November 17, 1991:
West Jordan, UT: Margaret Kastanis: Used a knife and hammer to
kill her three children then stabbed herself to death, after extended
The Sam Kastanis Case
On the morning of November 17, 1991, Sam Kastanis
placed a 911 call, telling police that his son was bleeding, his
fingers chopped off. Arriving at the scene, police discovered Kastanis
in the midst of a grisly scene: three children and Sam's wife Margaret
had been stabbed to death. Although Sam insisted he was innocent, he
was arrested and brought to trial.
The evidence seemed overwhelming until Dr. Joseph
Burton examined the bodies, and determined that based on the
difference in wounds found on the children and the cuts on Margaret's
hand, the most likely scenario was that Margaret (who had a history of
mental problems) had killed her children (injuring herself with the
knife in the process) and then committed suicide by stabbing herself
in the heart (she was the only one who did not have defensive wounds
on her body).
Margaret Kastanis was also the only one with the blood
of all three children on her. As a result of Dr. Burton's findings,
Sam Kastanis was acquitted.
Margaret Ann Jenkins Kastanis
Birth: Apr. 17, 1952
Death: Nov. 17, 1991
Daughter of Orrin L. and Francis May Jenkins; married Sam George
Kastanis. Margaret and her three children were murdered in their home.
The evidence against Sam seemed overwhelming until Dr. Joseph Burton
examined the bodies, and determined that based on the difference in
wounds found on the children and the cuts on Margaret's hand, the most
likely scenario was that Margaret (who had a history of mental
problems) had killed her children (injuring herself with the knife in
the process) and then committed suicide by stabbing herself in the
heart (she was the only one who did not have defensive wounds on her
Margaret Kastanis was also the only one with the blood of all three
children on her T-shirt. As a result of Dr. Burton's findings, Sam
Kastanis was acquitted.
Jury members say tears flowed as they examined
By Steve Fidel - DeseretNews.com
July 15, 1993
Jurors in the Kastanis case
said the minutes ticked by slowly during the first few hours of their
deliberation Wednesday morning.
The jury room was filled
with emotion. The case was now theirs after 21 days of testimony.
Members of the six-woman, six-man panel were able to ask each other
questions about elements of the trial for the first time."Being asked
to judge in this situation was a very emotional experience," said
juror Trent Oliphant. "It wasn't necessarily only glad or sadness,
"We went over all of the
evidence very, very carefully," said juror Joyce Gardner. "The morning
went slowly," she said. "There were a lot of tears, and we started to
work through those."
And there were "some things
that kept coming up" during the jury's deliberations - things they
wanted to know but hadn't been told in court, she said.
Sam Kastanis was the one on
trial. But thoughts kept turning to Margaret Kastanis and Sam's claim
that his wife killed the couple's three children and then stabbed
herself to death. She was mentally ill and had talked of suicide, Sam
and Margaret's family members testified.
"We had to keep reminding
ourselves that Margaret Kastanis was not on trial," Oliphant said.
Jurors began their
deliberations at 9 a.m. and first took positions in the early
afternoon. "There were two that were indecisive. All others voted for
not guilty," said jury foreman Ross Kirkley.
By a few minutes after 5
p.m., the jurors were back in the courtroom, most of them in tears,
announcing their verdict: Sam Kastanis did not kill his wife or his
children. The jury believed his testimony that Margaret had done all
of the killing.
"We feel that Mr. Kastanis
was innocent," the jury foreman said outside the courtroom after the
marathon trial ended. "I don't think at any point in the trial they
could prove to me otherwise."
Sam never deviated from his
story that he had been out in the garage drinking coffee and doodling
with numbers on a note pad and then found everyone dead when he
returned to the house.
"I looked at Sam eye to eye.
We took a very hard look at the evidence . . . There was no evidence
to show he was involved in this at all," Kirkley said.
Now that he knows what the
work of a juror is like, Oliphant says he will never second-guess the
verdict of another jury. "I used to think I could have an opinion," he
said of the Rodney King trial. "But I wasn't there. I didn't have all
The jurors interviewed by
the Deseret News said they were impressed with the work of Kastanis'
defense attorney, Ron Yengich. And while the jurors were not critical
of prosecutors Kent Morgan or John Spikes' handling the case, they
were critical of West Jordan police officers who investigated the case
and prosecution witnesses who participated in the trial.
