Lawyers for suspected triggerman in 2013 Forestville triple-slaying want case tossed

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Defense attorneys for a Colorado man charged with capital murder in a 2013 triple-slaying in Forestville accused prosecutors Thursday of tainting the case by allowing a suspected accomplice to “tune-up” his testimony by secretly watching a police interrogation of their client.

Also, lawyers for Mark Cappello, 47, who faces the death penalty if convicted, said prosecutors exploited the inexperience of the Central City, Colo., man’s first lawyer, a drunken-driving specialist from San Francisco, and they asked to have the case dismissed.

“It’s just not the way a case of this magnitude should be prosecuted,” said Santa Rosa attorney Joe Stogner, who took over the case this year. “It was deeply compromised from its inception.”

The allegations follow by about a month a plea bargain in which Cappello’s co-defendants, Francis Dwyer, 67, of New Mexico and his son, Odin Dwyer, 40, of Colorado, agreed to testify against Cappello in exchange for reduced punishments.

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 marijuana deal gone bad on Ross Station Road.

However, it was revealed in preliminary hearing testimony that Odin Dwyer told police Cappello carried out the slayings himself, shooting the victims in the head execution-style. Other evidence suggested his father wasn’t present.

In May, both men admitted lesser charges in a deal with prosecutors. They will be sentenced after Cappello’s trial, set for later this year.

Now, Cappello’s lawyers suggest in legal papers a mishandling of the case and a reliance on a lawyer who wasn’t qualified.

Shortly after all three suspects were arrested and brought back to Sonoma County, Cappello’s first lawyer, Michael Meehan, agreed to let a detective and a prosecutor interview him, Stogner said.

Unbeknownst to Cappello, Odin Dwyer and his attorney, Nathan Poulos, were observing the interview from another room, Stogner said.

It wasn’t discovered until 21 months later, long after a judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to try Cappello on charges carrying the death penalty.

The focus on Cappello came despite the fact that only Francis and Odin Dwyer were found with marijuana from the homicide when they were arrested, the papers suggest.

Still, detectives seemed to accept Odin Dwyer’s statement that he and his father had minimal involvement.

The papers said Odin Dwyer led detectives to evidence, including Cappello’s discarded clothing. Francis Dwyer offered to show where the gun was hidden as a “bargaining point.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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