The Donna Yaklich StoryCulture, 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.