid a portion of funeral or burial costs and children who were eyewitnesses to the crime but were not physically injured are eligible for compensation.
✔ The crime must have taken place in Indiana.
✔ The crime must have resulted in bodily injury or death.
✔ The victim must have incurred a minimum of $100 in out-of-pocket expenses.
✔ The crime must have occurred within the past two years.
✔ The crime must have been reported to the police within 72 hours. Exception: Starting July 1, 2022, victims of sexual assault who have had a forensic exam conducted DO NOT have to report the crime to law enforcement.
✔ The victim or survivors must have been cooperative in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. Exception: Starting July 1, 2022, victims of sexual assault who have had a forensic exam conducted are eligible for compensation, whether or not they choose to involve the police.

Indiana Code defines a violent crime as a felony or Class A misdemeanor that results in bodily injury or death to the victim.