The family of a pregnant Mountlake Terrace woman allegedly beaten to death in front of her toddler daughter by a mentally ill felon last year has filed a claim for $18 million against the state Department of Corrections, contending the agency failed to act on the man’s repeated probation violations before the attack.
Christopher Yacono, who had been deemed a “high violent” offender before he allegedly attacked Marta Haile in 2018, should have been incarcerated at the time for repeatedly violating the conditions of his release for felony cyberstalking and arson convictions, according to the tort claim filed this week on behalf of Haile’s spouse, her two children and her parents.
The claim contends that despite Yacono’s poor record of compliance with his probation and signs that his mental health was deteriorating, his probation officer failed to follow agency policies requiring Yacono be taken into custody and face a mandatory incarceration hearing.
“We’re going to fight hard for this family because they lost both a mother and an unborn baby,” said attorney Lincoln Beauregard, who is representing the family with lawyer Evan Fuller.
In an email Friday, DOC spokeswoman Karen Takacs said the agency doesn’t comment on matters pending litigation.
“The Department’s sympathy goes out to the family,” her email added.
Yacono, 30, of Arlington, has pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder. He has been held in the Snohomish County jail since last year in lieu of $1 million bail. His next court hearing is set for September.
Jennifer Bartlett, Yacono’s public defender, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
According to charging papers, Mountlake Terrace police responding to a 911 call on April 16, 2018, found Yacono holding a beer on the front lawn of Haile’s home on 59th Place West. Inside, they found Haile, 31, badly beaten and with critical head injuries, and her 3-year-old daughter sobbing and hiding.
The charging papers allege Yacono, who didn’t know Haile, had come to the neighborhood to retrieve a phone from his girlfriend’s house. Prosecutors contend he kicked in Haile’s front door, then slammed her head into a wall and against the floor, before beating her with a cooking pot. Yacono then grabbed a beer out of Haile’s fridge and left the home.
Haile suffered brain injuries, slipped into a coma and soon was declared brain dead. She was taken off life support about two weeks after the assault.
Yacono was earlier convicted of felony cyberstalking and arson. In June 2016, Yacono kicked down the door of a former roommate’s Lynnwood apartment, vandalized the residence and set the man’s mattress on fire, according to court records. He later texted his roommate and threatened to kill him, the records say.
Yacono was arrested and sent to Western State Hospital, where he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, but found competent to stand trial. He pleaded guilty to arson and cyberstalking in April 2017 and received a two-year prison sentence — below the standard range due to his mental health issues, court records say. He also received three years of probation.
The family’s tort claim says Yacono was released from prison on Oct. 31, 2017, and placed under DOC supervision. His “non-compliant behavior immediately began to manifest and his mental health started to deteriorate,” the claim states, with Yacono frequently violating his court-ordered and DOC-mandated probation requirements.
Corrections department records obtained by the family’s lawyers detail that Yacono had “unequivocally violated the conditions of his supervision on at least five occasions” by failing drug tests, missing mental-health and chemical-dependency treatment sessions, and committing other violations, from November 21, 2017, through March 13, 2018, the claim states.
Then, on April 11, 2018 — five days before the attack on Haile — Yacono’s probation officer documented several additional violations, including multiple missed treatment sessions, blown curfews and other breaches of his release conditions that should have triggered a mandatory incarceration hearing under DOC policies, the claim states.
Yacono’s probation officer had just returned from a vacation, “which likely contributed to his grossly negligent inaction that directly … resulted in the brutal murder of Marta Haile and her 18-week-old fetus,” the claim states.
Dan Hall, a former DOC employee and probation officer who is serving as an expert witness for the family, contended in a declaration accompanying the claim that “a reasonably prudent Community Corrections Officer should have incarcerated” Yacono before the attack.
“In neglecting to take these necessary actions,” Hall’s declaration added, “DOC failed to exercise even slight care in its supervision of Yacono.”
Under state law, a public agency has 60 days to review and decide whether to approve a tort claim. If the review period lapses without action, or if the agency denies the claim, Haile’s family can sue.
News researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.