HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A registered violent offender killed a Montana man and his mother during a confrontation over the theft of 1,700 ounces of silver, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Powell County Attorney Lewis Smith filed two counts of deliberate homicide and other charges against David Wayne Nelson in District Court in Deer Lodge.
Nelson, 53, is accused of killing Gregory Giannonatti and Beverly Giannonatti on Oct. 24 or 25 in a bathroom at the home of Beverly Giannonatti's deceased ex-husband north of Deer Lodge.
Nelson, a handyman, had been doing some work at the house when he found the silver on Oct. 21 and sold it in Missoula two days later for more than $26,000, prosecutors said.
Nelson told investigators that Greg Giannonatti, 57, confronted him about the silver while he was working in the bathroom, and Nelson said he hit Greg Giannonatti in the face and then hit his head with a hammer, court records show.
Beverly Giannonatti, 79, came into the bathroom and Nelson told authorities that he pushed her down, causing her to hit her head, before strangling her with electrical wire.
Nelson dumped the bodies near Gold Creek, northwest of Deer Lodge and told authorities he threw the hammer in the Clark Fork River, prosecutors said.
Nelson acknowledged the killings and led investigators to the bodies on Nov. 29, court records said. He is also charged with the theft of the silver and obstructing justice.
The Ravalli County attorney's office has filed a petition to revoke the suspended portion of a sentence Nelson was serving for kidnapping and accountability to robbery for a 1998 crime. Nelson has denied allegations that he violated his probation.
During the investigation, officers learned a woman cleaning the home of the late Bill Giannonatti found a 25-pound bar of gold in a closet. The gold, worth more than $400,000, was initially believed to be a potential motive for the killings.
However, Sheriff Scott Howard has said it was not the reason for the killings.
Nelson is scheduled to appear on the charges on Jan. 5 before District Judge Ray Dayton.