Derek Capozzi escape trial begins

Marshal recounts inmate's statement

jhewlett@herald-leader.comOctober 20, 2010 

Derek A. Capozzi

Derek Capozzi, the subject of a highly publicized manhunt last spring, told federal authorities it took him two minutes to escape from a prisoner transport van in Woodford County on April 15, a deputy U.S. marshal testified Tuesday.

Capozzi, 37, charged with escape, is on trial in federal court in Lexington. Two or three officers stood or sat near him during Tuesday's proceedings.

Capozzi told Deputy U.S. Marshal Roger Daniel and other deputy marshals after he was captured that he had noticed a loose screw on a screen attached to a back window of the van and began slipping out of his handcuffs as the van slowed on its approach to the Ky. 33 exit off the Bluegrass Parkway. But Capozzi refused to say how he got out of his leg irons, Daniel testified.

The prisoner was being transported with nine other federal prisoners, all handcuffed and wearing leg irons, from the Grayson County Detention Center to Blue Grass Airport for a flight out of the area. The van was to have stopped at the Woodford County Detention Center to pick up another prisoner and then head to the airport. The van trip was carried out by Grayson County Detention Center officers, according to court testimony.

"He told me he's doing 53 years (in prison) ... He told me he's always looking for an opportunity to escape," Daniel said. After exiting the van, Capozzi crouched behind the vehicle, then a guardrail and eventually went into a field, Daniel said Capozzi told him.

"He said 'I can get out of restraints very easy,'" Daniel said.

The leg irons were found in the back of the van; the handcuffs were found, locked and still connected to a belly chain, in a barn near the parkway, the deputy U.S. marshal said.

"He said the officers were doing their job that day, and they are not to blame," Daniel said.

Capozzi was arrested April 17 after two men found him behind Central Kentucky Stair Co. in Versailles and notified authorities.

At least five law enforcement agencies and the national guard looked for Capozzi, using helicopters and police dogs, during the three-day manhunt, according to Daniel.

Capozzi told authorities that he kept hearing trains while he was on the loose and that he wanted to work his way to where the trains were, Daniel said.

As the manhunt progressed, there were several sightings of a person fitting Capozzi's description, he said.

Versailles chiropractor Brandon Wood said that on April 16, he saw the arm of a man in the bed of his pickup truck as he and his wife were getting out of the vehicle outside his office. Wood said he grabbed his wife's arm and "made distance" to a neighboring office and called 911.

Versailles dentist Corey Stith said that after seeing a picture of Capozzi wearing a familiar-looking scrub jacket April 17, he found that his office had been broken into and a scrub jacket, a pair of his shoes, food from the office refrigerator and petty cash were missing.

Capozzi accessed the Internet and took the smock, Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Molloy said in opening arguments earlier in the day.

Defense attorney Stephen Milner, in his opening arguments, asked the jury of five men and nine women to listen carefully to testimony.

"We believe they will not be able to prove the elements of this offense," he said.

Capozzi is serving a lengthy prison sentence for several crimes, including helping to hack the body of Aislin Silva of Medford, Mass., into pieces and burying them after a fellow mobster killed the young woman, according to news reports.

He had been brought to Kentucky to testify in another case.

After his capture, Capozzi was being held at the Federal Medical Center on Leestown Road in Lexington. He could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if he is convicted.

The trial continues at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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