The only way to get the state's attention is to go for its money, believes the husband and son-in-law of two women killed in a cabin near Coalville two years ago.
Rolf Tiede came away from the Coalville Courthouse Monday optimistic that a state judge will let him take his wrongful death suit against the state to trial.Tiede is suing the state over the Dec. 22, 1990, murder of his wife, Kaye, 51, and her mother, Beth Potts, 72, by two convicts who walked away from the Orange Street Community Center eight days earlier.
Von Taylor and Edward Deli have been convicted of the two murders. Taylor, the triggerman, was sentenced to die by lethal injection, while Deli was given life in prison.
But Tiede believes the Department of Corrections also caused the death of Potts and Kaye Tiede because officials failed to recapture the two men even though they knew where they were.
"We feel this could have been totally prevented," Tiede said. "But the state did nothing to protect us."
"If there is ever a case where justice requires the state to be accountable for its slovenly conduct, it is this case," attorney Allen Young told 3rd District Judge Frank Noel.
However, the state seeks to dismiss Tiede's suit, contending that Tiede can't sue the state under the Government Immunity Act.
"As harsh as that may seem, it's the law," Assistant Utah Attorney General Scott Call told Noel.
State law outlines several negligent acts the state can't be sued for. Two of them - assault and false arrest - apply to Tiede's suit, Call said. "Assault" and "false arrest" are the civil terms for murder and kidnapping, he said.
Not so, Young said. "The acts have a lot of the same elements, but they are very different. It isn't false arrest to be kidnapped and it isn't assault to be murdered."
"It doesn't cease to be an assault because the person you hit dies. It's still assault," Call countered.
The Legislature deliberately omitted murder from its list of negligent acts the state wasn't responsible for because murder is so serious the state had to be responsible, Young said.
"The law allows employees of the state to be negligent, to be sloppy. But at some point, the line has to be drawn," he said.
Noel instructed Call to prepare a written brief describing similar cases where the courts ruled the government was immune.
After the 45-minute hearing, Noel took Call's motion for dismissal under advisement.
Tiede's suit charges that Utah Department of Corrections officials were warned that Taylor, 25, and Deli, 21, were hiding near the Tiedes' cabin.
The suit says that Taylor called halfway house inmate Scott Manley the day of the murders and told him he was staying in the cabin and that the two planned to kill the Tiedes and kidnap at least one daughter.
After killing the two women, the men kidnapped Kaye Tiede's two daughters, Linae, then 20, and Tricia, then 16, but were captured after a shootout with police near Francis.
Tiede was shot twice in the head but survived.
The family is asking for monetary compensation for the death of Kaye Tiede and Potts to get the state's attention, Tiede told reporters after the hearing. "If you get in their pocketbook, you get their attention and maybe things will change," he said.
The state claims it had no responsibility to protect the Tiedes even though state officials knew they were in danger, he said. "I thought that was why we paid taxes. That's why we respect the law. It's there to protect us. We feel this could have been totally prevented. But they did nothing to protect us. Our biggest intent is to let the public know what the state has done. The money is totally secondary."
Family rebuilds its life
The bloodied cabin near Coalville has been refurbished.
Rolf Tiede, 53, has been married to a new wife for a year now. Linae Tiede, 21, married in April and lives in Billings, Mont. Tricia Tiede, 18, starts her freshman year at Brigham Young University this fall.
The Texas family members whose Christmastime horror grabbed Utah headlines are rebuilding their lives.
"We're all going on with the pieces that are left," Rolf Tiede said. But his family's lives were "permanently changed and tainted" when Edward Deli and Von Taylor confronted them Dec. 22, 1990, when the family returned to their cabin after Christmas shopping together.
"We are trying hard not to let these criminals have their victory and ruin our lives entirely," he said.
The family strives to enjoy the life's good things. "The cabin and this area are part of that," he said.
But the family, which includes Scott, 20, still struggles. "You go along fine for a few weeks, then one night you wake up and you're dealing with it all over again," Tiede said.