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  • Colorado Springs jury has reached verdict in Nozolino sniper-shootings case

    Fri, March 7, 2014 by Dalton Walker with no comments

    By Lance Benzel/The Gazette

     bruce_nozolino-ts300

    Jurors have reached a verdict Friday morning in the revenge-shooting case against Bruce J. Nozolino, a former Colorado Springs defense contractor accused in a 2008 murder and three earlier attacks allegedly motivated by a bitter divorce.

    The decision — which comes after about three days of deliberation following a two-month trial —is expected to be announced once attorneys, victims and the defendant have assembled in the courtroom of presiding Judge Victor I. Reyes.

    Nozolino, 52, is a former Lockheed Martin software engineer who was the Colorado Springs Police Department’s chief suspect from the time of the earliest attack until a grand jury secretly voted to indict him in June 2010.

    The 31-count indictment alleged that Nozolino killed his ex-wife’s lover in November 2008, partially blinded her former defense attorney in 2002 and fired shots into the homes of the attorney and a judge in 2001.

    During a slow-moving trial that officially began Jan. 6, defense attorneys sought to portray their client as an innocent man who became increasingly embittered as Colorado Springs police detectives pursued him with multiple rounds of weapons seizures, repeated searches of his home, phone taps, a GPS bug on his pickup and other invasive measures.

    Authorities say those steps were necessary to bypass Nozolino’s careful planning and meddling in the investigation.

    They allege he cleaned up after his crimes scenes, disposed of gun parts to defeat firearms testing and patiently stalked his victims, waiting for a window to strike.

    Prosecutors elicited testimony that Nozolino hid guns with friends, borrowed vehicles to avoid police surveillance, and resorted to threats and intimidation against the judges, lawyers and witnesses drawn into the case against him.

    Before his arrest, Nozolino was an unusually vocal suspect, taking to radio programs and firearms advocacy meetings to protest his innocence and to press the case he was being unfairly targeted by attorney and two-time shooting victim John Ciccolella, whom he alleged had improper ties to the investigators leading the charge against him.

    Even as police continued to investigate him, Nozolino campaigned for conservative causes and garnered personal support from some of El Paso County’s most prominent residents.

    Douglas Bruce — the former state senator, Taxpayer Bill of Rights author and convicted tax cheat — joined City Councilwoman Helen Patrice Collins on the list of politically connected people who pledged their support for Nozolino throughout his trial.

    John Anderson, the former two-time El Paso County sheriff, acknowledged on the witness stand that he befriended Nozolino when the two worked together at defense contractor Lockheed Martin office from 2005-2008.

    What Anderson called a “friendship” fizzled around 2008 — but not before Anderson supplied Nozolino with information about a potential alternate suspect that became central to Nozolino’s defense.

    With Nozolino’s 2010 arrest came a slow-moving prosecution riven by courtroom battles over claims of institutional bias by El Paso County judges and court personnel, including Chief District Judge Gilbert Martinez, who is among the victims.

    After the grand jury indictment, members of the El Paso County bench were barred by a different chief judge from being involved in the case.

    Presiding Judge Reyes was brought in from Pueblo to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

  • Testimony: Nozolino’s ex-wife threatened, raped after admitting affair

    Wed, January 15, 2014 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    The ex-wife of a man on trial in what prosecutors call a decade-spanning series of revenge shootings testified Wednesday that she was subjected to threats and reprisals, including rape, after her husband learned of her extramarital affair.

    Then an Air Force major, Beverly Nozolino faced the loss of her career and her military retirement pay and the prospect of a stint

    Bruce J. Nozolino

    Bruce J. Nozolino

    in prison should her affair with a civilian co-worker at the Air Force Academy be made known to her superiors.

    That was the cudgel Bruce J. Nozolino, 52, held over her head after learning of the relationship through a private detective, his ex-wife told jurors after taking the stand as the first witness in what is expected to be an eight-week trial in 4th Judicial District Court.

    In a quavering voice, Beverly Nozolino said her enraged husband, who had by then taken to living in the couple’s basement, crept up to her bedroom and demanded that she perform oral sex or be reported to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

    “I told him I didn’t want to do that and I considered it rape,” she said.

    Nozolino repeated his threats to expose the affair in an even, deliberate voice, and she capitulated, she told the jury.

    “It was demeaning. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt bad that I was letting it happen and I couldn’t stop it.”

    When it was over, he left the bedroom without a word, she said.

