Pueblo man sentenced to 60 years for 1988 murder in Old Colorado City

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A Pueblo man was sentenced to 60 years behind bars Wednesday for a murder he committed more than 30 years ago. James Papol agreed to a plea deal in the death of Mary Lynn Renkel Vialpando and pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder and aggravated robbery. He faced 40-60 years. 

Wednesday, several witnesses were called to the stand, including El Paso County Coroner, Dr. Leon Kelly, who testified that he reviewed Mary Lynn’s autopsy. He said she died from multiple injuries, including stab wounds and blunt force trauma to the head. 

Jonathyn Priest, a death investigation and crime scene expert, was also called to testify. He said evidence indicated there were multiple locations of criminal activity and likely a long struggle. 

Dr. Leah Brar, a Forensic Psychiatrist, testified that she examined Papol and determined he was not insane, but he did suffer from multiple mental health disorders, including psychotic disorders. She said she believed he was still able to determine right from wrong at the time of the crime. Papol was 15 in 1988. 

Mary Lynn’s family also addressed the court and read victim impact statements. 

Cynthia Renkel, Mary Lynn’s older sister, said her sister was much more than a cold case and was a beloved sister, daughter, and mother. She showed the judge photos of her sister and said her brother called her “Mary Grin” because she was such a happy child. Cynthia said after her sister’s murder, she had nightmares and daymares and had to seek counseling and medication. She said her siblings also struggled with Mary Lynn’s murder. She asked the judge to sentence Papol to 60 years and said she doesn’t want to think about him anymore. 

Both of Mary Lynn’s parents have died along with another sister. She is survived by her brother and sister and her daughter, who was four years old at the time of her death. 

Papol also spoke to during his sentencing hearing and went into detail about his upbringing telling the court and the Vialpando family, “All I have to say is I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know that’s not enough, I cant take this thing back.”

Former District Attorney Dan May along with Cynthia Renkel spoke to FOX21 following the hearing. May said this case hits home and says he responded to the scene as a Deputy District Attorney and volunteered to stay on the case following his retirement.

“Here was a young innocent mother, who was just walking in a neighborhood and was just horrifically murdered,” said May.

Cynthia Renkel dismissed Papols address to the courtroom and said she didn’t buy his words.

“I don’t think he apologized, he was trying to make himself a victim,” said Renkel.

Before delivering the maximum sentence, 4th Judicial District Judge Robin Chittum said she had heard about this case while she was in high school and said she considered all factors in this case before her sentencing.

“It’s one of the most horrific, violent, brutal, sadistic cases, I’ve ever seen,” Said Chittum.

Due to statue of limitations, a rape charge could not be filed, but prosecutors asked the court to make a factual finding. However, the judge said it doesn’t matter since Papol “will never be eligible for parole.”

“Oh, I never really gave up hope,” said Renkel.”I’m so glad the day has come and I’m ready to go on knowing that it’s been resolved and he’s been sentenced.”

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