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Repentant mother killer sentenced

Cameron Capozzi was poised to lead a blessed life, born into a family of significant means and influence.

Instead, the 53-year-old Kelowna man will spend the next 18-months behind bars finishing up a six-and-a-half year prison sentence for manslaughter.

The prison term relating to the 2009 death of his mother Josephine “Babs” Capozzi is the culmination of a story of privilege and unfettered substance abuse that Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames deemed “tragic” during her Monday afternoon sentencing.

“I have heard counsel say you’ve seen the light, and realize the enormity of your problems and the nature of your character when you’re under the influence,” she told Capozzi, who stood before the court in prison orange, clutching a bible.

“I hope he’s right.”

Capozzi has painted himself as the picture of contrition since his arrest in August 2009. He’s never applied for bail, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the first opportunity and attended numerous self-improvement programs while behind bars.

He was raised in a religious environment, but found a resurgence of faith while incarcerated, journaling about it every day and making plans to pay his chance at redemption forward.

His goal the court heard is to take courses that will allow him to teach other prisoners how to break the cycle that lands them in-and-out of jail at a regular clip. But his aims weren't always so altruistic.

“My sin is the taking of my own sweet mother’s life. But my sins are many and this, today, is witness to the culmination of a selfish, arrogant licentious life,” Capozzi said, later offering apologies to anyone he’s hurt.

“I confess this publicly, remorsefully and repentantly…I was not in any way what I seemed to myself to be.”

It’s a stark difference from where he was when police plucked him from the floor of a shed Aug. 18, 2009, just metres away from where his mother lay dead—although the weaknesses in his character only dawned on him during the preliminary hearing into the case, said his defence lawyer  Peter Wilson.

As family members and friends testified about  Capozzi’s actions and character, he realized he was an “asshole.”

He was “ a guy who’s fine until he drinks” said Wilson, summarizing Capozzi-family testimony.

Some believe he’d been imbibing since he was eight or nine years old, said Wilson, and he was likely an addict by his teens. Addiction combined with flights of grandiosity led to shaky relationships with friends and family, not to mention employers, but by the summer of 2009 his booze-fuelled behaviour led him dangerously off the mark.

“The level and duration of intoxication, is, in my own experience, unprecedented,” said Wilson, noting Capozzi had been taken to hospital twice for the ill-effects of his boozing in the week before his mother died.

He had been intubated at least once, and was still wearing the sticky remnants of a defibrillator on his chest the day he was taken into custody.

Across the city, there was also a trail of evidence relating to his mental state.

“In the end he was psychotic,” said Wilson, pointing out there were stories of him wetting himself or defecating in his pants in the lead-up to his arrest.

The most “pathetic” example, said Wilson, was found on the answering machine of the Immaculate Conception church.

“He was calling for help to land a jumbo jet,” he said. “That was his condition for days prior to committing this offence.”

And by Aug. 18, 2009, his psychosis was turned toward his mother.

Knowing her son had been in contravention of a court order banning alcohol consumption, the frail 77-year-old threatened to call the authorities.

To thwart her attempts he hid all the phones in the house and the two got into a fight. An autopsy showed bruising on her arms, neck face and legs, but Capozzi said he doesn’t remember how they happened.

At one point neighbours saw her leave the house, and take a tumble, as she was prone to doing.

Capozzi was then witnessed going to her aid. He remembers roughly throwing her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. It’s there her aorta likely fatally burst.

Although Wilson pointed out that it was a terrible act that killed her, it was done unintentionally and in a state of extreme emotional duress.

He’d never previously physically assaulted her, and at times their relationship had been quite affectionate.

Justice Beames, however, pointed to other evidence that indicated there was more than a rough lift to deal with.

“It’s clear he inflicted harm over and above picking her up and putting her over his shoulder,” she said, as she passed down the sentence. In addition to the 6.5 year sentence—five of which already squared away with two-for-one credit—Capozzi will be on probation for several years. He’ll be prohibited from drinking and being in a place where alcohol is served. He also is being sent for psychological treatment and will have to submit DNA to the national databank.

Capozzi’s family founded Calona Vineyards, the Capri Hotel and several other businesses.

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