Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Donna Scrivo was born Donna K. Chaffin on February 4, 1954 to parents George Charles Chaffin and Melba Joyce Ford in Kaufman County, TX. She had a brother named David and a sister named Linda. Her father worked as a guard at the federal prison and her mom was a Sunday school teacher. She was very popular and nice to everyone she met. After graduating high school, she worked at the prison as well along with her father. She met and fell in love with an inmate, Daniel Scrivo, who was serving time for armed robbery. After Daniel’s release, Donna quit her job, married him, and moved to Detroit with him to be with his family in 1978. Dan improved his life and started a painting company. They were soon able to afford a home in St. Clair Shores, about 18 miles north of Detroit. They had two sons Jason in 1978, soon after they were married, and Ramsay in 1981. After their boys started school, Donna started nursing school. After graduated, she didn’t work full time, so she was still around when her sons needed her. Their home was where the neighborhood kids stopped at after school for freshly baked snacks.
Donna and Daniel’s oldest son Jason became a Detroit Firefighter. Ramsay was still in high school at the time and was an athlete and helped his father with the painting business. Donna bragged on her sons often. After high school, Ramsay went to Wayne State in Downtown Detroit for accounting and got a job quickly after.
Donna worked for St. John Hospital as a nurse and eventually left the job in 2003 at age 49 after having a heart attack. She continued to work as a home care nurse where there was less stress. In 2009, Donna was diagnosed with cancer and went to Mexico for treatments that could not be done in the US. They returned to the states and she attended her high school reunion in Texas. Soon after returning to Michigan, Daniel Scrivo died of Hepatitis C at the age of 59 that he had been fighting since his 20s from drug use.
In the fall of 2013, after the passing of Daniel, in July 2013, Donna moved into her son
Ramsay’s condo that she and Daniel helped him get, while her house was going through repairs after a fire. Ramsay suffered from paranoid schizophrenia as well as depression. When he was on his prescribed medication everything was great, but he often self medicated with drugs and alcohol. That obviously caused problems and he was once arrested for a bar fight. Although Ramsay had graduated from Wayne State and became an accountant, he lost the job due to his mental illness and was between jobs, he worked for Mr. C's Car Wash wash on 8 Mile and Harper as well as for his father. Daniel had a rough time coping with his father's death which led to Donna checking him into the hospital and gaining guardianship over Ramsay. Ramsay showed improvement soon after this.
On January 27, 2014, Ramsay Scrivo was reported missing by his mother Donna. She said that
he had walked out of the condo they shared at 6:30 the night before and hadn't returned. He left the house wearing flannel pajama pants, a white t-shirt, work boots, and a Carhart jacket. This was in January, in Michigan, off the river. It was cold! This winter was reported to have been the coldest winter in Michigan in 100 years. Donna said she called his phone several times with no answer. Investigators pinged his phone off of a tower near the water. Donna made it seem like her son was unstable and suicidal because of his mental illness. It was thought that he went onto the ice to find a whole to drown himself in, but when investigated, there were no fresh holes or any holes at all in the ice. Later in the day, a neighbor found Ramsay’s phone in their driveway. While checking his phone for evidence, there were no missing calls or text messages from Donna.
On January 30, 2014, a lady who was driving through St. Clair County, about 30 minutes from St. Clair Shores saw black trash bags on the side of the road. She thought it was tossed deer parts from someone hunting, but after getting closer, saw a human head. She called the St. Clair Shores police. When they arrived on the scene there were multiple black trash
bags, one with a foot sticking out of it. One bag had a Black and Decker jigsaw in it that was impacted with flesh and blood. Although the remains were out in the freezing cold weather, they were not frozen.
The remains were taken to the St. Clair County morgue. The story was on Detroit news by the end of the day. There were multiple missing cases for white men going on at that time, so no one instantly suspected the dismembered man to be Ramsay. Donna called in to the investigators and said she would like to go to the morgue and identify the body. They found this strange because how did he go from just missing to dead, what mother thinks that way. St. Clair Shores detectives matched the ID they were given to the pictures of the head that they were sent by the St Clair County Morgue and they were a match. It was Ramsay Scrivo. They grew suspicious of Donna, but that wasn’t enough information to arrest her so they began questioning neighbors.
Someone claimed to have seen a woman in a tan or light colored SUV dumping what seemed to have been a dead dog around the same area Ramsay was found in. Investigators checked around for businesses in the area with security cameras and ended up in a nearby BP gas station. The officers not only saw the SUV in question, but the woman as well in the gas station. Donna Scrivo was the driver and the gas station clerk remembered her because she went into the gas station very panicky. They brought Donna in to simply ask her questions about her missing son, not about the homicide. They told her they found Ramsay’s body and she didn’t cry, nor was she shocked. She simply asked if they were sure. They went on to ask Donna if she was in St. Clair County at all recently and she instantly denied it. She said she hadn’t been in the area in about a year. They asked her again and she continued to deny it. Investigators went on to ask her if she wanted them to show her the pictures they had of her and she said yes. They pulled out the pictures and she could no longer deny it, it was clearly her. Donna was arrested then for dumping the body because there still wasn’t enough evidence to arrest her for the murder.
