Boone Hotel Executive Charged In Wrongful Deaths


The Charlotte Observer reports that Damon Mallatere, manager of the Best Western in Boone, NC was indicted Wednesday on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the wrongful deaths last year of three hotel guests poisoned by carbon monoxide.

The grand jury also indicted Mallatere on one additional count of assault inflicting serious bodily injury on another hotel guest who was poisoned but survived.

Mallatere is the only person charged. An Observer investigation last year uncovered multiple missteps that contributed to the tragedies in the hotel’s Room 225.

Investigators have determined that carbon monoxide from the swimming pool water heater seeped up from a corroded exhaust pipe into the room, killing Daryl and Shirley Jenkins of Washington state in April and 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of York County, SC, in June. Jeffrey’s mother, Jeannie, suffered serious injuries.

It is uncommon for executives to face criminal charges stemming from deaths on business property, legal experts say. But they were not surprised no public officials were indicted. Failure to do your job properly, they said, does not generally meet the elements of involuntary manslaughter – which requires that someone acted recklessly and with disregard for the consequences.

Paul Culpepper, Mallatere’s attorney, said in a statement that the 50-year-old businessman is “extremely disappointed” that authorities chose to press charges against him for wrongful death, instead of a firm he considers more culpable – the gas company that converted the pool heater from propane to natural gas.

Culpepper said Appalachian Hospitality discovered other appliances at other hotels were also improperly installed, and he suspects there may be problems at other businesses in Boone.

“The police department knows about this,” he said, “and nobody’s made any warning to the public.”

Contacted later, police Capt. Andy Le Beau said he has relayed the information to town inspectors, and he believes they are checking for potential problems.

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