by: Dave Faherty Updated:BOONE, N.C. —
The man charged in connection with three deaths at a Boone hotel was in court Tuesday morning.
Investigators said a pool heater leaked carbon monoxide into a room last year, killing an elderly couple in April and then an 11-year-old boy in June.
Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty was at the courthouse when Damon Mallatere walked in.
He didn’t answer any questions and only appeared before the judge for a few minutes.
Mallatere let his attorney do the talking about the deaths at the Best Western.
In April, Daryl and Shirley Jenkins died in room 225, and then seven weeks later Jeffrey Williams died.
Investigators discovered carbon monoxide gas seeped into the room through a corroded exhaust pipe for the pool's water heater.
The grand jury indicted Mallatere, the operator of the motel, in all three deaths for involuntary manslaughter.
Tuesday was supposed to be his arraignment, but because the judge had a conflict of interest and Mallatere's main criminal lawyer is on another case, it got postponed until April.
His attorney talked about the emotions of the case.
"His heart truly goes out to the families of the victims. (He’s) extremely remorseful sorrowful that this happened. He is ready for this whole matter to be over, but I think it will be several years down the road,” said attorney Dudley Witt.
The attorney also told Channel 9 Mallatere’s defensive team has received some of the evidence in the case and for the first time hinted at a possible defense.
Prosecutors also wanted to delay the arraignment because of the large amount of evidence that has been turned over to Mallatere’s attorneys.
"Not all accidental deaths are criminal in nature. This case is one based on negligence up to the level of criminal negligence. We are comfortable with the jury system," said Witt.
Williams' mother was also in the room when her son died and suffered severe injuries.
Jeannie Williams told ABC's 20-20 that her family plans to start a foundation to raise awareness of the need for carbon monoxide detectors in hotels.
There currently is no federal law requiring them.
The hotel in Boone did not have them at the time of the deaths, but North Carolina law now requires them in some parts of the hotel.
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