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4 years later: Jim Cappello’s family raising his daughter

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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NORTH FLORIDA (WAFF) - 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.

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

In 2018, Jamie and her husband Chris had 2 sons and a daughter before they added Ryleigh.

“She just fit right into our family. You know her cousins welcomed her in and her cousins actually refer to her as “my sister,” said Weast.

The family photos on the wall look like a typical young family; so do afternoons in the backyard pool and mornings, at the park feeding the ducks.

“She’s happy here. She’s thriving. She’s smart. She has lots of friends,” said Weast.

Normalcy is Jamie’s goal for Ryleigh under very abnormal circumstances. There is no guidebook or a manual for her to follow.

“We just take each moment day by day,” said Weast.

Ryleigh has almost lived half her life now in North Florida as part of this very busy family. Jamie is a critical care nurse. Chris is a fire captain. When Ryleigh asks questions about her dad’s death, Jamie and Chris are honest, guided by Ryleigh’s therapist.

“We’ll tell her the truth. She knows we’re going to be going to court and she knows the circumstances involved and that there were police officers involved and we know that her mom was involved,” said Weast.

Jamie says Ryleigh is precocious and asks lots of questions and oftentimes, the answers are in the memory book she made for Ryleigh.

“She talks about him with a smile on her face,” said Weast.

Jamie says it’s taken time, but Ryleigh is well adjusted. She uses bedtime as a benchmark. It used to be heartbreaking, now it’s heartwarming.

“There’s a window above her bed and she used to say that she looks up at the sky and she looks for the brightest star and then she thinks of her daddy and that makes her upset,” said Weast. “But she’s turned that around and says that when she lays in bed now she looks for the brightest star and she knows it’s her daddy looking over her and she smiles.”

The family celebrates Jim’s birthday every year on May 27. With steak on the menu and ice cream cake for dessert, Ryleigh blows out his candles and says a prayer. This May, it will be Jamie who says the prayer.

“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,” said Weast.

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