"We got disgusted at times.
Not with Mr. Morgan himself but with the whole case," Oliphant said.
"The police had their minds
pretty much made up from the beginning that Sam had done the
killings," Gardner said.
They were also critical of
the state's star witness, Oregon blood-spatter expert Rod Englert, and
a computer-generated video re-enactment of the crime scene that
followed Englert's theory about what happened the day Margaret and her
three children died in the family's West Jordan home.
Englert was "too much of a
showman," Gardner said. "It bugged us how he kept playing to the
"The personal feelings among
the jurors about Mr. Englert was 'Give me a break,' " Oliphant said.
"He was too confident of himself. He said he was 110 percent sure" of
his findings. "All other witnesses opened up for another possibility."
And of the video
re-enactment, a first in a Utah criminal case: "Every single juror
hated the video," Oliphant said. "It was very dangerous. I'm not
ruling it out in all cases but in this case because it was just one
person's opinion" of what happened. Oliphant concluded the video added
no weight to Englert's testimony from the stand.
"The tape was a waste of
taxpayers' money," Kirkley said. "It was all speculative."
Gardner said she is looking
forward to having a break from the rigors of the trial but has been
saving her newspapers and wants to read back over the stories to see
how the media reacted to the testimony each day.
Kirkley and Oliphant said
they not only watched Kastanis during the trial but watched the
reporters who were in the courtroom each day and are anxious, as well,
to see how reporters viewed the proceedings.
Oliphant left the courthouse
with two messages. "I would tell Sam that I love you and that I feel
for you," he said. "The state will need to change the death
certificate for Margaret Kastanis from 'homicide' to 'suicide'. "
Old job and warm welcome
Sam Kastanis will get his
old job back with Salt Lake County, "and we're glad to have him,"
Public Works Director Lonnie Johnson said Thursday.
Johnson said Kastanis has
asked for another week or two off to get settled following his long
ordeal but then intends to return to work. Johnson and Kastanis met
over breakfast Thursday morning to discuss the matter.
Kastanis quit his job after
he was charged with the murder of his family in order to draw from his
retirement pay to cover legal fees.
Johnson said Kastanis will
be reinstated at his old position as heavy equipment operator for the
According to Johnson,
Kastanis is liked and respected by his co-workers and supervisors and
will be warmly welcomed. "He has a lot of friends out there, and a lot
Kastanis was time bomb that exploded, jurors
By Brian West - DeseretNews.com
July 14, 1993
A prosecutor said there was
a "time bomb of stress" inside Sam Kastanis that exploded on Nov. 17,
1991, resulting in the brutal slayings of his wife and three children.
Kent Morgan told jurors to
ignore the appeals for emotion and speculation and base their verdict
on the evidence found inside the house where the killings occurred.
But defense attorney Ron Yengich said there is no evidence to convict
Kastanis of four counts of capital murder and encouraged the jury to
send that message to the government. The evidence is clear that a
depressed and psychotic Margaret Kastanis killed the children and then
turned the knife on herself, he said.
"I'm not here to tell you
Margaret Kastanis is a bad person or was. I'm here to tell you she
The six-man, six-woman jury
began deliberations Wednesday morning after the attorneys delivered
their closing arguments late Tuesday.
Yengich said he had waited
his entire life for the opportunity to stand before the jury and
present this particular defense. "I have never been prouder to call
myself a criminal defense attorney than I am today, representing this
man," he said.
"These people speak to you
as your government," he said of the prosecution. "A government with
the power of oppression that forsakes its duty to do the right thing
and look at all of the evidence."
Yengich said investigators
ignored crucial evidence about the "disease that ate away at Margaret
Kastanis." Several friends and family members testified she was
mentally ill and suicidal, and some said she even spoke of taking her
children with her. Yengich said such testimony alone creates a
reasonable doubt that Kastanis is guilty.
"If you read those
statements and consider them, you can throw everything else out the
window," he said.
