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S3 / EP26: The Ice Chest Murder • Thomas Capano

I'm always baffled when I come across cases where someone throws a successful life away because of their ego, their selfishness and their narcissism. It's usually someone who has built up a career over many years (i.e. OJ Simpson) and more than likely believes that murder is another thing that they'll be good at and something that they'll get away with because of clout, reputation or some other ridiculous reason. And sometimes they do get away with it - and sometimes....they don't.


It also goes without saying that blood is thicker than water - your family "usually" will stick by you even if you've done the most heinous of acts, but it's interesting in this case, that the family members involved ultimately end up doing what's best for themselves rather than what's best for their loved one.


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Transcribed Episode / S3 EP26: The Ice Chest Murder • Thomas Capano


[Host]


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There’s a famous quote that says: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We’ve seen this play out time and time again - in politics, in our corporate jobs and of course, in crime cases. Now it’s true, sometimes those with power do great things and help a lot of people. But I’m going to be talking about a case where someone who had success, and had wealth and had power, thought he was above the law - and because of his arrogance, assumed he could get away with anything, including murder.

Thomas Capano was born in Delaware in 1949. His father was an Italian immigrant who built a lucrative business as a custom home builder and real estate developer. His father had met his mother Marguerite in Delaware and the two settled down and had five children - four boys and a girl. Thomas was their oldest and it was obvious fairly quickly that he became his parents' favorite. He was seen as the child who could do no wrong and became a role model to his siblings. During high school he was well-rounded: he was captain of the football team, was student council president and served as an altar boy at his church. He was also very studious and was always reading books. At home he was always helpful, chipping in on household chores and was the one who stepped in to break up the fights between his siblings.

After high school, Thomas pursued law, attending Boston College law school. After passing the bar, he became a successful and well-known prosecutor in the city of Wilmington Delaware. He was the city attorney under mayor Dan Frawley, and also worked as legal counsel for Delaware Governor Mike Castle, until his term ended in 1992. He was also a political consultant and later began working for the Wilmington law firm Morris James Hitchens and Williams and then became managing partner of the Wilmington office of Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul. So Thomas had moved up in the ranks in his career, had a stellar reputation and became a multimillionaire.


For those that knew him, he was described as confident, charming and intelligent. He was well known in political social circles and his achievements earned him a LOT of respect.

In late 1993, 47 year old Thomas met 28 year old Anne Marie Fahey. Anne worked as the appointments secretary - which is sort of like a personal assistant or personal scheduler - to then-Governor Tom Carper. Thomas and Anne found they had a lot in common, both coming from large families and both moved in similar political circles so it was no wonder they clicked right away.


Anne was tall, attractive, outgoing and bubbly. She was born to a tight-knit Irish family and was the youngest of six children, but her life took a dark turn when at 9 years old her mother died of lung cancer and as a result of that tragedy, her father turned into an unemployed alcoholic.


Knowing she had to navigate her own way through life, Anne went to school and studied International Relations. It was after graduating college that her friend got her the job working for the governor. She didn’t make a lot of money at her job and her family situation caused her to suffer from self-esteem issues resulting in crippling insecurity that eventually manifested into eating disorders and caused her to seek out therapy.


Anne was drawn to Thomas - he seemed caring and protective of her, there was definite chemistry between them. There was just one glitch, Thomas was married and had been for the past 24 years and he had children. All of this didn’t seem to bother Anne, as he assured her that his marriage was over.


What Anne didn’t know was that her boyfriend was a serial cheater. Infidelity was a pastime for him and he’d had multiple affairs during his marriage and was currently seeing multiple women. For the past 15 years he’d had an ongoing affair with Deborah MacIntyre, who was the ex-wife of his former legal partner, and a friend to - none other than - his own wife.


Deborah was considered Thomas’ “Wednesday-night” girl. He’d share takeout dinners with her and they’d watch movies together at her home.


Another one of Thomas’ mistresses was legal secretary Susan Louth, who he liked to bring with him to dinners at upscale restaurants in Philadelphia.


Even though he was having all these extramarital affairs, he was very discreet about it, being careful not to embarrass his wife by being seen with the other women in public - how considerate!


Anne liked to maintain a personal diary where she’d document her internal fears, relationships and struggles. In April 1994 she wrote: “I am afraid because I am in love with a man who has a family. . . I fantasize about my life with him all the time. He is very gentle, intelligent, handsome and interesting.”


