HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A former Alabama nurse accused of poisoning her private investigator husband had a preliminary hearing Thursday, at which time the shocking details of the crime were revealed for the first time.
Marjorie Nicole "Nikki" Cappello, 32, of Huntsville, is charged with murder in the September death of her husband, New York native Jim Cappello Jr. AL.com reported that Jim Cappello, who was reported missing by his wife, was found dead at the couple's south Huntsville home Sept. 22.
The registered nurse surrendered her license six days later, Alabama Board of Nursing records show.
Nikki Cappello, who jail records show is out on $100,000 bond, waived her right to appear at the preliminary hearing, but members of Jim Cappello's family were in the courtroom as prosecutors and investigators laid out their case.
"Honestly, the family gets a lot of respect from me," Assistant Madison County District Attorney Tim Douthit told WAFF 48 News. "I don't know if I would be able to sit there and listen to all of that and keep a straight face the way that they did. The evidence that came out today was pretty clear and horrendous."
Lead investigator Mike DeNoon testified Thursday that the investigation showed Jim Cappello, 37, had become suspicious that his wife was abusing narcotics. According to WAFF, he had begun gathering evidence against her, so he could file for divorce and obtain custody of their 4-year-old daughter, Ryleigh.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Jim Cappello worked for Posey Investigations for several years before opening his own business, Cappello Investigative Agency, in 2012.
DeNoon testified that Nikki Cappello reported her husband missing Sept. 21. The detective said that Jim Cappello’s co-workers had become concerned because he had not shown up for work.
When they went to the couple’s home, however, Nikki Cappello would not let them inside, DeNoon said. Jim Cappello’s car was parked outside the house.
According to WAFF, DeNoon testified that Nikki Cappello called a friend, Crystal Anderson, the following day and admitted she had killed her husband with insulin. Anderson told investigators that her friend asked her to come and help her get rid of the body.
DeNoon said that Nikki Cappello put Anderson on hold for a few moments before returning to the line and telling her not to worry, that another friend was on the way to help her.
A concerned Anderson called police, WAFF reported. Police officials are trying to determine who the other friend was, the news station said.
A foul odor and a freshly dug grave
Patrol officers were dispatched to the Cappello home, where one officer went to the front door and a second went around back, WAFF said. DeNoon testified that the officer at the front door smelled the odor of a dead body when Nikki Cappello answered the door.
The officer around back found what appeared to be a freshly dug grave, DeNoon testified. The officers detained Nikki Cappello on the front porch and called detectives in.
WAFF reported that DeNoon, who was one of the investigators called to the scene, testified he also smelled the odor of human decomposition when he arrived. He said he asked a visibly nervous Nikki Cappello for permission to search her home.
She gave permission for the investigators to search everywhere but the garage, the news station reported. DeNoon said Nikki Cappello was taken to the police station for questioning and he obtained a search warrant for the entire property.
Jim Cappello’s body was found sprawled on a tarp on the garage floor, his feet on the floorboard of a car as though someone had tried to move him into the vehicle.
DeNoon told the court that the defendant acted as though nothing was wrong when she was told about the discovery, according to WAFF.
“You know I went inside. You know I found him, right?” DeNoon testified that he asked her.
“Yes, I knew he was there,” Nikki Cappello allegedly responded.
Though Jim Cappello's final autopsy report is pending, the medical examiner told DeNoon the private detective was poisoned using insulin, WAFF reported.
DeNoon told the court that investigators went to the hospital where Nikki Cappello was a charge nurse and spoke to her co-workers, who said she often talked about her problems with her husband and said she would only be rid of him if he were dead, the news station said.
Hospital workers who looked through their medication supply found that some insulin was missing, WAFF reported. DeNoon said Nikki Cappello told him she'd accidentally brought a bottle of the diabetes drug home with her.
Jim Cappello apparently found the bottle and took a photo of it before texting the photo to a friend, WAFF said. At the time, he appeared not to know what the drug was.
Madison County District Judge Claude Hundley III ordered that the murder case go before a grand jury.
‘Please make today like your last’
Jim Cappello's obituary described him as an asset in multiple facets of his life, especially to the legal community.
"He was an avid car enthusiast, passionate about helping people and providing for his family (was a) priority," the obituary read. "Jim was a well-known proud father who cherished every smile and laugh from his baby girl."
Jim Cappello's father and sister sat through Thursday's testimony. Afterward, they told WAFF they felt it was important to be there, even though they had to come from out of state.
"It was pretty intense but I'm glad it's going to move on," Jim Cappello Sr. told the news station. "We want to be part of the whole thing. He didn't deserve this, but he deserves justice. He's my son and I miss him."
The younger Jim Cappello’s sister, Jamie Weast, said she’s hopeful the family can get some closure through the legal process.
"He's shining down on us right now. He's with us every step of the way," she said. "We're doing everything that we're capable of every day to remember and honor him."
The family started a Facebook page, Legacy of James Cappello, for relatives and friends to share memories of him so Ryleigh, who is being cared for by the Cappello family, will remember her doting father. Many friends shared memories addressed directly to the little girl.
"Your dad worked at McDonald's during high school," one man wrote. "Happy Meals included a Beany (sic) Baby doll. He used to complain about being surrounded by these furry toys.
“Yet he fell in love with them when you came along. You were his hero. With or without fries.”
Weast posted a text message her brother sent her on Mother's Day, in which he said a friend's mother had died and he was helping the friend out. He told her he was thinking of the people in his life and things happening to them.
"So please make today like your last," he wrote, according to Weast. "We don't know. Enjoy it. And have everyone around you enjoy it. Love you so much. Can't handle the thought of you not there."
Cox Media Group