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Margaret Ann KASTANIS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: November 17, 1991
Date of birth: April 17, 1952
Victims profile: Her three children, Christine, 6, Clinton, 9, and Melissa, 11
Method of murder: Bludgeoned with a hammer - Stabbing with knife
Location: West Jordan, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA
Status: Committed suicide by stabbing herself in the heart the same day
 
 
 
 
 
 

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 Prozac treatment.

 
 

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 body).

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.

FindaGrave.com

 
 

Jury members say tears flowed as they examined the evidence

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, just emotion."

"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 facts."

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 jury."

"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'. "

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Old job and warm welcome await Kastanis

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 highway department.

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 of support.

 
 

Kastanis was time bomb that exploded, jurors told

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 lost it."

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 it."

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 it."

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 and suicidal.

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 scrambled.

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 eyelashes.

"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 legally committed.

"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 himself.

"She was concerned about the future, is that right?" asked prosecutor John Spikes.

"She seemed to be," he replied.

 
 

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 out."

"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 anything.

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 1993?"

 
 

Family says wife of Kastanis underwent personality change

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, witnesses testified.

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 knowing."

Eventually, Margaret 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 family's life."

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 year.' "

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 blows.

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 "minitrials."

 
 

Suicide unlikely in Kastanis case, expert says

By Brian West - DeseretNews.com

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 testified.

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 explained.

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 Kastanis

By Mike Carter - DeseretNews.com

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 said.

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.

Nine-year-old Clint 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 homicides.

"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 it."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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