But just a couple of days later, she was obviously conflicted by the relationship and how much she had divulged to him and wrote: “Our relationship is finished. . . . I know it is my problem and my fault. . . . I told him things that were hidden inside me. “


Despite this, she continued seeing Thomas, and the following year, he separated from his wife Kay, but the actual divorce didn’t get finalized for several years. For the next two and half years, Thomas and Anne would go on vacations together and he’d take care of things for her - such as repairing her car windshield, treating her to nice dinners, and buying her clothes and purses. She fell in love with him, and fantasized about him leaving his wife for good and marrying her.


But as the relationship grew, what started out as protective, became controlling. Thomas started dictating everything about Anne’s life, telling her what to wear, who she could associate with when she wasn't with him, and even what she could eat. Growing up without parents, it was easy to fall into the manipulation of having someone control her life.


In September 1995, not realizing Anne was already involved with someone, her boss, Governor Tom Carper set her up on a blind date with 31 year old executive Michael Scanlan. The two hit it off right away - he treated her well and she loved being with him.

Having met Michael, and realizing how controlling and dominating Thomas was, Anne knew she needed to find a way to break it off with him.


Somehow Thomas found out about Anne’s new relationship and he began harassing her….bombarding her with phone calls and emails. Sometimes he would beg her to break it off with Michael and other times he would berate her and call her “white trash.” He’d also manipulate her by one minute sending her flowers, telling her he needed her and reminding her that he was leaving his family for her, but then another minute he would get angry and demand she return all the gifts he gave her.


He vented to a friend of his, telling him that “I could buy her anything she wanted, I have more money than I can spend in a lifetime.”


Anne figured that even if she ended their relationship, she was hoping they could still be friends. She told a few people she was afraid of him and how he was controlling, and she was worried he would hurt her - - but then when she got sick at work from her eating disorders, she would have Thomas pick her up to nurse her back to health. Maybe she did that because she thought he’d changed his ways, or maybe she was hopeful she could exit the relationship on a good note.


That Christmas, Thomas bought Anne an airline ticket to go to Spain with him, but she refused to take it. She knew it was time to break things off with him for good.


On April 7, 1996, she wrote this last entry in her diary: “I have finally brought closure to Thomas Capano. What a controlling, manipulative, insecure, jealous maniac….for one whole year, I allowed someone to take control of every decision of my life.”


On Thursday evening June 27, 1996 she agreed to go to dinner with Thomas at the Panorama Italian Restaurant in Philadelphia - she figured it would be a good time to tell him she no longer wanted to see him. The server that waited on the couple later testified the atmosphere between the couple was tense and cold, that there wasn’t much talking between the two, and that Thomas ordered all the food for the couple without consulting Anne. They left the restaurant at 9:30pm.


Two nights later, Anne was supposed to have dinner at her brother’s house, but she didn’t show up. Her friends and family got worried, so they went over to her house and asked the landlord to open up her apartment.


Once inside, they noticed the apartment looked undisturbed and normal with the exception of a few unusual items. In her bedroom was a Talbot’s clothes box and one of her dresses was slung casually over a chair. Her purse with her wallet inside was sitting on the kitchen counter next to a takeout food container. A grocery bag full of fruit that needed to be refrigerated, was also left out on her kitchen counter. Anne would have never left her apartment like this - she was obsessively neat and organized. Her personal diary was also discovered. The air conditioning in the apartment was turned on and her front door had been locked - - she was reported missing on June 30th.


The day she was reported missing, authorities were notified of her involvement with Thomas Capano. Police headed over to his home to question him about Anne’s whereabouts. He told them that he’d met Anne for dinner, then they stopped at his house before driving to her apartment where he fixed her broken air conditioner. He then left her apartment around 10pm.


A couple days after she was reported missing, Anne’s hairdresser called detectives to tell them Anne had confessed to her that she was scared of Thomas and that he was stalking her after he found out that she’d started to date Michael.


Because of her employment position with the governor, an extensive investigation into her disappearance followed. Even then-President Bill Clinton got involved, telling the governor he’d offer to aid in the search by involving the FBI.


After he was initially questioned by police, Thomas hired lawyers and refused to help in the investigation any further because they’d peppered him with questions about personal matters unrelated to Anne.


TV cameras from the show Hard Copy arrived in Wilmington to get in on the action, and her disappearance made front page news, with the New York Times printing an article about her in early July.


The FBI joined the search and the case was presented to a federal grand jury to review. As Thomas was the last known person to have seen her alive, he was the prime suspect.