Investigators went to the condo, opened the door, and instantly smelled bleach. They could
definitely tell the place had been cleaned, but she didn’t get all of the blood up. She missed blood on the tub, bedroom wall, stairs, railing, and by the door. Not only did they find the blood, but they found the Lowe’s receipt for the Black and Decker jigsaw. Donna went to Lowe’s multiple times that day, the workers there remembered her too. She went the first time to buy the saw, then went back because that one didn't work properly and went to get a new one. The worker asked what she needed it for to hopefully help her to make sure she was buying the right saw for the job and she told the employee it was for some things around the house. The SUV was owned by her dead husband Daniel. She donated to Mother Waddles, a car donation charity in Detroit literally hours before her arrest. They were able to go straight to the car that still had blood in it. On February 24, 2014, they finally had enough evidence to charge Donna Scrivo with the death of her son Ramsay Scrivo.
In court the defense pointed out the fact that Donna had no motive for killing her son. While the prosecution said otherwise. When looking through Donna’s phone, they found text messages from a “friend”. While in Texas for her class reunion, she met back up with an old guy friend. They had begun bonding over the fact that both of their spouses had recently passed away, so Donna wanted to move back to Texas. But with her being Ramsay’s guardian, if he didn’t go she couldn’t go.
Her trial began on Wednesday May 6, 2015, during this trail, Donna had a whole new story. Donna claimed that on the day of January 26, 2014, while doing laundry in her basement, a masked man entered her home. When she asked him what he was doing there he told her that he was killing her son. He said that he was gonna shoot him, but it would be too noisy so he gave him some Xanax and bleach in a Coke. She said the man tied her up and put her in her room. He went into Ramsay’s room and she heard the man talking to him. She heard him say he was ruining people’s lives. Then she heard Ramsay say he couldn't breathe and called out for his brother Jason. She claimed the man then dragged her by her hair to Ramsay’s room to show her her dead son propped up on the side of his bed. She told this story as she cried in the stand. Donna was told by the masked man that she needed to do everything he said and if she told anyone he would kill other members of her family, her two nieces, her nephew and her oldest son Jason. Donna said the man stayed in her home for five days and was going to cut up Ramsay’s body the next day. He then tied her back up and locked her in her bedroom. He told her to call and text people, as well as file a missing person’s report.
Donna claimed the next day is when the masked man told her to go to Lowe’s and get the saw. She didn’t get help about the man while in Lowe’s because she was afraid. She said when Ramsay went to the police multiple times about a man being in his home, they never did anything to help. She said she went to State Farm Insurance office and didn’t tell anyone there because the man was in the backseat and she feared for her family. She said the man was upset when he realized Ramsey was still on probation and made her call his probation officer so that they wouldn't call the police to the house when he didn’t check in. She said she still went on with her day by day routine so no one would be suspicious about her being in the house all the time. She went to Lowe’s three different times because the masked man said she got the wrong kind of saw. After she got in the final time, the man stuck a Xanax in her mouth and locked her in her room. The next morning, she heard the saw and smelled flesh burning. The man let her go into the other room to see Ramsay and she hugged him, his body wasn’t yet dismembered on that Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, the man went back and got Donna and said she had to help him. They went into the bathroom and Ramsay’s body was in the bathtub and she threw up. The man called her useless and locked her back in the room. On Thursday the man took her out of the room again and made her put the garbage bags in the car and made her drive around with a gun to her head. They went to a BP gas station and she went inside. She went into the gas station alone, and still didn’t ask for help. When they were driving down the road, he made her stop and take the bags out of the car. Donna claimed she cried the entire time and when she wasn’t moving fast enough, the man got angry and pushed the bags out himself. After they got rid of all the bags, the man made her go to the car wash, then donate the car. She was told she needed to donate her cars, a place called Mother Waddle’s Car Donation, in Detroit. The last time she saw the man was when he told her to take the plates off the car and not to go to the police or tell anyone until after noon on Saturday after noon.
She told the court while crying still, that she did not kill or dismember her son. During cross examination, persecutor William Cataldo was annoyed and frustrated with Donna’s story and didn’t hide his disbelief or how he felt. He challenged her story of how the man just suddenly told her to change the title, take the plates off and turn in the car. He asked her why he would let her live after all of that and why did he trust her not to tell anyone. He even asked why when she went to the police station, why did she file a missing person's report, why didn't she report what happened. He didn't understand how she lived in the house with her murderer for five whole days. She even visited her in-laws on Wednesday, and showered in their home. She didn't ask her in-laws for help the entire time she was there. She questioned if Donna had Stockholm syndrome for her son's killer, she said no, which didn't help her case at all. Donna said she didn't have any faith in the police and that's why she didn't get help from them. The prosecutor questioned how the masked man just knew she had just recently bought a new vacuum and carpet cleaner, how it was so conveniently purchased a week before her son's murder.
