The ex-wife and mother of a Salt Lake father and son who were stabbed to death last month is furious over the recent release of one of the men charged with the killings.
"I am frustrated and I am mad!" said Jodi Tillett, of Salt Lake City. "My son and ex-husband were brutally stabbed. We're not talking an impulse stabbing, we're talking hatred."Tillett has phoned senators, the mayor and national TV shows, saying she does not understand how the justice system could let a man charged with two counts of capital homicide, a crime punishable by death, post bail and go home.
"A lot of people would rather I keep my mouth shut and stay the grieving mother . . . but I don't intend to do that!" she said.
Last week, Richard Gabaldon, 19, was released from the Salt Lake County Jail after his mother and a grandparent posted a $100,000 property bond, using two homes. Prosecutors had asked that he and Fred A. Alvarez, also charged with two counts of first-degree murder, be held without bail.
But during a routine appearance to schedule a preliminary hearing, 3rd Circuit Judge Robin Reese granted a motion by defense attorney Andy Valdez to allow Gabaldon to be released on bail under the supervision of Pretrial Services.
Although there have been a few capital homicide defendants that have been released on bail, there have been fewer - if any - cases in which a defendant has been released before a preliminary hearing was held, where testimony and other evidence are to be presented.
"I've never heard of such a ruling. Not on a capital homicide case," said Bud Ellett, chief of the justice division of the Salt Lake County attorney's office. "It's highly unusual on that kind of case with that kind of circumstances . . . but that's the discretion of the court."
Donald Newingham, 39, and his son Shane Newingham, 19, were stabbed to death June 9 at a west-side party. Police said Donald Newingham and a third person were denied entry at the door by Gabaldon and Alvarez. As the two retreated to the car, a fight involving about 20 people ensued and the Newinghams were stabbed to death.
Valdez said that while the decision may be unprecedented, the evidence presented to the judge through police reports shows that Gabaldon "aided and abetted" and was not the one who stabbed the victims. He said Gabaldon had no prior record, has lived here all his life and is not likely to jump bail.
"I have no worry about him being a threat to society for that matter," he said.
But Tillett does not agree. "I was told to view it as, `He didn't do the knifing himself so why should he be in jail?' But he's just as much (responsible) as the person who did the stabbing," she said. "He doesn't belong on the street."
"When Don went down on the ground, my son (who had been in the car) went crazy and started whaling on all of them," Tillett said.
Witnesses told detectives they saw Alvarez stab one of the victims and also saw Gabaldon, Anthony DeHerrera and Manual Alvarez beating the two men, according to a search warrant filed in 3rd Circuit Court.
"When you've got 14 or 15 against you, the odds aren't good. They had absolutely no chance," she said.
Tillett said she is amazed that a group could watch two people get stabbed to death and said she is particularly fearful at the increasing number of similar incidents that have recently occurred. Although she praises Salt Lake police, she believes more needs to be done.
"(Murder) is beginning to become almost a daily thing . . . and there's going to be more of it if it's not stopped. More people need to get involved," she said. "Let's at least hold onto these guys until we're absolutely sure they're not guilty."
Tillett said she admits her son and ex-husband should not have gone to a drinking party that night. "That's true. What was a 39-year-old man going to a party with kids? Don did a lot with his kids. I don't know why he did what he did," she said.
"But they didn't ask to be killed."