Three suspects in Forestville pot slayings appear in court

  • Francis Dwyer, left, appears in Sonoma County Superior Court with his lawyer Walter Rubenstein after being extradited from New Mexico on Friday, May 24, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Three defendants in a February triple homicide near Forestville appeared together in a Santa Rosa courtroom for the first time Friday.

Colorado residents Mark Cappello, 46, and Odin Dwyer, 38, and Dwyer's father, Francis Dwyer, 65, of New Mexico all were extradited to Sonoma County from other states after their arrests.

Each man is charged with three counts of murder in the slaying prosecutors said occurred during a marijuana deal. Cappello — the suspected shooter — faces a special circumstances allegation that makes him eligible to receive the death penalty.

They were seated apart before Judge Robert LaForge and appeared to avoid eye contact with each other. LaForge arraigned the elder Dwyer — the most recent arrival — and set a preliminary hearing for Aug. 13. All have pleaded not guilty.

They're accused in the Feb. 5 slayings at a rural cabin on Ross Station Road. Todd Klarkowski, 42, of Boulder, Colo.; Richard Lewin, 46, of Huntington, N.Y.; and former Sebastopol resident Raleigh Butler, 24, were killed when they met to buy pot from Butler, according to prosecutors.

Evidence suggests Lewin and Klarkowski were partners in the drug trade.

Cappello, an acquaintance of Klarkowski, is charged with shooting all three with a .45-caliber pistol. A motive has not been released. The Dwyers are charged as accomplices to murder.

Surveillance camera videos from gas stations in Nevada and Wyoming showed the three traveling west in the days leading up to the killings. The videos helped lead to their capture.

In court Friday, Cappello and Odin Dwyer had their hands shackled to waist chains. A frail-looking Francis Dwyer was not handcuffed.

Cappello's lawyer, Michael Meehan, said all three have made contradictory statements to police about what happened but none has confessed. He was awaiting receipt of the audio recordings, he said.

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