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Nicole Villegas' trial on murder, assault charges begins next week


    Nicole Villegas



ELYRIA — Lawyers for an Elyria woman set to go to trial next week on murder and felonious assault charges intend to argue that the .357-caliber revolver she was holding went off accidentally.

“The gun accidentally discharged,” Jenifer Berki, one of Nicole Villegas’ attorneys, said Thursday after a pretrial hearing in the case.

Villegas, 34, is accused of shooting 32-year-old Lamar Capers about 2:15 a.m. Nov. 24, 2014, outside his Lowell Street apartment during an argument.

Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Chris Pierre raised questions about the possible defenses that Villegas might mount in the case. She has previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but a mental health expert determined in 2015 that Villegas wasn’t suffering from serious mental health issues and knew right from wrong.

Pierre also wrote that Villegas’ lawyers had raised the possibility of mounting a self-defense claim, that their client suffered from abuse at Capers’ hands, and that Villegas had a diminished mental capacity because the killing took place two weeks after she gave birth to Capers’ daughter.

“They should be precluded from arguing two inconsistent theories,” Pierre said.

Berki said during the hearing before county Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski that although she didn’t intend to argue that her client had diminished mental capacity, the fact that she was suffering from postpartum issues and post-traumatic stress disorder might come up in the trial.

“Sometimes you can get worked up a little easier when you’re pregnant,” she said, adding that the baby was being kept in the hospital because of drug-related problems.

In court documents filed in the case, Pierre wrote that the Villegas told police that Capers was trying to leave the area when she got the gun out of her hospital bag, walked around the car and confronted him.

He wrote that Villegas also told police that she was trying to scare Capers and threatened to shoot him, at one point asking how he liked having a gun pointed at him.

She told police that she didn’t intend to actually shoot Capers, but she cocked the hammer on the revolver while pointing it at his face because she thought he didn’t believe her, Pierre wrote.

“The defendant has claimed that Mr. Capers yelled at her, “Give me that (expletive)!” and reached for the gun,” Pierre wrote. “The defendant claimed that Mr. Capers did not even finish saying the word “(expletive)” and she pulled the gun back and the gun discharged, shooting Mr. Capers in the face and killing him.”

Villegas is being held at the Lorain County Jail.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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