COLORADO SPRINGS – District Attorney Dan May said he was in the alley off of West Colorado Avenue where 24-year-old Mary Lynne Vialpando was killed more than 30 years ago.
On Thursday, at a news conference at Colorado Springs Police headquarters, May announced his office was filing murder charges against 46-year-old James Papol in connection to that case three decades ago.
“As we were investigating the case back there and collecting evidence, we believe it’s the first case in Colorado that it was discussed to collect DNA evidence for future testing.”
That DNA evidence later allowed investigators to build a graphic rendering of what the suspect might have looked like in November 2017. Months later, police found the man they believed sexually assaulted and murdered Vialpando.
The suspect, James Papol, was 15 years old on the day of the murder on June 5, 1988. In the 30 years after Vialpando’s murder, he was arrested for numerous felonies and misdemeanors including kidnapping, robbery, theft and harassment.
Now that list of charges includes first-degree murder, thanks to DNA evidence sent to a Virginia lab.
“At that time, there were no crime labs in the country that tested for DNA. There were only two private companies in the entire USA that processed it,” May said.
The case provided hope to other people affected by violent crimes in Colorado Springs.
“I am just totally, totally ecstatic that this happened.”
Jennifer Romero, the founder of the group Mothers of Murdered Youth said this was a victory for her.
“She stuck with me all those years. I looked up her picture and I’ve been sharing her picture ever since,” Romero said.
Romero’s son was murdered in 1997, and while his case remains cold, Thursday’s announcement was a message for her to never give up.
“This arrest will not bring closure to the family of Mrs. Vialpando and the loved ones she left behind,” said Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey. “However, my hope is this will bring some level of peace to each of them.”