Capano guilty of killing mistress; Victim's sister calls verdict in murder trial 'a hollow victory'; Death sentence possible


WILMINGTON, Del. -- Two and a half years after gubernatorial aide Anne Marie Fahey vanished, Thomas Capano, the prominent attorney who emerged first as her secret lover and then the prime suspect in her death, was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder.

The jury's verdict, based on circumstantial evidence and reached after three days of deliberations, was heard in a near-silent yet emotion-fraught courtroom. Outside, amid TV satellite trucks, dozens of spectators applauded the decision.

Capano, 49, stared straight ahead with no visible reaction as the foreman read the verdict and each juror was polled.

He now awaits their next decision, which they will begin considering Wednesday: whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison.

Both the defendant's and the victim's families, who have warily shared the courtroom during the intense, 12-week trial, heeded Superior Court Judge William Swain Lee's gentle warning against outbursts in reaction to the verdict. Capano's mother and teen-age daughters wept almost inaudibly, while Fahey's siblings and friends silently draped arms about one another's shoulders.

Later, the Faheys held a somber news conference to speak about their youngest sister, whose smiling face, almost engulfed by a mass of curly hair, has haunted the near-daily news reports since her death on June 27, 1996.

"It's a hollow victory," said her sister, Kathleen Fahey-Hosey. "We all miss Anne Marie, and she's not coming home." She and four brothers pleaded that their sister be remembered as more than just another of Capano's mistresses.

Capano had testified that it was another girlfriend, Debby MacIntyre, 48, who accidentally shot and killed Fahey, 30, when she found them together in his house that night. Capano claimed that he dumped the body -- stuffed into a cooler -- and the gun in the ocean and went to jail instead of telling the real story to protect MacIntyre and himself from prosecution.

But the 12-member jury rejected his account in favor of the one offered by the prosecution: That Capano killed Fahey in a rage when she refused to resume their on-again, off-again affair of nearly three years.

The jurors, six men and six women, had watched and listened as the case unfolded before them in an often stifling courtroom.

The testimony was by turns lurid and heartbreaking, tedious and riveting. A parade of witnesses and a mountain of evidence were produced, and shocking revelations and shattered loyalties piled up: Brother testified against brother. Lovers told intimate secrets.

As Joseph Oteri, Capano's lead attorney, told jurors during his closing argument, "I can't help but feel a little dirty, as I'm sure you do, having to go so deeply into the lives of so many people."

But absent the victim's body or a murder weapon, neither of which were recovered, much of the case relied on the character of the major figures in the case. In the end, jurors were faced with reconciling contradictory portraits of these people.

Was Anne Marie Fahey a vulnerable young woman trying to extricate herself from an affair with a married man or someone who had settled into a comfortable and useful friendship with a one-time lover who continued to lavish her with expensive gifts?

Was Thomas Capano a control freak enraged by Fahey's rejection, or the caring friend and protector of a fragile woman who struggled with eating disorders and other remnants of an impoverished childhood?

And what of the third point of the love triangle, Debby MacIntyre: Was she the doormat who had waited 15 years for Capano to leave his wife, agreeing to his demeaning sexual games and his request that she purchase the gun that he ultimately used to kill Fahey? Or was she the devious woman who pulled the trigger herself and let Capano go to jail for her, ultimately testifying against him to save herself from prosecution?

The small, third-floor courtroom was packed nearly every day with local and national news media, city and state officials and curious spectators, who often started lining up at 6 a.m. to compete for the few seats available to the public.

Yesterday, they came to catch a glimpse of the courtroom regulars: the straight-laced government prosecutors; the more flamboyant defense attorneys, Oteri and Eugene Maurer; Capano's pained-looking ex-wife, Kay, and their young daughters.

"Crazy, ain't it?" said George Czerwinski, an Amtrak repairman who had spent two days of a recent vacation week watching the trial and returned yesterday to learn the verdict.

"Wilmington has never seen anything like this."

Indeed, the case peeled back a curtain on this usually discreet city of 72,000, which found itself split into camps to the point that drinking establishments became known as "Capano bars" or "Fahey bars."

Capano, who kept more than $100,000 in his checking account, was part of the circle of lawyers and professionals who fill the upper ranks of business and political life in Wilmington.

The son of a self-made construction magnate, Capano had risen through the ranks of his field. He had been chief legal counsel to a former governor, Michael N. Castle, now a congressman, and at the time of his arrest in November 1997, was a partner in the Wilmington office of a Philadelphia law firm.

As details of the crime and Capano's affairs emerged, those who knew him as a civil leader and family man were shocked.

"There apparently was another side of him we didn't see," said Anthony Flynn, a lawyer here who went to high school with Capano. "It's surprising and disturbing to hear these things about someone who many people knew and liked. It's just unbelievable, frankly."

Capano took center stage in his trial, insisting on testifying despite conventional legal wisdom and the advice of his team of attorneys. He frequently disrupted the trial, once declaring that he wanted to fire his lawyers and represent himself only to change his mind the next day.

The primary focus of his rage was Colm Connolly, the assistant U.S. attorney.

Capano would often answer Connolly's questions with a barb or a challenging question.

One day, he denounced Connolly as a "heartless, gutless, soulless disgrace for a human being," and was removed from the courtroom.

"I think for everyone involved, it was a roller coaster," Connolly said yesterday of the long investigation and tumultuous trial. "There were times we had feelings of desperation and feelings of elation."

Pub Date: 1/18/99

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