    “He seemed more powerful than he had before,” said Beverly Nozolino, who now lives in Virginia, where she fled with the couple’s two children in the late 1990s amid the resulting divorce she described as “volatile” and “painful.”

    Sexual assault is not among the charges leveled against Nozolino, but a judge permitted a jury to hear the testimony for the limited purpose of considering a pattern of conduct surrounding the crimes. Prosecutors say the break up – and Nozolino’s loss of control – led to four revenge shootings, including the November 2008 murder of Richard Schreiner, Beverly Nozolino’s former lover.

    Aside from the sexual assault, Beverly Nozolino said her husband wrote up a “document” laying out conditions for their marriage

    To keep her husband from reporting the affair, she was to comply with a “four-phase plan” that called for her to agree to a secret divorce that would be kept from their children; pay all the couple’s bills; handle errands involving the children; support her husband in a lawsuit against her lover; and sign over a portion of her retirement pay.

    The deal would have required her to cohabitate with Nozolino for five more years, until she was eligible to begin drawing retirement, she said.

    “Somewhere in one of the phases … I could date, but I would have to divulge to him who I was dating.”

    Behind all the demands was a constant drumbeat of threats, she said: “I don’t know if I could count them. Many times. All the time. At least once a day.”

    Beverly Nozolino said she eventually told her husband the prospect of staying with him in a loveless marriage was “ridiculous” and she decided to get a lawyer.

    Beverly Nozolino said she was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by her affair, which began in 1999, after Nozolino had already moved to the basement and installed a locking door without giving her explanation.

    During the months leading up to her relationship with Schreiner, she said Nozolino had become increasingly controlling about the couple’s finances, though she brought home much of the couple’s salary.

    Among the exhibits shown to jurors was an email Nozolino sent his wife announcing that he would be sending his wife a series of “Why” questions that she must answer.

    The first asked why Beverly Nozolino would leave her husband “open and vulnerable” to AIDs by the affair. The note said her answer was compulsory and would become part of “long-term permanent records” that he said he might elect to share with the couple’s daughters later in life.

    The emails were frequently signed “Brucie,” she said.

    “I didn’t call him Brucie — I called him Bruce. Nobody called him Brucie.”

    “But he referred to himself that way.”

    The woman is expected to retake the stand when testimony resumes at 1:30 p.m.

  • UPDATE: Wingate set for March trial in child neglect case

    Tue, December 17, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    A former city councilman who says he was wrongly arrested on suspicion of child neglect has been scheduled for trial.

    Charles Edwin Wingate will face a jury on March 7. The trial was set earlier this month at a hearing before El Paso County Court Judge Stephen J.

    Charles E. Wingate

    Charles E. Wingate

    Sletta.

    Wingate, who resigned from City Council in 2003 after a scandal-plagued two years in office, was arrested in May after police say his son, whom they described as “autistic,” was found living in unsanitary conditions in the family’s home, which contained live and dead rodents.

    Wingate disputed the allegations in an interview with The Gazette, telling the newspaper, “My son at all times has been loved and protected and cared for.”

    He also denied that his son was autistic, saying his son’s “medical condition” was a private matter.

    Also charged with child neglect was Wingate’s wife, Sharon Starkey, who is expected to offer a guilty plea at a Jan. 7 court hearing, records show.

  • Teen’s defense team wants trial in Juvenile Court

    Mon, December 16, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    Attorneys for 17-year-old Avery James Jackson will petition a judge to have his murder case moved back into Juvenile Court, they said in court Monday.

    A judge scheduled a May 7 hearing to address the request, court records show.

    The matter will coincide with Jackson’s preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors will outline their evidence against him.

    Jackson was arrested in October and charged as an adult with first-degree murder, accused of fatally stabbing his mother’s boyfriend, Norzell Badger Jr., during a clash in their Knob Hill neighborhood home. His younger brother, 14, is charged as a juvenile with accessory to murder.
    Few details have been released thus far, and arrest papers are under seal.

    Although prosecutors have the discretion to file adult charges against teenagers accused of certain crimes, the law also allows defendants to challenge that decision.

  • Update: ‘Babywiz’ sentenced to two life terms

    Tue, November 26, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    The price for double-murder in El Paso County: Two consecutive life terms plus 20 years behind bars.

    That was the penalty imposed Tuesday against Alonzo “BabyWiz” Paige, the 21-year-old found guilty of killing two men and wounding two more in January 2012 outside an east Colorado Springs apartment complex.