But Morgan said the evidence
points to Sam Kastanis, not his wife. Much of the case came from
blood-spatter expert Rod Englert, who analyzed the blood located
throughout the house and on the family's clothing and other evidence
to conclude Kastanis killed his family.
Morgan said the way the
victims were "brutally mutilated" shows the slayings were a "product
of rage" and not a "product of psychosis."
Kastanis served in Vietnam
and may have suffered post traumatic stress disorder, Morgan said,
even though Kastanis repaired radios and wasn't in combat.
The prosecutor said Kastanis
was a "time bomb of stress" because of financial struggles, the
purchase of a new home, his wife's depression and mental illness, and
the increase in family responsibilities he undertook because of that.
"It went tick, tick, tick
and exploded. He saw the opportunity and could not control himself,"
Morgan said. "He acted in a rage. He killed his children and killed
his wife. He tried to make it look like Margaret Kastanis had done
Morgan said Kastanis staged
the crime scene by wiping the knife and hammer used in the slayings.
The weapons were also found lying parallel to each other on the floor
by Margaret's body and couldn't have landed that way from falling out
of Margaret's hand as she died.
"Do you believe in magic or
do you believe in science?" Morgan said.
Yengich said the
prosecution's stress theory is unreasonable. "People don't just flip
out. This is not Hollywood."
Margaret Kastanis had asked
her husband for a divorce because she felt she was an unfit mother and
wife and was holding her family back. "If he wants out, ladies and
gentleman, he's got a straight (invitation) out of the house in West
Jordan and he can take the kids with him," Yengich said.
In addition, the couple had
just purchased a new home after selling their house, the children were
scheduled to return to school the next day after a small vacation and
Kastanis planned to return to work the next day after taking a week
off. "The stress was over with for this man."
Yengich said Morgan's
references to post traumatic stress disorder was a sign of
desperation. "That's mayday cries from a sinking ship," he said.
Morgan reminded jurors of
the testimony of assistant medical examiner Edward Leis, who ruled
Margaret's death a homicide. The theory that Margaret received wounds
on both of her hands because they slipped across the blade of the
knife as she attacked the children "borders on impossible," said
Morgan. He also questioned how Margaret could stab herself four times
to the heart.
"The scenario as I look at
it gets extremely close to magic to me," he said. "That defendant
sitting over there killed his family, and he should not get away with
But Yengich said even the
state's witnesses who testified the wounds on Margaret's hands are
defensive could not rule out the possibility they could be offensive
nor could they rule out suicide as a possibility.
"I give my adversaries an A
for effort, but this man is innocent. He's innocent of these
tragedies. Put this case to rest," he said.
Yengich then pointed to
Margaret's parents and other family members who have steadfastly
supported him. "Let their daughter and their grandchildren rest. Let
them rest in peace," he told the jury.
"Once in this case, come
back and tell the state of Utah - not with hatred or anger - they're
wrong," he said.
"Give them eight words -
`not guilty' four times."
Margaret Kastanis called psychotic
By Brian West - DeseretNews.com
July 9, 1993
Defense witnesses for Sam
Kastanis continued Thursday to paint his wife as troubled, psychotic
Five months before the
deaths of Margaret Kastanis and her three children, she began seeing a
psychologist to receive help for stress, self-esteem and depression,
psychologist Kimberly Walsh testified. The 39-year-old West Jordan
mother "had a number of odd beliefs and odd thoughts," Walsh said. She
was later diagnosed as suffering from what the psychologist called
"schizo-typao disorder," a mental illness that could be characterized
as a precursor to schizophrenia.
Besides talking about
killing herself, Margaret Kastanis was paranoid, obsessive and
socially isolated. She'd see something out of the corner of her eye
and would believe someone was sneaking around the house. She believed
her house was bugged and her conversations from pay phones were
When she spoke, "she went on
and on about all kinds of things, went from one topic to another," the
psychologist explained. She wore a large beehive hairdo and false
"She was extremely paranoid
about her relationship with a neighbor woman."
Margaret Kastanis believed
there was a device implanted inside her brain that allowed the
neighbor named Heidi to send her messages in Morse code. She worried
Heidi would kill her and her family, Walsh said.