Thomas’ maid, Ruth Boylan, was interviewed by detectives and she told them that she cleaned his house on July 22nd, and noticed that both the sofa and the carpet had been replaced. The FBI discovered he’d purchased an oriental rug just two nights after Anne was reported missing.


The FBI also interviewed Shaw Taylor, a project manager for Thomas’ brother Louis Capano. He told them he was asked by Louis on July 1st to have a specific dumpster emptied from a construction site. The FBI also learned that earlier that month, that Thomas’ other brother Gerry, had sold a fishing boat. The significance of the emptied dumpster and the fishing boat would be revealed to investigators later on in the investigation.


It was also discovered that Thomas had borrowed - which was extremely unusual - his estranged wife Kay’s Chevy Suburban the morning of June 28th - that was the morning after he’d had dinner with Anne.


A search warrant was obtained for Thomas’ rental house, his Jeep and the Suburban. Investigators found spots of Anne blood on the baseboards in the house, and blood was also found in both vehicles.


Investigators then moved on to see if they could get any information from the Capano brothers. On November 8th 1997, they raided Gerry Capano’s home, seizing drugs and several weapons. They threatened him, telling him that they could send him to prison for the drugs and weapons - trying to get him to divulge information about Anne’s disappearance.


After that incident, he obtained an attorney, and decided to tell authorities about a boating incident he had with his brother.


The day after Thomas and Anne had dinner, Thomas called Gerry asking him to borrow his boat. He told him he’d just murdered someone who had been trying to extort money from him.


[Thomas Capano Trial Testimony]


[Gerry Capano]


He approached me that night, he came to my house, it was 3 in the morning. Said he needed my help. Brought me into the basement, into the garage there was a cooler. I asked him what was in the cooler. He said he wanted to dump a body in the ocean, I say 'no way,' but he badgered me saying "c'mon little brother, c'mon little brother" and I finally gave in. We put the cooler on the boat, drove about 70 miles out to sea.


[Host]


Thomas met up with Gerry and lugged a large white igloo cooler onto the boat and the two men headed to Stone Harbor New Jersey. Once they were 62 miles out to sea, they heaved the cooler overboard…but the cooler didn’t sink.


Because the cooler wasn’t sinking, Thomas grabbed a gun he’d brought with him and shot a hole in it, trying to force it to sink - but it didn’t work. The men then pulled the cooler back on board, removed Anne’s body, wrapped anchor chains around her, then threw her in the water. They also wrapped anchor chains around the cooler before tossing it back into the water, hoping this time it would sink. Gerry would later admit to authorities that he would never be able to get the image of a human calf and foot disappearing into the water.


After the men got back to the dock, Thomas said he needed help with one additional item. He needed to get rid of his blood-stained sofa and carpet and knew just the person to call. Thomas called his other brother Louis Capano, who was a commercial developer and managed several dumpsters.


[Thomas Capano Trial Testimony]


[Louis Capano]

I suggested that Tom get rid of Miss Fahey's personal belongings.


[Unknown Person]

Upon Louis' advice, Tom Capano put personal belongings of Anne Marie Fahey in the dumpster and then Louis got rid of them.


[Prosecutor]

What things did Tom Capano get rid of in your dumpsters?


[Louis Capano]

Tom threw away a couch, two chairs, a rug and a handgun in my dumpsters.


[Host]


They brought the sofa and carpet to the dumpsters and threw them in, with Thomas insisting that Louise empty the dumpsters outside of their normal schedules.


After disposing of the body, the sofa and the carpet, Gerry sold his boat. Authorities then went to interview Louis Capano. Louis admitted he saw the sofa in his dumpster. He told police he confronted his brother Gerry about the incident and eventually got him to confess about helping dispose of the body.


Now, armed with the incriminating statements from the two brothers, Thomas was arrested on November 12th, 1997 - sixteen months after Anne was reported missing.


[Host]


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[Host]


The day after he was arrested, a local fisherman contacted the FBI in regards to a white cooler that he’d found. On July 4, 1996 he was fishing on the Indian River inlet with three other friends, when they came upon an empty Igloo cooler with a hole in the side, floating in the Atlantic. Having just read about Thomas’s arrest in the paper, they brought the cooler to authorities.


In February 1998, the FBI interviewed Thomas’ mistress, Deborah MacIntyre. She confessed to purchasing a .22-caliber Beretta pistol six weeks before Anne vanished, but only because Thomas told her he was being threatened and was worried about his safety. She gave the gun to him but had no idea what happened to it after that.


