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Originally published Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Graham couple's killer pleads guilty, gets life without parole

Confronting the man who killed her brother and his wife, Jennifer Heilbrun wished him a long life. "Life is short for most of us, but I...

Seattle Times staff reporter

TACOMA — Confronting the man who killed her brother and his wife, Jennifer Heilbrun wished him a long life.

"Life is short for most of us, but I hope yours is long and full of reflection," Heilbrun said in a packed Pierce County courtroom Friday as Daniel Tavares Jr. pleaded guilty to the slayings of Brian and Beverly Mauck and was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Tavares, 41, declined to speak at the hearing, but he wrote in his plea deal that he was "ashamed then and ashamed now" of what he had done. Tavares, an ex-convict, fatally shot the young couple in their Graham home Nov. 17 in a dispute over $50.

Heilbrun said the whirlwind resolution to the case, coming less than three months after the slayings, was "overwhelming."

But she, like other relatives, said she was elated it was over. Now they will have time to properly remember the joyful, fun-loving young couple who had been sweethearts since high school, shed their tears and try to move on, she said.

Heilbrun drew tears during the sentencing when she told Tavares that despite her hope that he recalls his victims' faces for the rest of his life, she forgave him.

"Today, sir, I forgive you, and may God have mercy on your soul," she said.

Tavares told investigators that he armed himself with a .22-caliber handgun when he kicked in the door of the Maucks' home at 7 a.m. to collect $50 he believed was owed him for a tattoo he was giving Brian Mauck. Pierce County prosecutors had charged Tavares with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the slaying of his neighbors, which could carry the death penalty if he had been convicted.

To escape the possibility of execution, Tavares agreed to plead guilty to the murder charges and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in exchange for the life sentence. He also gave up his right to appeal or challenge any part of his sentence, court documents outlined.

Tavares was released in June after serving 16 years in a Massachusetts prison for the 1991 stabbing death of his mother. An investigation after the Graham murders revealed that Massachusetts corrections officials could have kept Tavares behind bars for nearly a year longer had they filled out paperwork documenting his assaults on others in the prison.

Massachusetts authorities also failed to turn Tavares over to the Florida Department of Corrections on an outstanding warrant or to immediately notify Washington state law-enforcement officials when they learned he had moved to Graham, investigators found.

According to police, Tavares met a woman through an online inmate pen-pal service, married her upon his release and moved to Graham, where they lived in a trailer on property owned by her family.

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Jennifer Tavares, 37, was charged with one misdemeanor count of rendering criminal assistance for initially lying to police to protect her husband.

In court Friday, Beverly Mauck's mother, Karen Slater, described her 28-year-old daughter as the "candle" in their family who taught them "how to laugh." Her greatest regret was that she would never know the children her daughter and son-in-law hoped to bear. Karen Slater said the family may push for legislation that requires notification when a dangerous offender crosses state lines or moves into a neighborhood.

But that's not their first priority.

With all the court appearances, the family hasn't had the chance to grieve properly for Beverly and Brian, she said.

"We want to go over the photographs and remember how happy they were."

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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