The defence relied heavily on the fact that Donna was a small, 110lb, 60 year old woman, while Ramsay was a much bigger, 5ft 9in tall, 230lb 32 year old man. He was so much larger than her, it was hard to see how Donna would be able to do anything to him, But all the evidence was there. There was no other possible suspect in the case and there were a lot of holes in Donna’s new story. She was in the house for 5 whole days dismembering her son. She left the house twice to go to Lowe’s and was in the store alone where she could have gotten help then, instead of returning home to do the job she claimed was led by someone else that she so badly didn’t want to do. She said the masked man hurt her, but neighbors said she never appeared to be hurt.
During the trail, over 30 people testified, some of which were neighbors. One woman claimed to have heard power tools, something that sounded like a saw during those five days. She didn;t think anything of it because Ramsay was always working on something, but she also smelled a foul burnt chemical odor. It was also strange that it sounded like he was trying to be quiet with the tools, a like of stopping and starting and the sound was kind of muffled. Another neighbor said that on January 31st, the morning after the remains were found, that police knocked on her door to ask if she had seen anything suspicious. She said that on January 30th, she saw Donna carrying three large trash bags to her SUV and that around 10:30 or 11am she saw Donna cleaning out her car and taking the license plate off on the 31st. Someone else talked about a dog that Ramsay had that he eventually gave to her because he couldn’t take care of it because he was always working. The lady and Ramsay would talk a lot about his life and had become close. The last time she saw Ramsay was the morning of January 22nd when he stopped by to visit the dog and she hadn’t seen him since.
Daniel Scrivo’s sister, Alison Furtaw, didn’t want to believe her sister-in-law Donna killed her own son, but she did. She also did not want to believe that Donna had anything to do with the death of Daniel until she saw what she was capable of with Ramsay’s murder. Alison said that Donna had been giving Daniel B-12 shots in his side, which are quite harmless until the injection site ended up infected. Daniel had already had a heart disease and Hep C from a dirty needle from drug use in his 20s. Alison said that Daniel complained about his side hurting because of the infection so she told Donna. Donna said she knew it was infected, but Daniel didn't want to go to the doctor for it. He went to the doctor soon after where he was told it had caused a blood infection and his organs to shut down. Daniel died the next day. It was never proven that Donna purposely poisoned her husband, but at this point, who knows.
Alison also made it known that Ramsay was doing well leading up to his murder. She learned that he was missing when Donna called her and left a voicemail Sunday morning on January 26th letting her know that Ramsay had walked to get cigarettes and had not yet come back. She said that she went to some stores and bars and didn't have any luck finding him. Donna also told Alison she had gone down to the lake and had scratches on her arms from branches and twigs by the water. That was strange to Alison because it was so cold outside. Alison told Donna they should post about Ramsay’s disappearance on Facebook, but Donna kept saying he would be embarrassed if they posted him and everything turned out to be okay.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning to the courtroom with their verdict.
They determined that Donna Scrivo was guilty of first degree murder of her son Ramsay Scrivo, dead body disinterment and mutilation, as well as dead body moving without medical examiner permission. Donna was sentenced about a month later. She had a lot to say during her sentencing, she spoke for over 20 minutes. She was upset, saying there were four other people that should have been questioned on her son’s death other than her. She said someone had just been in Ramsay’s home weeks prior, to steal his television, saying the person didn't have to break in, they were able to walk in. Which to her proved that the masked man had been there before, he did not break in because he had a key to the home. She said the crime scene as well as the bags Ramsay was found in had been contaminated. She also fussed at the prosecutor for things he said to her during her cross examination. She said she read law books and what he was doing and saying to her was not allowed according to the books she read. She was upset with her sister in law, Alison, was full of hearsay, speculations, and opinions, and said she read that none of those three things are allowed to be used by Michigan law. She started throwing out all the wrong that Alison has done in her life and how she gives Alison money that Alison never returned it. Donna claimed that the officers did not stop questioning her during interrogation after she asked for a lawyer. She said she had an unfair trial because there was no evidence to be held against her and there was a bad picture painted of her from the beginning. Donna said all the people on the jury already knew about her case and came in already ready to say she was guilty because of the things that were said about her in the media. She said that with Ramsay being 67 inches taller than her and 100 pounds bigger than her, there was no way she could have moved him from the bedroom to bathroom and put him in the bathtub by herself.
After all of her ranting, she asked if her car could be released from police custody so that it could be given to her son Jason. The judge addressed Donna Scrivo personally before sentencing her. He told her how she had committed the most heinous crimes he’s ever heard of in his history of being a judge, and to her own son. He told her her crime defied all belief and was going to face Michigan’s worst sentencing for a crime, and in his eyes, that still wasn’t harsh enough for what she did. He sentenced Donna to life in prison to the Michigan Department of Corrections. As she was signing her papers, she told the judge that he was wrong and that she was not guilty of anything.