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Suspect in 1988 murder will be tried as an adult

The 46-year-old man arrested for a murder that happened 30 years ago will not have his case moved to juvenile court, but there’s a chance that he could be sentenced as a juvenile if he’s convicted.

James Papol was 15 at the time police allege he killed 24-year-old Mary Lynn Vialpando. Vialpando was found dead by blunt force trauma, and a break didn’t come in the case until decades later when Papol was arrested while living at a state hospital in Pueblo.

Papol’s attorneys filed a motion saying the case should be moved to juvenile court based on a 2012 amendment that would have barred a direct file of charges in district court for most juvenile suspects.

That request was shot down Wednesday.

Judge Robin Chittum ruled that the amendment didn’t apply retroactively, saying the legislature wouldn’t have intended such a “huge disruption” of the court process by opening the door to a wave of similar appeals. She said nothing in the history of the law indicated that it was intended to be a retroactive change.

“Which means we follow 1988 law, and it clearly states there’s no such thing as a reverse hearing from district court to juvenile court,” Chittum said.

So Papol will stay in district court, but there’s a catch. Chittum said law states that juveniles convicted by a direct file can receive consideration of a juvenile or adult sentence. That means Papol potentially could receive a lighter sentence if found guilty of murder. But Chittum said, “We’ll have to do that if we ever reach that point.”

Papol is still being held in custody, but he will be moved from the El Paso County Jail back to the state hospital in Pueblo where he was arrested. That’s after his attorneys filed a motion saying the jail wasn’t adequately administering Papol’s medications. A defense attorney cited one instance in which Papol went days without receiving his medications, and that affected Papol’s mental capacity as well as having a visible effect on his body.

Despite objections by a representative with the hospital, Chittum agreed to move Papol back to the state hospital in order to prevent any incompetency issues.

“Frankly, if this case went away right now, that’s where he should be,” Chittum said.

Papol will next appear in court for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. on March 1.

Previous Story (Oct. 11)

The man accused of murder in a 30-year-old killing of a Colorado Springs woman may try to move the case to juvenile court.

At about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, James Papol appeared in court for the first time after being arrested for the 1988 murder of Mary Lynn Vialpando. She was found dead by blunt force trauma at the age of 24.

Papol, now 46, was 15-years-old at the time of the killing. It was the first homicide case in Colorado to collect DNA evidence to be tested later on, but a break in the case didn’t come for decades. In late September, Papol was arrested in Pueblo for the first-degree murder charge.

A crowd of the victim’s family occupied the right side of the visitors’ section for hours while about a dozen low-level offenders appeared before the judge.

District Attorney Dan May came into the courtroom representing the state for Papol’s hearing Thursday.

Papol’s defense filed multiple motions, one requesting a preliminary hearing that can be held outside of the 35-day timeframe.

Papol’s public defender is reviewing the prosecution’s direct file to see if they can transfer the hearing to juvenile court since Papol was a juvenile at the time of the alleged murder. A direct file is when a prosecutor bypasses juvenile or family court to charge a minor in an adult court.

With the accusation being from 30 years ago, Papol’s lawyers need time to gather documents and other evidence before a preliminary hearing.

May also asked for accommodations to secure expert testimony and other documents ahead of the preliminary hearing.

Normally May would object to an extension beyond the 35-day time period, but he acknowledged the circumstances warrant it.

This case is a 2018 case, but this is a 1988 crime. Judge Robin Chittum said you can’t direct file on a 15 year old at present day.

That means Papol’s defense will file either a motion to dismiss the case in its current state because it couldn’t be direct filed, or a motion to reverse transfer if the current law applies to that 1988 crime.

Police are making sure the notes are being preserved based on a request by the defense. Both sides will discuss the discovery and presentation of that information at a later date.

Papol will next be in court for a review hearing on Nov. 30 at 12 p.m.

Previous Story

Colorado Springs police have made an arrest for murder in a 30-year-old cold case thanks to DNA evidence.

Mary Lynn Vialpando, 24, was found dead in June 1988, and it was the first case in Colorado to collect DNA evidence to test later, according to the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Thursday, Colorado Springs police announced that a 46-year-old man was arrested for first-degree murder in the slaying. The suspect hasn’t been identified yet, but he was arrested in Pueblo.

Police said that at the time of the killing, the suspect was 15 years old. Police added that the victim was sexually assaulted before being murdered.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Previous Story

DNA from an unsolved murder investigation in Colorado Springs in 1988 has recently produced an image of the possible killer.

Mary Lynn Vialpando, 24, was found dead by blunt force trauma in the 2600 block of West Colorado Avenue in Colorado Springs on Sunday, June 5, 1988.

Vialpando was last seen by family arguing with her husband at their home in the 2200 block of West Kiowa Street at around 2 a.m. after attending a wedding in Pueblo. She left the home and did not say where she was going.

Witnesses told Colorado Springs police that they may have seen Vialpando inside Roger’s Bar off West Colorado Avenue between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. and that she could have exited through the back door of the bar and into the alley.

This year, her case was revisited, and detectives found usable DNA that they sent off to a DNA technology company that specializes in DNA phenotyping. The company was able to use the evidence to produce traits such as ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape. Using these findings, a “Snapshot” photo was formed.

Note: This photo only gives an idea of what the suspect may have looked like at age 25. It does not take into consideration certain aging factors such as smoking, drinking, and diet.

The new image is a hopeful development for Jennifer Romero, a Colorado Springs woman whose son, Gino, 13, was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997.
“They caught two of the people but the shooters have not been caught,” she said.

Romero created the local support group MOMY, Mothers of Murdered Youth, after her son’s death and has closely followed the Vialpando case.

“I can’t explain why, but I had a strong connection to her,” she said. “Maybe it’s because she was so young, so beautiful and was the mother of a 4-year-old daughter. Technology like this can give families peace and a better chance of justice.”

Anyone with information or is a witness to the Vialpando investigation is asked to call the Colorado Springs Police Department at (719) 444-7000; or if you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (719) 634-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-8477.

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