    Paige, who tearfully apologized after his guilty verdicts, again addressed the court, telling the victims’ survivors that he didn’t have a choice but to shoot.

    A jury batted down his self-defense claim after just five hours’ deliberation earlier this month, capping a nearly three-week trial.

    While Paige’s attorneys say he was “ambushed” by gang rivals, prosecutors accused him of pulling a gun during a fistfight – with disastrous results.

  • Second of two brothers pleads guilty in bank heists

    Mon, November 18, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    The second of two brothers charged alongside their father in a Pikes Peak region bank robbery spree has pleaded guilty.

    Braden Wayne Butson, 23, of Colorado Springs, would serve up to six years in prison under a plea deal described in court Monday at a hearing before 4th Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey. In exchange for his guilty plea to two counts of robbery – and a promise to testify truthfully about the crimes — prosecutors dismissed all other counts.

    Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 21.

    The defendant’s younger brother, Nicholas Edward Butson, 20, earlier this month also took a plea deal calling for him to be sentenced to no more than six years on Jan. 12.

    The brothers were each charged in eight robberies and one attempted robbery in Colorado Springs and Monument between May and September – in which a lone robber entered each bank and handed a teller a note demanding money.

    Prosecutors say Nicholas Braden and Braden Butson took turns robbing the banks while their father, Brock Edward Butson, served as the getaway driver.

    Brock Butson’s attorneys said earlier this month that he is also considering a plea bargain. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 2.

  • Jury weighing self-defense claim in double slaying

    Thu, November 14, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    UPDATE: An El Paso County jury found Paige guilty of all charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without parole at a Nov. 26 sentencing.

    Self-defense, or a gangbanger’s murderous wrath?

    An El Paso County jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of a 22-year-old man accused of killing two men and wounding two others in a

    Alonzo Paige, 21

    Alonzo Paige, 22

    Jan. 24, 2012 shooting outside an east Colorado Springs apartment complex.

    After nearly three weeks at trial, the case against Alonzo “BabyWiz” Paige will hinge on whether a seven-woman, five-man panel believes Paige’s claim he fired in self-defense.

    Killed in the attack were Marquise Bean, 20, and Andrew Encalade, 21. Encalade’s older brother, Adam, 27, was left paralyzed, and the fourth man, Jareem Vanterpool, 23, will suffer permanent nerve damage, authorities say.

    Both sides in the case agree Paige pulled a gun outside the Timberlane Apartments, 3985 E. Bijou St., when tensions flared among rival gang members.

    Whether Paige was justified in pulling the trigger was the focus of Thursday’s closing arguments before 4th Judicial District Judge Barney Iuppa.

    Although Paige’s friend had been knocked down by a punch, no one besides Paige displayed a weapon and there was no indication anyone’s life was in danger, according to prosecutor Jeff Harwood, who emphasized witness accounts that Bean was shot multiple times and lay wounded on the street when Paige returned to “finish him off.”

    “The defendant stood at Kaos’s feet and put one last bullet right through his chest,” he said, referring to Bean’s nickname.

    Describing the victims as “thugs,” defense attorney Phil Dubois charged that Paige and his friend were outnumbered 4-2 when the victims launched a “cowardly ambush,” and he argued that Paige had no duty to submit to a “beat down” or retreat from his fallen friend.

    “I guess what he’s supposed to do is leave Demo lying there in the care and comfort of the Carver Park crew,” Dubois said. “They were gonna be nice, right?”

    The attorneys clashed over conflicts among witnesses’ stories and traded accusations that gang associates on each side sought to intimidate people involved in the case. Dubois said Paige’s mother received threats on Facebook and heard gunshots outside the courthouse while leaving a pretrial hearing in the case.

    Harwood countered that no such evidence was presented at trial – and asked jurors to reflect on why Paige’s friends attended the trial only when the “teenage girls” who said they witnessed the shooting were testifying for the prosecution.

    At one point, Harwood strode to the defense table, directed his gaze at Paige, and then invited the jury to note the defendant’s reaction.

    “Look at the way he’s staring at me,” Harwood told the panel. “Does that look like somebody who wasn’t just as eager to get into it? Look at him.”

    Dubois said police and prosecutors “bullied” two defense witnesses who contradicted other witness accounts that no one else was armed.

    “Don’t let them bully you,” Dubois told jurors.

