The Donna Yaklich Story

Culture, Society, Politics, Society — By Mary Joah on August 10, 2008 at 6:44 am

December 1985 — Dennis Yaklich was gunned down in front of his Avondale home by brothers Charles, 16, and Edward, 25, Greenwell. They testified Donna Yaklich hired them to kill her husband — a Pueblo police narcotics officer — in exchange for $45,000 in insurance money.

There was never much doubt that she hired two brothers to kill her husband. But in court she said she did it because Dennis Yaklich was violent. She stated that because he was a police officer no one would help her and she hired the Greenwells to kill him because she feared for her life. Donna Yaklich claimed during her murder trial that Dennis Yaklich had abused her. Her story was featured in a 1994 made-for-TV movie starring Jaclyn Smith.

But its hard to sell “self defense” when the murder was clearly planned. If she had time to plan this out to do away with him she could have come up with other plans to extricate herself from the circumstances other than having to take his life.

However, the Yaklich jury apparently sympathized with her and in 1988 handed down a conspiracy conviction but acquitted her of murder. She was then sentenced to 40 years in prison by a Pueblo judge for her role in the slaying of Dennis Yaklich.

In 1993, Donna Yaklich unsuccessfully attempted to have her sentence reduced.

In October 2005 Donna Yaklich was given parole after serving only 18 years of her sentence. According to the February 5, 2006, Denver Post (p. 2C) Donna Yaklich was sent to the Arapahoe County Residential Center on February 3, 2006.

She is to meet the parole board again in July 2006. The community corrections board did not publicly state the reasons for releasing Yaklich to a halfway house.

After the parole hearing in October 2005 Dennis Yaklich’s daughter spoke openly about the decision. “It’s devastating,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “I don’t believe justice has prevailed. My father died at age 38. He was stripped of his opportunity to live life. He was prevented from raising his children, from seeing us grow up and accomplishing our goals.”

Fingering several snapshots of her father with her and her siblings, Vanessa said his murder didn’t have to happen. She said two months before her father’s murder, her stepmother told her that Dennis Yaklich had asked for a divorce but they were going to postpone the proceedings until after the holidays for the children’s sake.

Donna Yaklich had four stepchildren from Dennis Yaklich’s previous marriage and one biological son.

“She wasn’t in a marriage that she couldn’t get out of,” Vanessa said. “I never witnessed my father being physical with her. He was never abusive to me or my siblings.”

Vanessa said when Donna informed her of her father’s death, her stepmother showed no grief and no remorse. “When she came and woke me up to tell me about my dad, her face was red and flush. She was smiling and playing with my brother (Dennis Jr.),” she said. “She showed no remorse in her eyes.”

She added that days later at her father’s funeral, Donna slapped her for crying. “That’s the kind of person she was. She took a man’s life and then she wouldn’t even let his children grieve,” Vanessa said.

“His life was taken because he was going to divorce my step-mother and not because she was the victim of abuse.I never feared my father nor did I observe any abuse, whether it be psychological or physical, perpetrated by him. His demeanor was calm and loving; his words encouraging and supportive. I can honestly state my step-mother did not provide my siblings or myself with the same. She was harsh and condescending. I grew up being told on a regular basis that my father was ‘stupid’ because he ‘loved’ me. I can remember my step-mother shoving my head into the wall at age 4 as she pointed her finger in my face and told me, ‘Your mother killed herself because you’re a bad little girl.’ The stories go on and on…

Obviously, my father is not here to defend himself. Hence, I have taken this upon myself because I know the truth as well as the injustice that has been performed.My stepmother’s legal defense was paid for by my father’s life insurance proceeds and my family and I believe she profited from the made-for-television monstrosity. Most recently, her financial status has provided her with the ability to hire a media publicist.Both he and her high-priced attorney have manipulated a representative of the media who, in turn, placed political pressure on the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Department to re-open my mother’s death.

She passed away in 1977 and the autopsy, performed at the request of my father, determined her death to be the result of a potassium deficiency. The task force assigned to this case has failed to speak with her doctors, etc., to verify she was ill and under the close supervision of her medical doctor the last year of her death.Rather, they are focusing on the lies of a convicted murderess. I have implemented my own investigation for which I have evidence substantiating my mother misused Lasix which led to a potassium deficiency, which led to cardiac arrest.

