HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Lots of shocking new details surfaced in a Madison County Courtroom in the case of a Huntsville woman accused of poisoning her husband.
Nikki Cappello, 32, was not present for the preliminary hearing in District Judge Claude Hundley III's court. She filed a written waiver. However, relatives of her husband, Jim, who is the victim, were there to listen to testimony.
The case stunned the community. Jim was a well known private investigator who was reported missing in September before he was found dead and his wife charged with his murder.
Huntsville investigators say Cappello, a former registered nurse, poisoned her husband with insulin and asked friends to help her get rid of the body.
"Honestly, the family gets a lot of respect from me. I don't know if I would be able to sit there and listen to all of that and keep a straight face the way that they did. The evidence that came out today was pretty clear and horrendous," said Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit, the prosecutor.
Huntsville Police Department Major Crimes investigator Mike DeNoon, the lead investigator, on the case took the stand during the hearing to outline his findings.
He laid out the entire case, explaining that it started on September 21, 2018 when Nikki filed a missing persons report on her husband, James, who goes by Jim or Jimmy.
His coworkers had been contacting her asking about him because he didn’t show up for work, which was unlike him. When they went to check on him at the family’s home on Lauderdale Road in South Huntsville, she would not let them come inside the house but Jim’s car was there.
On September 22, Nikki called a close friend named Crystal Anderson and confided in her that Jim was not really missing and that 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 worry about it after all and that she had another friend that was coming to help her. Anderson then called police to report everything because she was concerned. Huntsville police have been working to verify the identity of the other person who was allegedly coming to help Nikki.
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.
Investigators got there and 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.
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 floor board 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 like 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."
Police and prosecutors have not yet received the final autopsy report, but DeNoon spoke to the medical examiner who told him that in her report, she will be indicating that Jim was poisoned by insulin.
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 the Cappello's home has been set to the FBI forensics lab for analysis. Phones, computers and tablets were also taken, per the search warrant.
During the entire hearing, Jim Cappello's relatives paid attention to every detail. Some wore shirts that read "Justice for Jimmy" on the front and "Prayers & Hope for Ryleigh" on the back.
They said it's important for them to be there in court.
"It's going to help give us closure. It's given us strength," said Jim's sister, Jamie Weast. "He's shining down on us right now. He's with us every step of the way. We're doing everything that we're capable of every day to remember and honor him. He was well known in the Huntsville community."
"It was pretty intense but I'm glad it's going to move on," added Jim Cappello Sr. after the hearing. "We want to be part of the whole thing. He didn't deserve this but he deserves justice. He's my son and I miss him."
The couple's daughter Ryleigh is being cared for by family members.
"She's doing excellent. She's happy and thriving and active. She's involved in school and church," Weast said.
Judge Hundley found probable cause to move the case forward. Next it will be presented to a Madison County grand jury.
Nikki Cappello’s attorney, Ron Smith, had no comment coming out of court. She is out of jail on bond. She has lost her nursing license.
Tim Douthit talked about the hard ordeal Jim’s loved ones have been through, stating: “To have gone through it as a missing person first, when you have that suspicion in your back of your mind that something is going on and then to finally have it confirmed, it’s not like you walk into a room and suddenly get hit by something. It’s a slow realization of dread. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”