  • Judge: No change of venue for Nozolino

    Tue, November 12, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    It was a “motion denied” kind of morning for the defense in the Bruce Nozolino case.

    After a two-hour delay ascribed to trouble getting the defendant transported from the El Paso County jail to the courtroom, Pueblo District

    Bruce J. Nozolino

    Bruce J. Nozolino

    Judge Victor I. Reyes wasted little time or breath in denying a series of pre-trial motions lodged by the defense.

    Among the motions denied Tuesday morning was a request for a change of venue for Nozolino’s Jan. 6 trial on suspicion of fatally shooting his ex-wife’s former lover and trying to kill her divorce attorney, an El Paso County District judge who presided over the divorce, and their families.

    Nozolino, 52, has denied involvement, and his attorneys argue that coverage of the crimes has been so “massive, pervasive and prejudicial” that he is unable to get a fair jury.

    In a rapid-fire recitation of his rulings, Reyes said publicity had little effect on Nozolino at back-to-back trials in 2012 for witness intimidation and perjury.

    Despite The Gazette’s coverage of the first trial, only one prospective juror at Nozolino’s second trial days later had acknowledged reading about him, Reyes said. He described Colorado Springs’ populace as “transitory” and said enough time had passed since the shootings reported in 2001, 2002 and 2008 to blunt the effect of publicity.

    The judge ordered that 200 prospective jurors be brought in to help ensure that an unbiased panel can be found for the two-month trial.

    Reyes also rejected the defense’s request to toss out evidence from a wiretap placed on his phones and a GPS unit placed on at least one of his vehicles, ruling that despite defense arguments to the contrary, investigators had established probable cause for their search methods.

    The hearing continues after lunch with testimony related to a defense request to throw out some statements made by Nozolino prior to his arrest in summer 2010.

    Be sure to check Tuesday’s edition of The Gazette for an update.

  • The Week Ahead

    Mon, November 11, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    Greetings Court Watchers,

    Thank heavens for three-day weekends because there’s a hard stretch ahead in El Paso County’s felony courts.zeb pike

    Here’s a sampling of what’s to come.

    Tuesday

    – At 8:30 a.m. in 350W, Bruce Nozolino will be back in court as a judge hears arguments over a series of pre-trial motions.  Among the issues to be decided: Whether Nozolino can get a fair trial in El Paso County this January. A former Lockheed Martin software engineer, Nozolino has pleaded not guilty in a homicide and three other shootings authorities link to an acrimonious divorce, and his attorneys argue that pre-trial publicity in the case has been “massive, pervasive and prejudicial.”

    – At 8:30 a.m. in Div. 15, Braden Butson is to be arraigned in a series of nine bank robberies and one attempted bank robbery allegedly linked to him, his brother and his father.  The brother, Nicholas Butson, has already pleaded guilty in two of the robberies, and an attorney for father Brock Butson says he is mulling a plea deal.

    Wednesday

    Look for the case against double-murder suspect Alonzo Paige to go to the jury. (This could happen on Tuesday. Stay tuned.)

    Thursday

    – At 8:30 a.m. in Div. 14, prosecutors will lay out evidence they say ties Richard Cantu and Robert Swiatek to more than 100 home burglaries in Colorado Springs this year.

    Friday

    – At 9 a.m. in Div. 4, Aaron Lucas will be in front of Judge David Shakes for a key pre-trial hearing. Among the issues that could be decided: Whether Lucas, who has been linked to a string of child sex crimes, will be allowed to argue at trial that some of the crimes were actually committed by his identical twin brother.

    If you know of something I should check out, shoot me a line at lance.benzel@gazette.com.

    Regards,

    Lance

  • Daily Docket: Woman to learn fate in child abuse death

    Fri, November 8, 2013 by Lance Benzel with no comments

    On tap the courts: A Colorado Springs woman will be sentenced this afternoon for her role in the beating death of her 2-month-old daughter.

    Lakeria Shazarae Grant, 21, pleaded guilty this summer to felony child abuse in the December 2011 slaying of Harmone’e Elam, who died of a severe brain injury and lacerations to her liver.

    She faces up to 12 years in prison at her sentencing, scheduled for 2 p.m. before 4th Judicial District Judge Robin Chittum.

    The woman’s husband was also convicted in the girl’s death.

    Former Fort Carson soldier Roderick Elam was found guilty of felony child abuse at a January trial and sentenced in March to 32 years in prison.