Sonoma County prosecutors said Monday they will not seek the death penalty against a Colorado man awaiting trial in the 2013 execution-style slayings of three men during a marijuana deal.
Mark William Cappello, 48, of Central City, Colo., now faces a maximum punishment of life without parole if he is convicted of three counts of murder at a trial scheduled for Jan. 4.
District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a letter to Cappello’s lawyer, Joe Stogner, that she changed her mind as her understanding of the case evolved over the past 32 months.
She cited two closed-door meetings with Stogner, in which he argued death is not appropriate, a change in the prosecutor handling the case and cooperation agreements with the two co-defendants, Francis Dwyer, 67 of New Mexico, and his son, Odin Dwyer, 40, of Colorado.
Ravitch said she has spoken with the families of the victims and “for some of them, their sentiments are reflected in this decision.”
“I am now prepared to advise you that I have changed my position, and in the interest of justice, we will no longer seek the death penalty in this matter,” Ravitch said in a letter dated Oct. 15. “We will, however, aggressively seek a conviction that will result in three consecutive sentences of life without parole.”
Cappello showed no emotion as the decision was announced in court by Chief Deputy District Attorney Spencer Brady. Both sides are due back in court Oct. 30.
Cappello’s lawyer applauded the change, saying it was right considering so much weight is being placed on statements from the two accomplices.
“This jury is going to have doubt about whether Mr. Cappello really did this,” Stogner said outside court.
All three had been charged with murdering former Sebastopol resident Raleigh Butler, Todd Klarkowski of Boulder, Colo., and Richard Levin of Huntington, N.Y., during a Forestville pot deal gone bad.
They were each arrested after leaving the state.
At a preliminary hearing, detectives testified about a statement from Odin Dwyer in which he named Cappello as the trigger man. The victims were packaging marijuana in a house on Ross Station Road when Cappello pulled a gun and shot each of them in the head, Dwyer told police.
The Dwyers reached a plea bargain earlier this year in which the father will be sentenced to eight years and the son will be sentenced to a little more than 20 years. Both are expected to testify.
If Cappello is convicted, he will not join the more than 700 condemned inmates on San Quentin State Prison’s Death Row. The state stopped executing inmates in 2006 after receiving legal challenges to its execution methods. Capital punishment opponents plan a November 2016 ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.