SANTA ROSA (KRON/BCN) — The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office Monday withdrew its intention to seek the death penalty for a Colorado man who is charged with the murders of three men during a marijuana deal in Forestville in 2013.
Mark Cappello, 48, of Central City, Colorado, is scheduled to be tried Jan. 4 for the shooting slaying of three men who were selling and packaging marijuana for sale to Cappello in a Forestville cabin on Feb. 5, 2013.
Two other defendants, Odin Leonard Dwyer, 40, of Denver, Colorado, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, and his father Francis Dwyer, 67, of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, pleaded no contest to accessory to murder on May 22 and they are expected to testify at Cappello’s trial.
Francis Dwyer will be sentenced to eight years in prison and Odin Dwyer will serve 20 years and four months as part of their pleas.
Raleigh Butler, 26, a former Sonoma County resident who lived in Truckee in 2013, Richard Lewin, 46, of Huntington, New York, and Todd Klarkowski, 42, of Boulder, Colorado, were shot in the head in a bedroom of the cabin owned by Butler’s mother while they were preparing the marijuana for transportation, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said.
Cappello, the alleged shooter, was the only defendant facing the death penalty.
Cappello and the Dwyers then fled Sonoma County in two vehicles with the marijuana. Odin Dwyer was arrested in Colorado, Francis Dwyer was arrested in New Mexico and Cappello was arrested in Alabama, the district attorney’s office said.
At Cappello’s preliminary hearing, Sonoma County sheriff’s Detective Brandon Cutting testified Odin Dwyer said he heard three shots and saw Cappello standing with a gun at the foot of the bed.
Odin Dwyer said Cappello told him, “It had to be done,” according to Cutting’s testimony. Odin Dwyer said his father Francis was at a motel room and not at the cabin, according to Cutting.
Cappello’s attorney Joseph Stogner said this morning that Cappello faces a maximum of three life sentences if he is convicted of the murders during a robbery.
Stogner said he believes the prosecution realizes that a jury may not find the Dwyers’ testimony credible, presenting “grave doubts” prosecutors can prove the case against Cappello.
Stogner said that during two meetings with District Attorney Jill Ravitch this year he presented arguments in mitigation to the prosecution’s seeking of the death penalty.
“Our strongest argument (in mitigation) is the doubt the jury will have that Cappello really did this,” Stogner said.
In a letter to Stogner on Thursday, Ravitch said the decision to seek the death penalty against Cappello was under review since it was made.
“I’ve received additional information, and the complexion of the case has changed over time, as has the advice of those who are the most familiar with the facts and applicable law,” Ravitch wrote.
“I am now prepared to advise you that I have changed my position, and in the interest of justice, we will no longer seek death in this matter,” Ravitch said.
“The basis for this decision can be found in the nature of the evidence as it has evolved, the aggravating and mitigating factors and the pursuit of justice,” Ravitch said.
Ravitch also said some members of the victims’ families agree with her decision.