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Capano blistered, sentenced to death

Judge calls ex-attorney a 'ruthless murderer,' sets execution June 28

Wednesday, March 17, 1999

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

WILMINGTON, Del. - Condemned as a "ruthless murderer" and "malignant force," once-prominent attorney Thomas Capano has been sentenced to die for killing a former lover who rejected him.

Thomas Capano leaves the courthouse in Wilmington, Del., after being sentenced to death. (Brian Branch-Price, Associated Press) 

Superior Court Judge William Swain Lee capped one of the most sensational murder trials in Delaware history yesterday with a withering 20-minute statement before ordering Capano executed by lethal injection.

"The defendant fully expected to get away with murder and, were it not for his own arrogance and controlling nature, may well have succeeded," Lee said.

"He is a ruthless murderer who feels compassion for no one and remorse only for the circumstances in which he finds himself. He is a malignant force from whom no one he deems disloyal or adversarial can be secure."

Lee set the execution for June 28 - three years and a day after Capano, 49, killed Anne Marie Fahey, stuffed her in an Igloo cooler and dumped her body in the Atlantic Ocean off New Jersey. However, the death sentence will be automatically appealed and Capano's execution date certainly postponed.

Capano, a former prosecutor and heir to his family's lucrative construction business, stood stone-faced while hearing his fate. He mouthed the words "it'll be all right" to his 75-year-old mother, sobbing in her wheelchair, and two of his four daughters seated behind him.

The death sentence was almost anti-climactic. The jury that convicted Capano of first-degree murder Jan. 17 after a 12-week trial had also voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty. Under Delaware law, the judge has the final say on life or death but must give the jury's finding great weight.

"He clearly expected it. He was prepared for it," said senior defense counsel Joseph Oteri, who said Capano was depressed in anticipation of the verdict.

Capano, a bond attorney who once served as chief counsel to a Democratic mayor and a Republican governor, had asked to speak. But the judge denied his request as "ludicrous," saying Capano had spoken enough with his testimony at trial, his statement during the two-week penalty phase and his courtroom antics in general.

Capano won't stay silent, though. He has scheduled interviews today from Gander Hill Prison in Wilmington with Inside Edition and Court TV, among others.

Lee said Capano, a man who had squandered a life of privilege, degraded the trial by revealing "an angry, sinister, controlling and malignant force which dominated the courtroom for months." The judge berated Capano for his "chain saw approach - attacking, maiming and destroying the character and lives of lovers, friends and family."

Fahey was the scheduling secretary for Gov. Tom Carper. Capano admitted to disposing of her body but said she died in an accident when another lover, Deborah MacIntyre, fired a handgun in his home during an aborted suicide attempt. MacIntyre denied that account.

Because Fahey's body was never recovered, the exact circumstances of her death remain a mystery. But the judge's most stinging words dealt with the motive: Capano killed her because she refused to resume their affair.

"It was not a crime of passion, but rather a crime of control," Lee said. "He chose to destroy a possession rather than lose it; to execute an escaping human chattel."

Lee said Capano not only insulted prosecutors by calling them "Nazis" but also undermined the efforts of his high-paid defense team, who had advised him not to take the stand in his own defense. Lee said Capano also engaged in the "character assassination" of a brother, Gerry, who had helped him dump Fahey's body and then testified at the murder trial. Another brother, Louis, also testified against Capano.

"The selfishness, arrogance and manipulativeness of Thomas Capano destroyed his own family as well as the Fahey family," Lee said.

The judge's final words to him were: "May God have mercy on you and your family."

At least four jurors attended the sentencing. From the jury box earlier, they had heard tales of promiscuity, power, betrayal and murder that had made national headlines.

Juror Erin Reilly said she agreed with Lee's decision.

"It's sad. It's truly tragic. But I also think it's the only solution," she said. "He never showed remorse. That was the biggest thing. He never apologized. He never said he was sorry."

Capano, oldest son of a proud Italian immigrant who made millions in America in the construction business, had himself been an "A" student, student council president and football team captain at the Catholic prep school Archmere Academy north of Wilmington. And later, Tom Capano had moved freely in Delaware's most exclusive political and social circles.

Now, he's in another exclusive group - a white, college-educated, middle-aged millionaire on death row in America.

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