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The fateful release of ‘pure evilness’

Times Staff Writer

Daniel Tavares Jr. served 16 years in a Massachusetts prison for killing his mother with a carving knife.

He associated with racist inmates, but Tavares expressed universal hostility: He repeatedly threatened to kill or maim his father, various state officials and prison guards. His father called him “pure evilness.”

Tavares, 41, was released from prison in June. Two weeks ago he was arrested on suspicion of killing a young couple, Beverly and Brian Mauck, in this small, rural town south of Seattle.

Daniel Tavares Sr. said if his son was sentenced to death, “I’d like to be the one to inject the poison into his arm and look him in the eye when he dies.”

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The crime received attention on both coasts, not just because it illustrated a flaw in the criminal justice system, but because it has become a part of the campaigns of two Republican presidential front-runners.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had appointed the judge who released Tavares, called for the judge to resign. Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani seized upon the slayings to show what he describes as Romney’s ineffectiveness in fighting violent crime.

Investigators continue to piece together why Tavares was released. One thing is for certain: The Maucks “didn’t know anything about Tavares’ past,” said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Brian Mauck, 30, worked as a technician for an air-conditioning company; Beverly Mauck, 28, worked at a car dealership. Friends and family described them as fun-loving and adventurous. Both enjoyed scuba diving and riding motorcycles. The couple had been married 18 months and were planning one more diving trip, to the Caribbean in the spring, before starting a family, said Brian Mauck’s sister, Jennifer Heilbrun. “They worked hard and played hard,” she said.

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Beverly Mauck’s father, Darrel Slater, said: “My little girl was a newlywed. They were such nice kids. Nice, good kids. They were just starting their lives.”

A rural setting

The Maucks lived in a well-kept rambler on a private gravel road in an area checkered by horse ranches and small farms with stunning views of Mt. Rainier. On a recent afternoon there was no one inside the home, but the lights were on. A sheet of plywood had been nailed across the front door. A cast-iron chimenea sat on the front lawn. Firewood was stacked on one side of the house.

The nearest occupied house was more than 100 yards away. The road bends into a cluster of small homes and trailers. Tavares moved into one of those trailers with his bride, Jennifer Freitas Tavares, 37, in July.

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Tavares had met his wife through an online matchmaking service, Inmate.com. In a 2005 posting, Tavares described himself as a “6-foot, 235-pound Albino gorilla with over 40 real nice tattoos.” He added, “Can I get a ‘lil bit of love from a lonely female?”

At the time of that posting, Tavares was into the last stretch of a 17-to-20-year sentence for murdering his mother, Ann, 46, in 1991. Tavares, then 25, was living in her home and the two had gotten into an argument. Tavares stabbed her multiple times. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Prison officials tried to keep Tavares in prison. Prosecutors filed assault charges against him stemming from two incidents involving prison guards. Had he been convicted, Tavares could have spent 10 more years in prison. The prosecutors sought a high bail -- $50,000 cash for each charge -- and a district court judge granted it. But Tavares appealed the bail and, on July 16, Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman released him, despite warnings by Assistant Dist. Atty. William Loughlin.

“He obviously has a history of violence, your honor,” said Loughlin, according to court transcripts. “He committed crimes of violence while he was even serving [time for] a crime of violence.”

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But Tuttman reversed the bail decision, declined the use of electronic surveillance and released Tavares on his own recognizance, stipulating that he get a job (Tavares is a certified welder) and contact the probation department three times a week.

And then he was gone

A week later, Tavares skipped a mandatory court hearing and boarded a plane to Washington to live with Jennifer. Pierce County records show they were married July 30.

In August, Massachusetts State Police and local FBI officials contacted their counterparts in Washington, requesting that they determine whether Tavares was engaged in white-supremacist or criminal activities, said Robbie Burroughs of the FBI in Seattle.

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Washington authorities were instructed not to make contact with Tavares. Although there were warrants for his arrest in Massachusetts, they did not authorize extradition.

Washington State Police sent an officer to Graham, but the officer never found Tavares.

On Nov. 17, Jennifer Tavares’ brother noticed the Maucks’ front door had been kicked in. He went inside and discovered their bodies on the floor.

Tavares was arrested shortly afterward. According to the charging papers, Tavares first denied any involvement, but when police confronted him with evidence of a bloody palm print and shoe markings that matched his, Tavares confessed.

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He said that he had gone to the Maucks’ home about 7 a.m. to collect a $50 debt from Brian Mauck.

Troyer, of the Sheriff’s Department, said it was more likely that Tavares tried to burglarize the house and was caught.

Tavares said Brian Mauck called him a name. Tavares said he then pulled out a .22-caliber handgun, covered the muzzle with a towel and shot him in the face. Beverly Mauck tried to flee, said Tavares, but he caught her by the hair and shot her in the head. Each was shot three times.

Charging papers then state that Tavares “dragged her body to where her husband was lying, placed her body over his and covered them both with a blanket because he ‘respected them.’ ”

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Tavares was being held the Pierce County Jail as prosecutors decided whether to seek the death penalty

Her judgment criticized

Two days after the killings, Romney made a scheduled campaign stop in Seattle. The former governor, who had appointed Tuttman last year, said she “showed an inexplicable lack of good judgment.”

Giuliani, his rival, used the double-slaying to illustrate Romney’s purported incompetence in dealing with violent crime.

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Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said the Mauck family had “every right to question a system that allowed a violent offender to re-enter society when the ability existed to keep him behind bars.”

Tuttman has been silent, but the chief justice of the Worcester Superior Court, Barbara Rouse, said in a statement last week that Tuttman was “living every judge’s nightmare.”

Friends and family of the Maucks have been ambivalent about the political exchanges. Slater, Beverly Mauck’s father, said it bothered him that “some people are making a game out of this terrible tragedy.”

On the other hand, Slater said, “the judicial system is not right and has to be fixed. A person with that kind of history should not be allowed to go out and destroy two people who were living a good life.”

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tomas .alex.tizon@latimes.com

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Times researcher Stuart Glascock contributed to this report.


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