"She also expressed to me
she felt she was the cause of family difficulties because she wasn't
doing a good job as wife and mother," Walsh testified. "She expressed
things to me like she felt she would be better off dead or preferred
not to go on living."
Sam Kastanis, charged with
four counts of capital murder, insists it was his mentally ill wife
who killed the children and then herself on Nov. 17, 1991.
The month before, the
psychologist said, Margaret Kastanis' condition deteriorated to the
point that Walsh felt the woman was actively suicidal and pushed to
have her involuntarily admitted to University Hospital's psychiatric
unit. Sam Kastanis took his wife to the hospital on Oct. 17, 1991 but
they did not admit her.
Psychiatric nurse Jean
Bramble said Margaret Kastanis ultimately decided not to be admitted
because she was unwilling to use family funds to cover expenses that
their insurance would not cover. She did not meet the criteria to be
"Margaret said she thought
about suicide, but Margaret did not have a specific plan or intent for
suicide at that time," Bramble said.
Walsh said she met with
Margaret Kastanis the next day. The woman told her psychologist that
she was considering asking her mother to rear her children because she
wasn't up to it. She again described receiving messages in the brain
device. "She was hearing what sounded like mocking, snoring noises."
The next week, Walsh said
Margaret Kastanis appeared to have improved. "She denied to me she
would kill herself, saying her LDS beliefs prohibited her from taking
her own life."
But on Oct. 29, Margaret
Kastanis had taken another downfall. On Nov. 4, she phoned Walsh and
said she wanted to discontinue her therapy. "She said she felt
overwhelmed and out of control," Walsh said. "I literally begged her
not to drop out of treatment."
"Did you have any indication
through your last conversation with her that Margaret Kastanis posed a
danger to anyone but herself?" asked prosecutor Kent Morgan.
"No," she replied.
Walsh also said that during
the 20 sessions with Margaret Kastanis, she always spoke of her
husband in positive terms. "She indicated she was still very much in
love with him, that it was a supportive, loving relationship."
Pam Anderson, a friend and
Margaret Kastanis' Relief Society president in her LDS ward, testified
that all Margaret Kastanis would talk about during the last months of
her life was Heidi. She particularly worried because she felt she'd
violated the neighbor's confidence by talking to Anderson about her.
"(Margaret) thought she'd
broke a covenant and that meant she wasn't worthy to pray or read the
scriptures . . .," Anderson said. "She didn't know how she could go
on. She didn't know how her children could live without her or how she
could live without her children."
Her husband, real estate
agent Patrick Anderson, said he sold the Kastanis home at their
request, helping them locate a new one. Others testified that Margaret
Kastanis wanted to move to get away from Heidi.
The night before the deaths,
Anderson said he was at the Kastanis home finalizing the purchase of
their new home, which Margaret Kastanis had never seen. Anderson said
Margaret Kastanis was making sandwiches for the children and helped
sign the documents but seemed "very empty" and distant.
"I just felt concerned and
wondered why she wasn't happy or excited," he said.
Margaret Kastanis also
insisted that Anderson retrieve and, in her presence, tear up a
previous offer the family had made on another home. Her insistence
bothered him because he felt she did not trust him to tear it up later
"She was concerned about the
future, is that right?" asked prosecutor John Spikes.
"She seemed to be," he
Kastanis trial focuses on
single hair strand
By Brian West - DeseretNews.com
June 26, 1993
At least 19 single strands
of hair were located in the bloodied hands of Margaret Kastanis. But
one was different from all the others.
That single hair came from
Sam Kastanis and appeared to have been pulled from his head,
criminalist Robert Brinkman testified Friday.Prosecutors believe that
Margaret Kastanis pulled the hair from her husband's head before she
lost her struggle with him on Nov. 17, 1991. They believe the hair
helps prove that Sam Kastanis, 45, killed his wife and three children.
But the defense, which
believes a suicidal Margaret Kastanis killed the children and then
herself, questioned why the hair sample had been overlooked for more
than a year and implied that Brinkman's testimony may not be truthful.
Brinkman said he first
examined the hairs from Margaret's hands just three days after the
slayings. He was asked to compare them with the sample from Sam
Kastanis's head. He visually compared the samples, still in bags, and
determined that they did not match Sam Kastanis's hair.
