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BACK IN THE FRESH AIR, KASTANIS MAKES PLANS

SHARE BACK IN THE FRESH AIR, KASTANIS MAKES PLANS

Sam Kastanis is making plans.

Soon he'll go back to his old job as a county employee after spending 10 months in the county jail. But first he wants to go fishing and get some sun.He'll eat steak and potatoes, but his first food request as a free man was for a hamburger and a milk- shake; he ate no ice cream while in jail.

And Ron Yengich, the attorney representing Kastanis in the murder charges he was cleared of Wednesday, has plans as well.

Yengich said he wants to see Kastanis reimbursed from the state for the defense-case costs that consumed all of Kastanis' money, including his retirement fund. The defense incurred $30,000 to $40,000 in fees above legal costs - $1,500 alone for copies of autopsy pictures taken by the medical examiner's office.

"The state of Utah ought to give that money back," Yengich said. He would not say he had plans to sue the state but did say he would work to get advance-payment practices for legal costs changed and has plans to talk to Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom about retrieving the cost of defending Kastanis.

Yengich said he did not know the total bill for the defense yet. Prosecutor Kent Morgan said prosecution costs approached $100,000, not including salaries.

Kastanis and Yengich talked to a flock of reporters Thursday at Yengich's downtown law office. The press conference took place on the patio outside; Kastanis has been enjoying his freedom after jail by avoiding the indoors.

Even on the ride from the jail Wednesday to his sister's home, "He said, `I don't want air conditioning. I want the windows down. I want fresh air,' " said his sister, Louise Rudelich.

Kastanis was asked how he feels, and how he thinks people will react to him after being accused in the violent death of his wife, Margaret, and his three children and after the lengthy trial that led to his acquittal.

"I know how I feel. If other people know, they know. If they don't know, they'll never know."

"I've lived in a place (where) you don't see the sun," he said. "It is a living hell. I don't have to go to hell. I've been there."

Perhaps Kastanis' best moments in the jail came while he was processed out Wednesday.

"The jail went crazy" when the television news announced the not-guilty verdicts, said one of Yengich's clients, who was talking to someone in the jail at the time.

"They went bananas. They couldn't wait for him to get back," Yengich said. "Those people understand what it's like to punish people for no good reason."

Kastanis said he will always remember what it was like to find his entire family dead. "I've got to live with what I found the rest of my life."

Kastanis said he was in the garage when the killings took place. But he believes he knows what happened inside. "There are six people who know exactly what happened in that house: Margaret knows, Melissa knows, Clint knows, Christine knows, the Lord knows and I know." He added as a postscript: "And now you know."

The West Jordan home his family lived in holds the best memories and the worst memories, he said. The house has been sold, and he doesn't know whether he will go back to that neighborhood again.

"I've got a new life to begin. I've got a new start. It's almost like Day One," he said.

Kastanis said he has no alternative to starting over but he does have help. "I have family and friends. I've got a job I can go back to."

In the meantime, he'll continue grieving the loss of his family. "Time is the key," he said. "I accept the fact that they are gone."

He said he has talked to his wife and children in his prayers and knows they are in a good place - and that they are being taken care of. "I've prayed. I've talked to Margaret. I've talked to the kids. They know and they understand," he said. "I just felt they supported me all the way through the trial."

The Margaret described in court was not the wife he knew but the shell of a person who had once existed, he said. "The Margaret I knew, when I first met her, wouldn't have done this. Never, never."

Kastanis said he is not bitter about what happened to him. But he is convinced police investigating the case "really walked in with a biased attitude - that's all there was to it."

Yengich said he had a feeling about Kastanis' innocence shortly after he took the case. Juror Trent Oliphant has said he grew to love Kastanis and feel sorry for him during the trial.

"Sam is a man without guile," Yengich said.

Kastanis said he lost faith in the press during the ordeal. His advice to reporters and the onlookers who watched him "like an animal in a zoo" was to "wait until you hear everything. Not just the first thing."

He said he always told the truth and knew, eventually, the truth would prevail. "Patience is the key. Truth is the door, and waiting is the answer."