Former Huntsville nurse receives life sentence for husband’s murder

A woman in Alabama, Nikki Cappello, has been convicted of poisoning her husband and sentenced to life in prison. (Source: WAFF)
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 10:52 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2022 at 1:15 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A Huntsville woman convicted of poisoning her husband was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday.

On July 14, former registered nurse Nikki Cappello entered a Madison County Courtroom to be sentenced for the murder of her husband, Jim Cappello. Jim was a well-known private investigator who was reported missing in September 2018 before he was found dead of insulin poisoning.

“The sentence is life, life in prison,” Prosecutor Tim Douthit said after the sentencing. “Theoretically, here in a few decades, you might have a chance to get parole but it’s life.”

“It’s actually surprisingly rare that we run into truly evil people, truly unrepentantly evil people in this world,” Douthit added. “This is one of those cases. I’m happy to get up every morning and fight that.”

Attorney Will League said now that the criminal phase is complete, the civil suit can be continued.

“We will now proceed with the civil to try and get restitution, money and compensation damages for the estate, which is really the minor child,” League said.

A number of friends and family members of Jim Cappello were interviewed exclusively by WAFF 48.

Jim Cappello's family and friends have been waiting for this day and praying for this outcome.

Jim’s father was happy with the final sentencing.

“It’s over with and she’s going to jail,” Jim Cappello, Sr. said. “Riley’s the victim here.”

Jim Cappello's family hold a photo of daughter Riley following Nikki's life sentence
Jim Cappello's family hold a photo of daughter Riley following Nikki's life sentence(WAFF)

Jim’s sister Jamie Weist has permanent custody of the Cappello’s daughter Ryleigh. After sentencing, she reflected on the day her brother’s body was found.

“She almost got away with it except her family was en route,” Weist said. “I think she panicked and she knew she had to get the body out. And at that point, she was calling a friend to help. We were hours away and I’m a pit bull. I was gonna find him. Determined to find him. I was packed and ready.”

Matt Hornbuckle, Jim’s best friend, said he heard many times about the case Jim was building against Nikki for future full custody.

“He would talk to me about the fact that he was building a case against his wife to be able to take Ryleigh and get sole custody of her,” Hornbuckle said. “He mentioned more than on one occasion that if he ever came up dead, it was his wife that killed him.”

Family of Jim Cappello after Nikki received life sentence
Family of Jim Cappello after Nikki received life sentence(WAFF)

THE INVESTIGATION

On September 22, 2018, Nikki called a close friend named Crystal Anderson and confided in her that Jim was not really missing, according to one Huntsville Police Investigator in a case preliminary hearing. Anderson claimed Nikki said she killed him with insulin and asked her to come help dispose of the body.

After a brief pause as she put Anderson on hold, investigators say she came back on the line and told Anderson not to worry about it after all and that she had another friend that was coming to help her.

Anderson then called the police to report everything because she was concerned.

Patrol officers responded to the house. One officer went to the backyard and the other went to the front door, to cover all of the exits and entrances. The officer in front asked Nikki to step out on the front porch to speak to him and when she did, he smelled the odor of a decomposing body.

He detained her there and the officer in the back spotted a small freshly dug grave.

Huntsville Police Department Major Crimes investigator Mike DeNoon testified that he could smell a dead body as he approached the house.

He spoke to Nikki and asked her if he could look inside the home and he said she became very nervous. He asked for her consent to search and eventually she agreed but told him he could not look in the garage.

A jury found Nikki Cappello guilty in May 2022.

HPD obtained a search warrant and found Jim’s body on the floor in the garage. According to Investigator DeNoon, Jim was on his back on top of a tarp and both of his feet had been set on the floorboard of a car like someone was trying to load him into the vehicle.

At that point, Nikki was taken to the Criminal Investigations Division for questioning.

DeNoon had a brief conversation with her and told the court that she acted as if nothing had happened.

He asked her: “You know I went inside...You know I found him, right?”

She responded: “Yes, I knew he was there.”

DeNoon went on to explain that Jim had become suspicious that his wife was abusing narcotics so he started investigating her and gathering evidence. He wanted to leave her and wanted custody of their daughter, Ryleigh.

At one point, he found a bottle of insulin and snapped a photo of it, and sent it to a friend, but he didn’t know what it was at the time.

Investigators went to the hospital where Nikki worked as a charge nurse. Coworkers said she was very open about the fact that she was having problems with her husband and reportedly told them that the only way she would be free of him would be if he was dead.

Hospital staffers also went back through medications and found that insulin was missing, with no record of any patient needing it.

There was nothing to indicate that Jim or Nikki needed insulin for any health reason.

DeNoon said Nikki claimed she accidentally brought a bottle of insulin home from work.

After their short talk at CID, DeNoon read Nikki her rights and she requested an attorney.

Police indicated that surveillance from Cappello’s home has been sent to the FBI forensics lab for analysis. Phones, computers and tablets were also taken, per the search warrant.

MULTIPLE TRIAL DELAYS

Nikki’s trial was scheduled for January 27, 2020, but was delayed several times due to COVID-19 and legal maneuvering.

Then, in February 2020, Cappello waived her arraignment and pleaded not guilty.

After the May 2022 trial, prosecutor Tim Douthit said the defense’s argument just wasn’t strong enough.

“The defense has based its whole case that without a medical cause of death you can’t prove a murder has been committed,” Douthit said in May. “That is not the law in the state of Alabama.”

Prosecutors had a jam-packed witness list over the four-day trial, which led to some eye-opening testimony. Some of the witnesses included Jim’s former co-workers, his sister, and Nikki’s best friend.

JIM CAPPELLO’S FAMILY CONTINUES TO RAISE THE COUPLE’S DAUGHTER

With Jim Cappello dead and his wife charged with his murder, who would take in their four-year-old daughter?

Little Ryleigh’s health and safety were a top priority. A judge awarded Jim’s sister, Jamie Weast, permanent custody.

WAFF traveled to Jamie’s home in North Florida to see how Ryleigh is doing, almost four years later.

“She just fit right into our family. You know her cousins welcomed her in and her cousins actually refer to her as “my sister,” Weast said. “At the end of it all, I want her to be in jail for life and I want to adopt Ryleigh because she’s ours.”

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