Relatives of Beverly and Brian Mauck say they're relieved to never again have to see Daniel Tavares Jr., nor hear his name. By agreeing to a...

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TACOMA — Relatives of Beverly and Brian Mauck say they’re relieved to never again have to see Daniel Tavares Jr., nor hear his name.

By agreeing to a deal that spares Tavares’ life in exchange for guilty pleas for killing the Maucks, Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne saved the victims’ families from the possibility of a long trial and again hearing details about the November slaying of the young Graham couple.

“We don’t have to relive this nightmare by looking at this criminal in court,” said Beverly Mauck’s mother, Karen Slater.

Horne announced Wednesday that he had agreed to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for guilty pleas from Tavares to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of being a felon in possession of a weapon. The guilty pleas would mean that Tavares would spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole or appeal, Horne said.

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Horne, speaking at a news conference in Tacoma, said that the families’ support for the idea, combined with the huge cost of prosecuting capital-punishment cases and the unlikeliness that Tavares would ever be executed even if convicted, factored heavily in his decision.

He also said Tavares’ willingness to step forward quickly and accept responsibility for the killings added weight to the deal.

“I’m elated,” said Brian Mauck’s sister, Jennifer Heilbrun. “This gives us an opportunity to close this very sad chapter of our lives and move forward.”

She said the idea of Tavares spending the remainder of his life in prison “to rot with [his] own demons is justice to me.”

Dino Sepe, who is representing Tavares, said there is a sense of relief with Tavares’ decision.

“It’s important that Mr. Tavares is willing to step to the plate here and accept responsibility for the actions he did and face the ultimate punishment, which is life in prison without parole,” Sepe said.

Tavares, 41, had been living in a trailer a few yards from the Maucks’ home when he became angry over a perceived slight and shot the newlyweds execution-style on Nov. 17, prosecutors said.

Tavares, who had been serving 16 years in a Massachusetts prison for the stabbing death of his mother in 1991, was erroneously released one year early from a maximum-security prison about five months before the Maucks’ murder. He was supposed to be released to the Florida Department of Corrections for an outstanding charge, but instead wound up living in Graham with a new wife whom he met through a prison pen-pals Web site.

Police and prosecutors alleged that Tavares went to the Maucks’ home around 7 a.m. to collect $50 he believed was owed him for a tattoo he was putting on Mauck’s back, according to relatives of the victims. Police said they believe Tavares could have killed the couple because he was insulted that Mauck didn’t like the tattoo and didn’t want to pay for it.

Charging papers say Tavares pulled out a. .22-caliber handgun and shot Mauck in the face, using a hand towel to muffle the sound. He then shot Mauck, 30, in the back of the head, according to charging papers.

Prosecutors said Beverly Mauck, 28, witnessed her husband’s death and was shot when she tried to flee.

Tavares’ wife, Jennifer Tavares, 37, was charged with one misdemeanor count of rendering criminal assistance for lying to authorities to protect her husband, prosecutors said.

Horne had predicted in 2003 that the state’s ability to prosecute capital punishment cases would be adversely affected by the plea deal in which King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng elected to take capital punishment off the table in exchange for information from convicted serial killer Gary L. Ridgway.

Horne agreed last year to not seek the death penalty against Terapon Dang Adhahn in exchange for information that led investigators to the body of 12-year-old Zina Linnik, who was abducted from her Tacoma home in July.

Relatives of the slain couple said they will now be free to look at the photos of the fun-loving, adventurous couple who had been sweethearts since their school days, without being haunted by Tavares or the court proceedings.

“They will never be forgotten,” said Heilbrun. “This will give us the chance to live the way they would’ve wanted us to: In the moment and happy.”

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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