Plea Bargain a Potential Outcome in Criminal Case Over CO Deaths at Best Western

Published Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm

By Jesse Wood

District Attorney Seth Banks has said that one potential outcome in the criminal case concerning the three carbon monoxide deaths at the Best Western hotel in Boone is a plea bargain, according to multiple media reports.

“We are discussing our options both with the defense attorneys and the families of the victims,” District Attorney Seth Banks told the Charlotte Observer on Tuesday. “This case is one of my office’s priorities to bring some resolution for the victims’ families. We’re working diligently on it.”

Damon Mallatere, president of Appalachian Hospitality Management at the time of the deaths, was charged three counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault after the tragic deaths.

In two separate incidents less than two months apart, Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, a Washington couple in their 70’s, and Jeffrey Williams, an 11-year-old boy from Rock Hill, S.C., died in Room 225 of the Best Western in Boone.

An investigation by local, state and federal authorities said that a deficient exhaust system for the pool’s water heater was the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning. Yet, as the Charlotte Observer noted and High Country Press has reported on in the past couple years, a “series of errors and decisions” led to the deaths of first the Jenkinses and then the young Williams.

Following the indictment in January 2014, Damon Mallatere entered an initial plea of not guilty and posted a bond of $40,000. Damon Mallatere’s case has been continued for two years now, and the next hearing will likely take place in March.

The Jenkins and Williams family have both filed civil suits to be heard in Watauga County.

Banks declined to be specific when mentioning that a plea bargain could be one of these potential outcomes to resolve the case. Banks inherited the case when he was elected DA for the 24th Prosecutorial District in 2014.

For previous stories on these tragedies, click here.

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