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Man pleads guilty to 1988 slaying of Colorado Springs woman

February 18, 2021 GMT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A man linked by DNA to the 1988 slaying of a Colorado Springs woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and aggravated robbery, averting a trial set for April.

James Edward Papol, who was 15 when he attacked Mary Lynn Vialpando in an alley, faces 40 to 60 years in prison under the terms of a plea deal, The Gazette reported.

Papol, now 48, told the judge Wednesday he had intended to steal the woman’s jewelry when he stabbed her and pushed her to the ground, causing her to hit her head on a rock. He left out that there was evidence he had sexually assaulted Vialpando.

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Former District Attorney Dan May, who prosecuted the case, said the omission was the result of the statute of limitations expiring on a sexual assault charge.

“The family’s very upset by that, and we’re very upset by that,” he said after the plea hearing.

Papol is set to be sentenced May 5, and prosecutors say they intend to introduce evidence of rape in making their presentation, May said.

May retired in January as the region’s top prosecutor but stayed on at the District Attorney’s office to see the case to its conclusion. He was assigned the case as a young prosecutor.

Papol was linked to the slaying when his DNA was matched to a profile developed from semen collected from the victim. When he was arrested in 2018, he was a patient at the Colorado State Mental Health Institute at Pueblo — the result of prior insanity commitments that have mostly kept him at the state hospital for much of the past two decades.

Papol, who previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, will serve his sentence in prison rather than at the state hospital, provided he is cleared for release by providers there.