"Those were my findings at
that point," he said. "It was a preliminary investigation."
But 141/2 months later,
Brink-man came to the opposite conclusion. He said investigators asked
him to make further comparisons, which he made on Feb. 9, 1993. This
time, he mounted the hairs onto slides. But he focused his tests on
one hair that was different from the others.
All of the other 18 hairs
from Margaret's hands appeared to have been cut on both ends and were
determined to have come from 11-year-old Melissa Kastanis. Neither
attorney offered any possible explanations about the cut hairs, but
prosecutors have accused Sam Kastanis of altering clues to divert
blame from him to his dead wife.
Only one hair had a root.
Brinkman said he compared this hair with hair from the other Kastanis
family members before comparing it with hair from Sam Kastanis and
making the match.
"I believe to a high degree
of probability that the hair has a common origin" to Sam Kastanis,
Brinkman told the jury. He said he hadn't noticed the hair during his
initial examination more than a year earlier "because the color
differences were subtle enough that the hair to my eye didn't stand
"Did you find it odd at all
that you were asked to perform these tests again some months later?"
asked defense attorney Ron Yen-gich.
"No," Brinkman replied,
explaining that he understood further tests would be requested.
Brinkman said there are "a
multitude of other ways" hair can be pulled from a head. He agreed
with Yengich that hair can be snagged in a fingernail or snagged while
playing with children. The hair could also be left on a parka or a rug
and later picked up, he said.
Yengich asked Brinkman if
he'd ever told students he taught at Salt Lake Community College "that
a well-stuck-to lie is as good as the truth."
"No, sir. Not in that
context," Brinkman replied. He said he made such a statement when
students gave him "flimsy" excuses for not doing homework.
"It was a type of metaphor
to chastise them for making up such a hokey story," Brinkman said. He
explained that he also used the phrase to describe the "unfortunate
side of this profession that some people are guns for hire and will
say anything they're paid to."
Yengich also questioned why
he had not analyzed fingernail scrapings from the victims. Brinkman
said he analyzed the scrapings and told West Jordan police he'd
located fibers, but no one asked him to compare the fibers with
In May, Yengich implied that
prosecutors may have manipulated the evidence, but made no such
implications before the jury Friday.
During a September
preliminary hearing, Yengich questioned why tests had not been
performed on the hairs found in Margaret's hands. "After we made a big
deal about it . . . all of a sudden 14 months later we have a single
full hair that he didn't observe (before) and now he does observe,"
Yen-gich said. "It wasn't there in 1991. How could it be there in
Family says wife of Kastanis underwent
By Brian West - DeseretNews.com
May 19, 1993
While prosecutors continued
to present evidence that Sam Kas-tanis killed his wife and three
children, friends and family members gave compelling testimony Tuesday
that his wife may have been the perpetrator.
The testimony came during
the first day of a bond hearing to determine if Kastanis should be
released from jail before his capital-murder trial begins June 14.
Margaret Kastanis underwent a dramatic personality change during the
last eight months of her life, her parents, sister and two neighbors
testified. Margaret Kastanis was suicidal and talked of divorcing her
husband because she felt she was an unfit mother and wife.
Margaret Kastanis' downfall
began when she befriended a neighbor who has multiple personalities,
Pam Anderson, a friend and
the Relief Society president in Kastanis' LDS ward, discouraged
Margaret Kastanis from getting involved with the neighbor because of
the woman's emotional problems. But before long, the two women got to
be "very, very good friends," Anderson said.
But Anderson said both women
eventually discussed severing their relationship because they realized
neither one was good for the other.
"That person had basically
taken over her life at that point," Marian Griffiths said of her
sister. "She couldn't make a move, she felt, without this person
Kastanis began acting paranoid and believed her house was being
watched and her phone bugged.
"She was afraid of (the
neighbor's) multiple personalities and what those multiple
personalities were capable of," Anderson said. "She was afraid for her
Griffiths said her sister
told her, " `All I tried to do is help her, and how can this turn out
so bad?' and `I'm probably not going to make it through the end of the
The Kastanis family sold
their house and planned to move because of the neighbor, Margaret
Kastanis' mother testified.
