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Thursday, December 14, 2017 Elyria 17°
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Cops and Courts

Villegas found guilty in murder trial

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    Nicole Villegas (right) speaks with her Attorney Jenifer Berki (left) prior to the verdict being announced on Wednedsay afternoon, May 17.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — A jury Wednesday found Nicole Villegas guilty of murder, reckless homicide and felonious assault for fatally shooting her boyfriend in the face.

Villegas, 34, largely was impassive as Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski read the verdict, but family and friends of the slain Lamar Capers made quiet sounds of approval.

“Thank God,” Tiara Lockett, the mother of one of Capers’ children, said after the hearing ended.

Jurors deliberated for nearly nine hours Tuesday and Wednesday before coming back with the verdict.

Villegas originally had faced two murder charges but was acquitted of one.

Throughout the investigation and the trial, Villegas insisted that she didn’t mean to kill Capers. She testified that the couple was arguing over a .357-caliber revolver when he reached out to grab the weapon. Villegas said she jerked back and the gun fired.

But Villegas also admitted that she had cocked the hammer of the gun back, something a state firearms expert said made it easier to fire.

Defense attorney Jenifer Berki said based on the jury’s decision to acquit Villegas of deliberately killing Capers, it appeared jurors believed she didn’t mean for him to die. She also promised her client will appeal her conviction.

Assistant County Prosecutor Chris Pierre argued during the trial that the killing was a culmination of Villegas’ jealousy and frustration with Capers. He said she constantly suspected Capers was cheating on her and was upset he wasn’t visiting their newborn daughter in the hospital more often.

Villegas gave birth to an opioid-addicted daughter two weeks before the shooting. That child is now in the custody of her family members, according to her lawyers.

Villegas admitted to sending text messages in which she threatened to kill Capers, but insisted they weren’t actually meant as threats. She said the couple had argued after they left the bar they were drinking at hours before the killing, and after Capers struck her, she demanded to be let out of the car.

She began walking home, and her attempts to call Capers from a hotel were unsuccessful. An Elyria police officer who spotted her walking in the rain along state Route 57 gave her a ride home.

When she got back inside their apartment, Villegas told jurors, she and Capers continued to argue, and she said he again struck her.

Ultimately, she demanded that he leave, and Capers agreed to do so. She said she followed him downstairs to retrieve a bag of breast pumping supplies that also contained the gun.

Villegas testified that she didn’t want Capers to leave with the weapon and that she was waving the gun around and pointing it at him when he grabbed for it, and the gun discharged.

Betleski said he will sentence Villegas on June 26. Pierre said Villegas is facing a mandatory sentence of 18 years to life in prison.

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



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