Less than a week before her mother and sister were murdered, Claudia Goates ran into one of the men who later admitted to killing the women.
The stranger had walked about a mile up the snowy road that led to a group of cabins in the Beaver Springs subdivision near Oakley, Summit County. Despite temperatures near 20 degrees below zero, the man was dressed in little more than Levi's and tennis shoes."Something inside me said, `He doesn't belong here,' " she said.
Goates and others with her offered to help him, but the stranger declined. Goates sensed that she should try to get a mental picture of him but said she was surprised that she was unable to.
"I looked at his face and I couldn't get a picture," she said. "It was like there wasn't a person there."
But Goates could not stop thinking about him. "I just sensed a person who was in tremendous, deep hurt. I had a tremendous, deep empathy for him at the time."
Four days later, she learned that the man - Von L. Taylor - was arrested along with Edward S. Deli for the shooting deaths of her blind and handicapped mother, Beth Tidwell Potts, and Goates' sister, Kaye Tiede.
"Even after I heard what had happened, what he had done, I still couldn't dismiss the feeling I had about him (Taylor)," she said.
Few people could be sympathetic toward a man who admitted participating in two brutal and unprovoked murders. Particularly when the victims are members of her own family.
But Goates has a different perspective than most people.
For the past year, she has participated in volunteer programs that help give prison parolees like Taylor and Deli a second chance at life on the other side of the bars. She also works to prevent people from ending up at the Point of the Mountain. (See story on Page 11.)
Goates volunteers her help on the Exodus Committee, a program designed to reduce the number of parolees that are sent back to prison because they can't cope in the "outside world."
The program provides parolees with the resources to find jobs, housing, rehabilitation counseling and other services often needed when inmates finish their sentences. "It can be absolutely terrifying for them. I think that's why some of them would rather go back," she said.
"They don't know how to make it on their own. They don't have any help."
Goates guesses that about a third of the parolees leave the prison humbled and ready to take responsibility to change. Others, like Taylor and Deli, return to crime. But she fights to not let the murders affect the work she does with other parolees.
"There's so many mixed emotions in this whole thing," Goates said. "Having worked with the parolees, I have great empathy for them. On the other hand, having my own mother and sister murdered so brutally, I'm also aware of the pain that the victims go through.
"The only thing I feel sorry about is (Taylor and Deli) somehow were not made aware of our program or that we weren't able to help them before and maybe prevent what happened," she said.
But the effects of the murders and recent court proceedings occasionally betray her positive attitudes. Her words become more quiet and pensive as she speaks of the details surrounding the Christmastime tragedy. She is quick to shift the conversation toward her volunteer programs.
Immersing herself into those efforts, she admits, is her way of coping with all that has occurred.
"Something has to be done with those emotions, and I choose to channel them into helping," she said. "I can take that energy and use it for a positive cause because I don't think it's healthy to bury it."
But she is still dealing with strong feelings about Deli and Taylor. Taylor pleaded guilty to two counts of capital murder for the deaths, and a hearing to decide whether he receives the death penalty began Friday. Deli was convicted of reduced counts of second-degree murder, a crime with a maximum penalty of five years to life, on Tuesday.
Goates' response to the Deli verdict surprised her. She thought she was dealing with the situation well, yet she was outraged to learn that one juror was responsible for the lesser conviction. Goates is convinced that Deli is the more dangerous and least remorseful of the two.
Taylor has admitted his actions and appears willing to take the consequences, she said. Linae Tiede also testified that Taylor got sick and threw up after seeing the two bodies of the dead women, indicating he might not have been as cold-blooded.
"Somehow I feel Von Taylor at least has some of a conscience and feelings of remorse for what he did," she said. "I'd rather have Taylor back on the streets than Deli. It frightens me to think Deli (has a better chance) of returning to the streets, and I'm going to do everything I can to see that he doesn't."
Someday, Goates said she would like to go to the Utah State Prison, sit down with the two men and ask them questions.
"Just for my own sanity, I would like to deal with them enough that I could understand them to the point that I could truly forgive them."