In the months before his death, James "Jim" Cappello, Jr., a Lockport native, had planned an intervention for his wife, Marjorie "Nikki" Cappello, who was dependent on prescription opioids and muscle relaxants, according to Cappello's sister, Jamie Weast.
Nikki Cappello, 32, has used prescription medication for years to control pain, say family members, and by 2018, Jim Cappello was worried her apparent drug dependency has spiraled out of control. Weast said Nikki often had trouble keeping her eyes open, and sometimes dozed off during holiday parties and meals.
Jim Cappello never did hold an intervention for his wife's reported drug use. He was found dead at 37 in the couple's Huntsville, Alabama home on Sept. 21, 2018.
Police say Nikki Cappello poisoned him with insulin that she obtained from her work as a nurse at a local hospital. Nikki Cappello was indicted last week by a Madison County grand jury on a charge of murder.
Weast said the murder allegation has her "mind boggled."
"I hope that one day we can get that answer," Weast said, adding the couple had just bought a new house and had no history of domestic abuse by either one. “I don’t think even the prosecutors have that answer — what led her to do what she did."
Local family in mourning
Jim Cappello and Weast mostly grew up with their mother, Kathleen Capello, in a home on Royal Parkway in the town of Lockport. In his spare time, Jim Cappello enjoyed sports and driving ATVs and snowmobiles on land behind their mother's home. He also logged many hours at McDonalds, where he worked his first job.
"He was always a really, really hard worker," Weast said.
In the late 90s, Kathleen Cappello and Jim moved to Albany, Georgia, while Weast stayed in school at Niagara County Community College, where she was enrolled in a nursing program. Their father, James Cappello, Sr., remained in western New York, as did much of their extended family.
Jim Cappello, who was in 10th grade at the time, worked a series of "odd jobs" in Georgia and Panama City, Fla., where he later moved, said Weast and Jim Cappello Sr. He later attained his GED, moved to northern Alabama and began working as a private investigator, primarily for local attorneys.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Jim Cappello began working at Posey Investigations in 2006.
In 2012, Jim Cappello started his own practice, Cappello Investigative Agency. WAFF, a television news station in Huntsville, reported Jim Cappello was a "well-known private investigator," whose death "stunned the community."
“He put his heart into it and he was very good at his job," Weast said, adding her brother regularly worked 60-hour weeks.
Jim Cappello Sr. said one reporter recalled meeting his son in a restaurant and being amazed with how much affection he was showing toward Ryleigh.
"A lot of his clients turned out to be good friends," Jim Cappello Sr. said. "It was amazing how he touched certain people. ... I was proud of him."
Jim Cappello married Nikki in 2010. Even then, Weast said, Nikki Cappello was using various prescription medications for chronic back pain that she attributed to an on-the-job injury suffered years earlier.
By 2018, Nikki Cappello's prescription drug use had grown so severe that her husband began an investigation into his own home, according to family members and Huntville police sources quoted in WAFF. Jim Cappello suspected his wife was using painkiller and anxiety medications that she was not prescribed.
“I think the problem slowly grew over time," Weast said. "He wanted her to seek help."
If Nikki Cappello would not enter treatment for substance abuse, Weast said, Jim Cappello may have sought a divorce and custody of their daughter, Ryleigh, who is now five.
"If she wasn’t going to help herself, he knew he had to get out with Ryleigh," Weast said.
Despite the turmoil, Weast said she noticed nothing amiss when she last visited the couple in August for Ryleigh's birthday.
A shocking discovery
By mid-September, family members noticed Jim Cappello was becoming mysteriously ill.
Weast said Jim sounded unwell the last time they spoke by phone Sept. 19. Nikki Cappello assured her she would take care of him.
The next day, Jim Cappello didn't show up to work. Nor did he answer calls from his sister and mother.
By Sept. 21, Jim Cappello's colleagues, friends and family members suspected he was missing. That same day, Nikki Cappello filed a missing person's report on her husband. However, on Sept. 22, Nikki confided to a close friend that she had actually killed Jim Cappello with insulin and that she needed help to dispose of his body.
Still believing Jim Cappello was missing, Weast and her husband, Chris, drove Sept. 22 from their home near Jacksonville, Fla. to northern Alabama. Along the way, they called several police departments, media outlets and search-and-rescue groups.
"We were going to have what I felt like was the world’s largest search party," Weast said.
When they arrived at the Cappellos' home in southern Huntsville, a detective pulled them aside.
"That’s where we learned what had really happened,” Weast said.
Investigators obtained a warrant, searched the home and found Jim Cappello's body on a tarp in the garage, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His feet were on the floorboard of a car, as though someone had tried to move him into the vehicle, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Nikki Cappello was taken into custody that same afternoon. Several days later, she was released on a $100,000 bond. She remains free on bail as of Friday afternoon.
Ever since then, Ryleigh has been in the care of Jamie and Chris Weast, who have three children of their own: two six-year-old twins and a seven-year-old boy.
“She’s given us a lot of motivation and strength when it comes to all this," Weast said of Ryleigh.
"We see my brother in her," she added. "My brother had a goofy sense of humor, and she’s a lot like that. She’s trying to get everybody to laugh. We feel honored to take care of her."
Weast and Jim Cappello, Sr. sat in on a Nov. 15 preliminary hearing, during which many details of Jim Cappello's murder were revealed for the first time.
"It was pretty intense but I'm glad it's going to move on," Jim Cappello Sr. told KAFF after the hearing. "We want to be part of the whole thing. He didn't deserve this but he deserves justice."
When an indictment charging Nikki Cappello with murder was unsealed last week, Weast said she cried tears of joy.
"We’re happy to see that justice is being served and the ball is rolling, she said. "We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a good step.”
But the family's ordeal is far from over. Nikki Cappello is scheduled to stand trial early next year. If convicted, she could face life in prison.
Weast said she hopes to learn at trial what pushed Nikki Cappello to allegedly kill her husband. Coworkers reportedly told investigators that Cappello said she was having problems with her husband and that the only way she would be free of him would be if he was dead.
That's the only motive the family has learned of.
Weast said she wonders how Nikki Cappello might explain Jim Cappello's death to Ryleigh, when their daughter is old enough to understand.
"She’s going to have questions when she gets older," Weast said. "And I just wonder how she’s ever going to explain this to her."