Margaret Kastanis talked
with Anderson about committing suicide and discussed divorcing her
husband because she felt inadequate as a mother and wife. "She said,
`I love Sam, and he deserves better,' " Griffiths said.
"She wanted to be the best
at church. She wanted to care for all her neighbors. She wanted to do
it all" but couldn't, Griffiths added.
The witnesses all said that
throughout it all, Sam Kastanis remained loving and patient with her.
Frances Jenkins said she
spoke with her daughter the night before she and her three children
were killed. "I never heard a voice so flat. She said there's nothing
more to say and that's it. That's the only thing she said."
Sam Kastanis said he was
outside in an unattached garage the morning of Nov. 17, 1991, when his
wife and three children were bludgeoned to death inside the house. He
says his wife must have killed the children, then herself.
Jenkins said her daughter
once woke her to tell her, " `You may have to raise these children,'
and I said, `Margaret, they need their mother.' " Jenkins also told
police that Margaret Kastanis said, "I can't leave the kids with you,
and I can't leave the kids with Sam and I can't go on."
But Anderson said Margaret
Kastanis once told her she didn't know how her kids could survive
without her or how she could survive without her children.
Blood-spatter expert Ron
Englert testified Tuesday that he has conducted additional tests since
the preliminary hearing in September and has gathered more evidence to
support his theory that Kastanis killed the victims.
Englert has testified that
bloody hand prints and blood spatters on the clothing of Sam Kastanis
prove he is the person who administered the deadly stabbings and
Third District Judge Dennis
Frederick will decide whether Kastanis should be released from the
jail on $125,000 bond until the trial on June 14. He was free for
three months, but a judge revoked the bail following a preliminary
hearing and sent him back to jail.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich
appealed the ruling to the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled Kastanis
should have had a bail hearing with an opportunity to cross-examine
witnesses. Now, however, attorneys fear bail hearings may become
Suicide unlikely in
Kastanis case, expert says
By Brian West -
September 10, 1992
Margaret Kastanis could have
plunged a knife into her chest four different times and killed herself
after bludgeoning her three children to death, Dr. Edward Leis
But such a theory, while
possible, is not very likely, the assistant medical examiner said.
Leis, however, did admit that other elements of the defense's theory
of a homicide-suicide are plausible even though he still believes it
was another person who stabbed Margaret Kastanis to death.
Sam Kastanis, charged with
four counts of capital murder, said his wife must have killed the
children and herself because she was sick, depressed and felt she was
a burden on the family.
Defense attorney Ron
Yengich, who believes prosecutors have ignored all theories except
those implicating his client, indicated Wednesday that two friends of
Margaret Kastanis told police she had talked about committing suicide
just one week before the slayings occurred on Nov. 17 in West Jordan.
Leis testified that Margaret
had several cuts on her hands that he believes are "defensive wounds."
Such cuts usually indicate the victim was trying to ward off a knife
attack. Nine of her fingers had been cut and all five digits on her
right hand were cut as though she may have grasped the blade of the
knife, he said.
During cross examination,
Yengich asked Leis if it was possible the cuts could be "offensive
wounds." He implied that, with Margaret as the attacker, the knife
could have sliced through her fingers after the blade hit the sternum
of 7-year-old Clinton Kastanis and her hand continued forward after
the bone stopped the knife.
Leis said the scenario was
possible, but more likely the wounds are defensive because two of
Margaret's fingers were cut to the bone.
The doctor also agreed with
Yengich that because one of Margaret's four stab wounds was mostly
superficial, it's possible it could be a "hesitation wound" - "a mark
where someone contemplating suicide first tests the waters," Yengich
Such evidence would also
support the suicide theory.
But Leis said it is more
likely that wound was the last of the four wounds inflicted, possibly
when she was close to being dead because there was little blood
associated with that wound.
The doctor also said that in
order to kill herself, Margaret's wrist would have had to be "flexed
backward steeply" in order to stab herself as the wound paths indicate
she was stabbed - another reason that suicide is unlikely.
