Two years after the manager of the Best Western in Boone was charged in the carbon monoxide deaths of three hotel guests, the criminal case may finally be resolved.
“We are discussing our options both with the defense attorneys and the families of the victims,” District Attorney Seth Banks said Tuesday. “This case is one of my office’s priorities to bring some resolution for the victims’ families. We’re working diligently on it.”
One possible outcome, he said, could be a plea bargain. He declined to be more specific.
The criminal case against Damon Mallatere has been considered problematic since he was indicted in January 2014 on three counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault inflicting serious injury.
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Carbon monoxide from the Best Western’s swimming pool water heater killed Daryl and Shirley Jenkins in April 2013 and 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams in June 2013. Jeffrey’s mother, Jeannie, was seriously injured. The Observer and state authorities uncovered a series of errors and decisions that led to the tragedies.
As president of Appalachian Hospitality Management, Mallatere ran the Best Western. But in testimony before a state regulatory board, he was the only person mentioned who took specific actions that might have prevented the second set of poisonings.
A hearing in his criminal case was scheduled for Monday. Banks said the case likely will be rescheduled for some time in March.
Defense attorney David Freedman said that since Banks inherited the case – after being elected district attorney in 2014 – they have had an “open and frank dialogue.” Freedman declined to be more specific, except to say, “I appreciate the way the district attorney’s handled the matter so far. He’s been very professional and we’ve discussed this for over two years.”
Mallatere is also a defendant in wrongful death suits filed by both families. Those lawsuits seek damages from Mallatere, Best Western International, the hotel’s owners, as well as from companies and individuals who worked on the swimming pool heating system where the deadly gas originated.