[Thomas Capano Trial Testimony]


[Prosecutor]

Miss McIntyre did you purchase the gun from Mr. Capano?


[Deborah McIntyre]

Yes I did.


[Prosecutor]

How would you characterize your relationship with Mr. Capano?


[Deborah McIntyre]

Tom was a nice person as long as you were doing what he wanted you to do, but he isn't the type of person you want to cross. He has a very bad temper. Everything was fine as long as I did everything Tom told me to do.


[Host]


Investigators theorized that more than likely it was Thomas’ plan to pin the murder on Deborah if anything came up pointing to him in the investigation.


She also admitted to the FBI that he had admitted to taking the boat ride with Gerry on June 28th. When questioned about Anne, she claimed she didn’t even know he was in a relationship with Anne until three days after she’d been reported missing.


While Thomas was in prison awaiting trial, two inmates told prosecutors about conversations they’d had with Thomas. One inmate said that Thomas had offered him $100,000 to arrange the murders of Deborah MacIntyre and Gerry Capano. Another another said that Thomas plotted to have Deborah’s home burglarized - assuming it was to scare her from testifying at trial.


With no murder weapon found, no body and no witnesses that saw the murder take place, there was very little physical evidence, so prosecutors knew they had to rely heavily on the testimonies of Gerry and Louis Capano and Deborah MacIntyre.


Thomas murder trial began on October 26, 1998, and would last 12 weeks.


The defense team consisted of lead counsel Joseph Oteri, attorneys Eugene Maurer, Joseph Hurley, Charles Oberly and John O’Donnell.


Attorney Joseph Hurley actually quit the legal team six months before the trial began, later stating that his decision to quite wasn’t because Thomas’ had admitted to the murder, but because he had a moment of reflection and moral clarity while attending a funeral at a Catholic church, and that’s when he realized that Thomas’ was a murderer and couldn’t go on defending him.


Attorney Eugene Maurer would also later go on to say that representing Thomas was one of the most depressing and disappointing professional experiences of his life, mainly because of how difficult he was to work with, and how he’d refuse to listen to his legal counsel.


In the defense’s opening statement, they shocked the courtroom when they admitted that it was Thomas who had dumped Anne's body at sea, BUT their argument was that her death was just a tragic accident. They claimed that Deborah MacIntyre had burst into Thomas’ bedroom, and when she saw him in bed with Anne, she flew in a jealous rage and threatened to shoot herself. When he tried to wrestle the gun from her, the gun accidentally discharged and struck Anne, killing her.


The prosecution was led by 33 year attorney Colm Connolly who had never tried a murder case before. Connolly was assisted by prosecutor Ferris Wharton and Judge William Swain Lee presided over the trial.


Unfortunately since the state didn’t have a body, they couldn’t determine how Anne died. They knew Thomas threw away the sofa and rug in his house, and that small drops of Anne’s blood were found in his home.


The Prosecution then laid out their theory of what actually happened the night of June 27th. After Thomas and Anne left the restaurant, they’d gone to his Wilmington Heights home - the home he’d rented since he and his wife separated. While at his house, they probably watched some TV and Anne changed from the dress she wore at dinner to something more casual. Sometime during the evening they argued - more than likely over the fact that Anne wanted to end their relationship and was dating someone else. They theorized that Thomas came up behind her while she was sitting on the couch, and shot her in the head. Believing no one would notice she was gone for at least a few days since she had off work that Friday, she probably wouldn’t be noticed missing until Monday morning.


He took her body and stuffed her into a cooler that he’d bought days earlier, then put it in the garage. He then went over to her apartment to stage the scene. He hung the dress she wore to dinner on the chair, he put her purse on the kitchen counter next to the takeout container and the bag of fruit, then left the apartment, locking the door behind him. The next day he’d make arrangements with Gerry and Louis to dispose of the body and the bloody evidence.


When investigators located Gerry’s boat that he’d sold, both of its anchors were missing.

A psychiatrist and psychologist who both treated Anne testified at trial that she was frightened of Thomas and was afraid to end their relationship - they had serious doubts she would’ve ever gone to his home willingly. They also testified that it was difficult for Anne to hurt people’s feelings, which made her vulnerable to Thomas’ manipulation.


Susan Louth, the other mistress, testified that she was asked by Thomas to spread the rumor that Deborah MacIntyre was the one that killed Anne.


Believing he was the smartest man in the room, Thomas testified in his own defense, painting himself as a family man and public servant. He was extremely combative on the stand during cross examination - and even though this was Prosecutor Connolly’s first murder trial, he stood his ground and didn’t allow Capano’s verbal attacks on him to faze him.


