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Authorities seek two men linked to Forestville killing suspect

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Posted by

By MARY CALLAHAN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County sheriff’s investigators have released surveillance photos of two men they believe accompanied a triple-homicide suspect from Colorado to Sonoma County before the Feb. 5 slayings.

Surveillance shot from a Chevron station in St. Helena. Shown is a truck that may be associated with the suspect in a Feb. 5 Forestville triple homicide. (COURTESY OF SONOMA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

The two men, captured in surveillance photos from a St. Helena Chevron station the day before the killings, also were pictured with slaying suspect Mark William Cappello at other gas stations across the western states, Sonoma County sheriff’s Lt. Dennis O’Leary said.

The two associates, described as “persons of interest,” had a gold Ford Ranger pickup with a king cab and camper shell that also was caught on surveillance tape, O’Leary said. The truck is probably an early 1990s model.

Detectives have been showing the pictures around the Central City, Colo., area where Cappello lives, O’Leary said.

Authorities hope someone may know something about the pair or the vehicle to help investigators determine if they were involved in the Forestville homicides, believed to be the result of a marijuana deal that went bad.

Investigators also have obtained surveillance footage from Sebastopol’s HopMonk Tavern from the night before the killings, owner Dean Biersch said. But he said he did not know any of the details and could not confirm rumors that Cappello and the three victims may have dined together there.

“Nobody’s told us what they found or what they were looking for even,” Biersch said.

O’Leary would not confirm that the tapes had been sought.

(See more surveillance photos of the men)

Cappello, 46, already is in custody after his arrest last week near Mobile, Ala., about an hour west of the Florida panhandle.

Surveillance shot from a Chevron station in St. Helena. Shown is a person of interest in the Feb. 5 Forestville slayings of three men.

During a brief court hearing Tuesday morning he appeared “quiet and somber,” with no emotion on his face even when informed he was wanted on three counts of murder, Assistant Mobile County District Attorney Geoff Alexander said.

There appeared to be no friends or family members in the courtroom for Cappello, he said.

“He wasn’t belligerent, and he wasn’t openly helpful or happy,” Alexander said. “He was just somber.”

Sonoma County authorities revealed Monday that Cappello had been arrested five days earlier after Mobile County sheriff’s deputies stopped him on Interstate 10 for a traffic violation. The deputies ran his license plate and learned Sonoma County had issued an order to stop and hold Cappello and his 1995 Ford Bronco.

A warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest, and he has been held without bail since his Feb. 14 arrest, awaiting extradition to Sonoma County for prosecution.

Cappello told a judge Tuesday he would sign papers waiving any objections to his extradition, Alexander said. Detectives are making arrangements to transport Cappello to Sonoma County next week, O’Leary said.

So far, Cappello is the only one named as a suspect in the Forestville case, in which three men were gunned down Feb. 5 in a house off rural Ross Station Road.

The victims include Sebastopol native Raleigh Butler, 24, and two out-of-state residents believed to have come to the area for the sole purpose of buying large quantities of pot, authorities said.

One of the victims, Todd Klarkowski, 42, lived in Boulder, Colo., about an hour’s drive from Cappello’s home in the historic mountain community of Central City.

A third victim, Richard Lewin, 46, of Huntington, N.Y., was previously a stock broker who hit hard times when the economy tanked four years ago but continued to live what his girlfriend’s father called a “first class” life out of their upscale Long Island home.

Surveillance shot from a Chevron station in St. Helena. Shown is a person of interest in the Feb. 5 Forestville slayings of three men.

It’s unclear how the men were connected or whether any marijuana ever exchanged hands, or if the deal was merely a setup for a robbery.

Cappello had no regular job but told friends and neighbors he had family money and obligations related to family business interests, including what he said were periodic trips to Brazil where his family reportedly had a commercial fish farm, neighbor Ron Montoya said.

Lewin was working on renewing his stock broker’s license and traveled occasionally on business, said Paul Perez, whose daughter was Lewin’s live-in girlfriend for the past eight years. But Lewin was never explicit about how he financed what Perez said was a comfortable life.

On the day before the slaying, Lewin told his girlfriend, Jennifer Perez, only that he was headed to California on business, “and that was it,” her father said.

“Our hearts are broken,” Perez said. “It’s a hole that will never be filled.”

He said he wished he could “reach out and console” the grieving families of the other victims.

“All three families, I would imagine, are feeling this pain, to have a loved one wiped out,” he said.

Anyone with information about the Ford Ranger or the two men connected with it is asked to call investigators at (707) 565-2185.

You can reach Staff WriterMary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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