Leis told Yengich he wasn't
aware two of Margaret's friends told officers Margaret had confided
that she felt she wasn't a good wife or mother and "wouldn't be around
much longer." But that knowledge would not change his opinion that she
didn't kill herself, Leis said.
However, Margaret's death
was different from those of the three children in that she was the
only one not bludgeoned with a hammer. Yengich implied that that
evidence also supports the suicide theory.
Third Circuit Judge Michael
Hutchings is expected to decide Friday or Monday if there's enough
evidence to order Kastanis to stand trial.
In-laws stick behind Sam
By Mike Carter -
March 24, 1992
Orren Jenkins is in no hurry
for police to arrest the killer of his daughter and three
grandchildren. When people rush, he says, they make mistakes. And an
error might put his son-in-law behind bars.
It's been more than four
months since Margaret Kastanis and her children, ages 6, 9 and 11,
were found slashed and bludgeoned to death in their West Jordan
home.Their 43-year-old husband and father, Sam Kastanis, was arrested
and later released by police who still believe he is the killer,
although no charges have been filed.
It is a conviction not
shared by the slain woman's parents or other family members. They
believe Sam's version: That he was tinkering in an outside work shed
while the killer chased his wife and children through the house with a
knife and club.
"We have no reason not to
believe him," the 66-year-old Jenkins said Monday. "He thought too
much of those children, Marg and us to do something like that.
"If he had a problem that
disturbed him that much, knowing him, he would have come to us," he
Kastanis lives with his
sister in White City, near Sandy, and goes daily to his job with Salt
Lake County public works while lawmen await forensic test results they
hope will prove him a killer.
While family and friends
find it impossible to believe him guilty, investigators find it
improbable that anyone else could have committed the brutal crimes.
On the morning of Nov. 17,
1991, rescue crews responding to a call of a child with a cut finger
found the 38-year-old Margaret Kastanis dead, huddled in a basement
bedroom with the bodies of her two daughters, 6-year-old Kristy and
11-year-old Melissa. The woman had been stabbed and the children
beaten and stabbed to death.
Kastanis, who suffered "multiple blunt and sharp force injuries to the
head," was found dead in an upstairs bathroom.
Sources close to the
investigation said Margaret Kastanis was chased through the house and
suffered deep cuts on her hands when she apparently tried to ward off
her attacker's blows.
Sam Kastanis, who was
sitting in the living room when crews arrived, said he was working in
his shop and heard nothing.
"We are following leads
every day," said West Jordan Police Chief Ken McGuire, but Kastanis
continues to head the suspect list. "Yeah, let's just say that,
philosophically, there haven't been any changes in our thinking."
What lawmen are waiting on
are fiber and blood samples and spatter evidence sent to the FBI
laboratory more than three months ago.
And what they hope the tests
will prove is that nobody other than Kastanis could have committed the
"We're kind of at their
mercy," said Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Bud Ellett.
Kastanis' attorney, Ron
Yengich, is critical of investigators continuing to implicate his
client without charging him.
"All I can say is we're
conducting an investigation of our own," he said.
The case has been
complicated because Kastanis lived in the home and helped rescue crews
with the victims, which would allow a defense lawyer to explain away
fingerprints, fibers and other evidence, police have said.
And attempts at
reconstructing the crime by following blood spatters through the home
have been hampered because all of the victims had the same blood type.
More detailed - and time-consuming - serological tests are being run.
McGuire said all this has
taken time, which is fine by him.
"It's given us a chance to
run our leads to the ground. There hasn't been quite the pressure
there was in the beginning," he said.
Jenkins finds the delay
comforting as well, although for other reasons.
The longer police take, he
believes, the more thorough the investigation and the greater chance
of discovering an unknown killer.
"As a family, we're not in a
hurry for a resolution," he said. "We feel the hard part is over. Marg
and the children are buried and the funeral is done."
What comes next - what
Jenkins calls "restitution" for the killer - will happen in its own
time. He acknowledges the end result might be the unimaginable - that
his son-in-law is guilty.
"But I can't maneuver the
pieces to make them fit the situation," he said. "We listen real close
when Sam talks, he's not a blabbermouth and when he says something
he's usually worth listening to.
"And he says he didn't do