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Corporation Sentenced in Best Western Deaths, Charges Against Company President Dropped

On March 28, 2016, Appalachian Hospitality Management, Inc., the corporation that owned the Best Western Hotel in Boone, North Carolina, plead guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The Honorable Alan Z. Thornburg, Superior Court Judge, ordered that the corporation be dissolved as a condition of sentencing.

District Attorney Seth Banks confirmed that the charges facing AHM President Barry Damon Mallatere — three counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault inflicting serious injury — were dropped.

The charges resulted from three deaths at the Best Western in the spring of 2013. On April 16, 2013, Daryl and Shirley Jenkins were found deceased in Room 225 of the hotel. 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams and his mother Jeannie Williams stayed in Room 225 the night of June 7, 2013. The following morning, hotel staff found Jeffrey deceased on a bed, and his mother lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. Mrs. Williams was hospitalized and survived.

All three victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A joint investigation determined that Appalachian Hospitality Management employees, at the direction of management, improperly installed a pool heater without the required permit and in violation of the North Carolina State Building Code. The heater emitted carbon monoxide through a ventilation system that was in severe disrepair due to years of neglect by the company’s owner, management, and employees. A lethal amount of carbon monoxide seeped from the holes in the ventilation system into Room 225, causing the tragic deaths of three innocent people.

Corporation Sentenced in Best Western Deaths

“The deaths of Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, and that of Jeffrey Williams came as a result of a series of actions and missteps that were committed by a host of individuals and entities,” District Attorney Seth Banks said in a statement.  “These actions by the individuals, corporations, and governmental agencies turned a seemingly safe hotel room into a death trap.  Appalachian Hospitality Management, Incorporated’s guilty plea today represents the reality that while we were unable to find any one individual guilty of a criminal act, the actions of the directors, managers, and employees, when taken as a whole, were wrong and amounted to criminal wrongdoing.  It is my hope, and that of the families who have suffered such tremendous losses, that the light that has illuminated poor business practices, faulty inspections procedures, and missed opportunities by both private and governmental organizations will not soon dim.  Specifically, it is our collective desire that the tragedy these families have endured will lead to meaningful changes in protocols for carbon monoxide testing in hotels and other public places at the local, state, and national level.”