Both of Thomas’ brothers, Louis and Gerry, testified at trial, detailing their involvement in covering up the murder. Louis said the reason he lied to investigators about emptying the dumpsters ahead of schedule was because he was trying to cover for his brother. He also explained how he tried, unsuccessfully, to talk Thomas into confessing.


Prosecutors closed their argument by stating that the motive for the murder was that Thomas was jealous and upset that Anne was breaking off their three year affair. He was used to being in control, and would do anything to get that power back. Basically if he couldn’t have her, no one would.


The jury didn’t buy the defense’s argument about Deborah’s involvement, and on January 17, 1999 they found Thomas guilty of first-degree murder.


During the penalty phase of the trial, having always proclaimed his innocence, Thomas asked jurors to spare his life and said: "I'm not going to ask you to sit here while I beg for my life. I do ask you to consider my daughters, my mother, and the rest of my family; for their sake, I do ask you to let me live."


Prior to his sentencing, the prosecution wanted to prove a historical pattern of behavior in Thomas. 20 years before Anne’s murder, Thomas had solicited the brutal beating of Linda Marandola - one of his mistresses. Linda testified that he stalked her for months after they had a sexual relationship in the late 1970’s. When she broke off the relationship, he harassed her so badly that she had to leave Delaware. It was clear that what happened to Anne was not “new” behavior for Thomas, but that he’d been a controlling, abusive man, for a very, long time.


In March 1999, Judge Lee gave a brutal 20 minute statement in court, condemning Capano as a "ruthless murderer" and "malignant force” and stating that, quote: "The defendant fully expected to get away with murder and, were it not for his own arrogance and controlling nature, may well have succeeded.”


Thomas was sentenced to death by lethal injection…


[Eyewitness News Broadcast]


[News Anchor]

Eyewitness News at 5...he was once a prominent lawyer on top of the world, but tonight convicted killer Thomas Capano has hit bottom. He now has a date with death, today he was formally sentenced to be executed by lethal injection for the murder of Anne Marie Fahey...


[Miscellaneous Interviewee 1/Public Person]

I think that Tom did a very terrible thing, and that justice has been served.


[Miscellaneous Interviewee 2/Public Person]

I think it's a great thing, he killed someone, he deserves to be killed too.


[Host]


...but in 2006 the sentence was remanded, due to the death penalty being a non-unanimous jury verdict, and his sentence was changed to life in prison.


On September 19th 2011, after serving only 12 years of his sentence, 61 year old Thomas Capano was found dead in his cell. The cause of death was cardiac arrest and cardiovascular disease, and obesity was a contributing factor - the years in prison had obviously taken its toll. Neither Gerry or Louis was charged with their involvement in the murder and coverup, as they both had cooperated as witnesses and testified in court.

After the trial, some of the jurors spoke to the media, stating that the one major piece of evidence that they kept coming back to, was that white Igloo cooler. Thomas testified how he put Anne’s body into the cooler: he said after he shot her he wrapped her body in a cotton blanket and laid it on its side within the cooler and pushed her knees into a fetal position - BUT he specified that he didn’t break any of her bones.


One of the jurors who was about the same size as Anne, volunteered to go into the cooler. Leaving her high heels on to compensate for the size difference, she squirmed into the cooler, and was able to slightly fit, but the lid wouldn’t close. That’s when the jurors realized that Thomas’ had to have broken Anne’s bones, OR had done worse to her, to make her fit inside the cooler and be able to shut the lid.


This demonstration helped convince the jurors that Thomas was a lying, cold-blooded killer.

Anne's family has struggled over the years with never really knowing what happened to her. In 1997 because they’d never have a graveside to visit, they memorialized her with a bench and a dedication plaque placed in Brandywine Park in Wilmington, directly across from her apartment. The memorial is still there today.


When we think of wealthy individuals going to trial for literally anything, we assume they always get off scot-free. Sometimes that happens - sometimes you get what you pay for, and a smart, tough legal team can be all it takes to get you out of a conviction…but there are those times when it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much clout you have in a community, or how many really good lawyers you can afford. Sometimes that’s just not enough, and even the most privileged can be punished to the full extent of the law.


Thomas Capano was born into a life of wealth, privilege and entitlement and had a successful and reputable career. But he wasn’t used to losing, and he threw all of that away because of his own narcissism, insecurity and jealousy.


[Host]

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