My eldest brothers were home the day of our mother’s death, but again, this is just another fact being tossed to the wayside by investigators whose job is supposedly to determine the truth.”

Edward Greenwell, who was 25 at the time, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the murder. Now 43, the elder Greenwell last appeared before the parole board in June 2005; he was denied parole. His anticipated release date is in 2011.
Charles Greenwell, then 16, received a 20-year sentence. Now 34, he appeared before the board in June 2002 and was denied parole. His estimated release date from prison was in October 2005.

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    i watched the movie(cries unheard) this morning( 11-14-2008) for the first time. i understand it’s only one side of this tragedy. the way the movie displays things make’s it out as if donna is the victim.
    i can identifty with that part. i was married in 1985 to a man that was very controlling & beat me & did horrible thing’s to me. we had a son together. he was born in 1987. i divorced him when out son was one year old. i believe with all my heart that he would’ve killed me & our son but i lived with my parents until i remarried in 1991. that’s when my ex-husband stopped bothering me .
    our son is 21 now & has a 8 mo. old daughter of his own. i’ve been around my ex-husband since our son has grown & try to get along for his sake.
    then i found out that it was giving him hope that i would come back to him.
    i’ve been married to my husband now for almost 18 yrs. & my ex still think’s there’s hope for us. & it scare’s me. i’m sorry for this family because everyone is a victim. i’ll keep you in my prayers.

  • Stef says:

    Damn it must be horrible living with some one that
    is all ways harrassing you, and beating the shit out you!

    Damn…….Im on Donnas side!

    If she couldnt get the fuck out of that marriage, well fuck it!
    He got was he deserved!

    A man can kill a women and get away, a women comits a crime like this one and gets life in prison, or the death penalty!

    Sucks bigs Time!

  • wendie muniz says:

    I have no doubt that she hired to two but I feel that her punishment is injustice. I have done research and have learned that people getting punished for the same crime only got a maximum of 20 years which is more than what she has served. I feel that Donna should get released and that she would be a great aspect to the community as she helps others with domestic violence. I want Dennis Yaklich’s daughter to know that in most domestic cases the children and others do not know about it, due to the fact it is not done in front of the children or anyone else. When someone is addicted to any kind of pills the worse the violence is. It is then verbal and emotional abuse comes from. I feel that there are other woman in prison with extreme punishment for killing or hiring to kill their spouse in order to get out of domestic abuse. They think that this is their only hope or way out. If they cannot get anyone to listen to them then this is their only way out. I feel that Donna’s case and others should be overturned or reduced because they have already been punished for the abuse they endured. Domestic violence is far worse than the sentences you have given these women.

  • Debra says:

    I’m sure there is some truth to Donna’s story. I know what steroids can do to the mind. I have seen it. I”m sure it was hard it is to live like Donna had to live. Never knowing when you will be beat.But, She had no right taking his life. His daughter may never have seen her father beat her step mom. But, It does not mean it never happened. She felt the only way out was to have Dennis killed. I do not feel she had that right. But, At the time she felt she had no choice. The movie seemed to be one sided. Dennis did not have the chance to tell his side of the story. In the movie Donna reached out to Dennis coworker for help. But, They went back to Dennis and told him about her coming to them. I know how close police are with one another. They stick together and they are controlling. I have seen it with my brother in law (EX BROTHER IN LAW now) He would beat my sister. His coworkers knew it but did nothing to help out. My sister had since enough not to kill him or have him killed. He was not worth prison. Just because Dennis kids did not SEE the abuse does not mean it never happened. I’m sure someone saw the abuse after all the years that Dennis abused Donna. Did anyone come forward i wonder. We will never really know what Donna went though in the marriage with Dennis. Sometimes woman feel they have no way out of a abusive marriage. It still gives them no right to kill them even if that is the only way out. I do not know Donna or Dennis. I don’t know what really went on behind close doors. But, I’m sure someone did. It is sad. I feel sorry for the children that lost a father. Donna payed for what she had done or had someone to do for her. I hope everyone can go on with there lives now. Good Luck Donna.

