Mallatere pleads not guilty to charges
by Anna Oakes
Mallatere entered a plea of not guilty, posted a bond of $40,000 and was released pending trial, his attorney David Freedman said. An arraignment hearing has been set for Feb. 17.
"It's a very difficult time for Mr. Mallatere, and he knows regardless of what he's going through, it can't compare to what (the victims' families) have to go through on a daily basis," Freedman said.
The Watauga County grand jury on Wednesday handed down indictments sought by the district attorney's office for the April 16 deaths of Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, ages 73 and 72, of Longview, Wash., and the June 8 death of 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of Rock Hill, S.C. The three died after staying in Best Western room 225, where investigators in June detected high concentrations of carbon monoxide. Investigators said a pool water heater and faulty exhaust system at the hotel were to blame.
Mallatere was the president of Appalachian Hospitality Management, which manages operations at the Best Western and several other Boone hotels, at the time of the deaths last year. On Wednesday he released a statement through another attorney stating he was "extremely disappointed" with the charges and questioning why police and the district attorney did not focus on others involved, including the contractor, Independence Oil LLC, that performed the natural gas conversion of the pool heater and the town of Boone building inspector that signed off on the conversion.
Assistant District Attorney Britt Springer on Thursday responded to questions about the charges, saying, "The person who the state feels was criminally responsible for the three deaths has been indicted." Springer added that "there are many people who through carelessness or indifference could have stopped this tragedy but did not," but "the ability to stop a death from occurring because of someone else's criminal negligence is not a crime in North Carolina."
"I am bound by what our criminal laws are," she said.
Freedman said Mallatere has "strong faith in the judicial system."
"He knows process needs to play out, and we want people to keep an open mind while the process plays out," said Freedman. "He feels at the end things will be fine, and the truth will come out."