  • joanne shaffer says:

    I feel very sorry i dont feel donna should have spent one day in jail, she was abuse , control, tortured, no one should have to put up with that , take that so long and you just cant take it anymore. i was also controled and abused not as bad as donna but any form of abuse in not the way anyone should live. and because dennis was a cop he got away with it and thats bull, donna i wish you well, i hope you are with someone who will not hurt you ever again i just hope dennis gets his day in hell, joanne

  • Jim says:

    I just saw the story on TV today. I think this article may have their age calcs off. If someone were 16 in Dec. of 1985 I don’t think they would be the age of 34 as of the date that this was written. Same same the 25 year old. I think he would be a tad bit older than 43. Because of the bad reporting I am leading towards Donna being innocent of the crime she was convicted of and she was probably abused. Police officers cover their own all the time. I’m sure the police who were called to testify (or is it testilie) during the trial. It’s sad, but most people do believe the authorities.

  • ethel says:

    i understand why she did what she did it seems like everyone who loved him knows how dennis was but is in denial i wish i could meet her does she see her son how old is her son and where do they live

  • ethel marshall says:

    i understand why she did what she did it seems like everyone who loved him knows how dennis was but is in denial i wish i could meet her does she see her son how old is her son and where do they live my heart and prayers go out to donnas family and dennis family there are many victums here i hope donna can just live her life and everyone can just leave it all in gods hands

  • mrs. rock johnson says:

    I belive donna to the fullest. I wasn’t there to see it for myself, but i’m pretty sure it happen. When you’re dating or marry to a cop, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m from new orleans and a young lady were either married or dating a cop, he was abusing her and when she reported it to the cops, they did nothing about it. why is that so? I’ll tell you why, because he was a cop and they was not going to do him anything. the next thing you know, the woman ends up dead. Now he’s in prison. If they would have did something when she reported it, she would be here today. I been in a abusive realationship, and to be honest i’m still in one. And i know you guys may be saying why am i still with him, but i’m about to move, and he don’t even know it. This guy beat me doing my pregancy. He spit in my face and have the nerve to rub it in my face like it was lotion. His family witness him doing these things to me. If he was to go to court, his family would lie and say he never did it. So i know where Donna comning from, his kids just don’t want to admit it, but i’m pretty sure they seen or heard something. Matter fact if he would have killed her, they still would be in court saying my father never touch her. I know it’s their father and they miss him, but they need to wake up and smile the roses. My father gone too, but he never hit my mother. And if he did i’ll say so. Donna should not have went to prison. Dennis should have went to prison, rather he was dead or alive. And they should have 20 feet under the jail house, or put him as close to the man he praise so much, the devil. good luck Donna! Besides better him dead, then me. If Donna would have not got out, she would have been dead. Oh! I guess she would have over dose like his first wife. (YEA RIGHT), besides he got away with it before. He would have pretend nothing was wrong’ crying to make people think he was a good husband, mop up her blood & would have marry again beat her. Ya’ll already know what i’m saying. He would have done the same over and over again. He’s a cop, he can get away with anything. Good Luck Donna! If no one can accept you, that’s they’re personal issue.

  • Carolyn Bushey says:

    I just watched this tonight and the thing that amazed me is that it is the exact same story for many women out there. I too was in an abusive marriage, got divorced in 1991, and here I am today still hyper-vigilent because he promised to kill me. My step daughter was with me from the age of 4 till 12 and she still has trouble remembering it. But she knows it is true because her Dad has gone on to abuse all of the women he has been with since (4 that I know of). My step daughter says today that those years with me without her Father were when she felt safe, since I was separated a lot in between assaults. I am also involved in law enforcement, was a dispatcher at LAPD, and I know that law enforcement protects their own. Thankfully it is changing, slowly, but there is hope. I have watched women being blamed for many years (they call it victim blaming) and I hear people ask, “why doesn’t she leave?”, when we should be asking why does he hit her, and why won’t he stop? My ex-husband stalked us for years and thankfully I had a neighborhood of people that stepped in when he showed up, but what happens when you don’t have a community to help? I have come to believe that abusive men must go to a special school to learn how to abuse as they seem to do and say the same things, and that is why I believe Donna. One hit is one too many, and no woman should have to live afraid. I have not researched enough to know if Donna is still in prison, but my heart breaks for all she has been through, during the abuse and after, with Dennis, prison and people who blame her. We need to help one another and we need to stand up and say “violence no more” whether it is a man or a woman who is the abuser (I know there are men being abused too). The blame needs to be on the abuser, not the person trying to survive. I am sorry for how this has affected the family, I know my family will have scars forever, even though we have been through counseling, and I am grateful for a step daughter who believes/believed me and is strong enough to tell the truth. God hold us all accountable. God bless and keep you safe.

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