Attorneys discuss possibility of charging cold-case murder suspect as a juvenile

The attorney's for a man facing charges in a decades-old murder case are debating the idea of whether or not he should be charged as a juvenile or adult.

James Papol was a teenager when the murder of Mary Lynn Renkel Vialpando occurred in 1988. He was arrested this year for the cold-case crime. When he was first arrested he was facing the murder charges as an adult.

11 News has learned new details about the arrest of a man facing murder charges for a decades-old cold case after the records were made public Thursday.

On Tuesday, 11 News reported a judge had suppressed the documents for the arrest of James Papol. The records department told our reporter that in their computer system, it was as if the case did not exist.

Authorities announced they had arrested Papol on Sept. 20 in connection with the murder of Mary Lynn Renkel Vialpando. On June 5, 1988, she was found dead in the alley north of the 2600 block of West Colorado Avenue. She was 24 at the time she died of blunt-force trauma to the head. The arrest papers stated she was also stabbed in the chest and stomach area three times and was sexually assaulted.

According to the documents, DNA was collected from eight men at the time of the murder, including Vialpando’s husband, but authorities said they were not a match for the DNA found on Vialpando’s body.

The court documents also reveal investigators had a DNA hit matching Papol on Nov. 30, 2017. In earlier interviews, District Attorney Dan May said this was one of the first cases in Colorado to collect DNA for evidence testing.

“You have to know that at that time, there were no crime labs in the country that tested for DNA,” May said.

Over the years, the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Cold Case Unit developed new DNA profiles as the technology changed.

The case was entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System in 2008 and the case was reviewed in 2010, but there were never any DNA matches, according to the arrest papers.

On June 13, police interviewed Papol at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. He declined to make a statement, but police did collect a sample of his DNA with a warrant, according to the documents.

It took about a month to get the DNA results. On July 10, the lab report confirmed the match with Papol.

“The estimated frequency of this DNA profile in the general population is approximately 1 in 3.6 nonillion. A nonillion is defined as a cardinal number represented in the United States by 1 followed by thirty (30) zeroes,” the document stated.

The report details how police interviewed three women in August who stated they had been in relationships Papol in the past. According to the women’s interviews, all three said Papol was violent and aggressive toward them. Two of the women said Papol had “hinted” that he had killed someone.

Police also interviewed Papol’s mother on Aug. 16. She told investigators that at the time of the murder, she, Papol and her other children were staying at a motel across the street from where Vialpando’s body was found.

According to the court documents, Papol’s mother told police she remembered Papol leaving for a couple hours the night of the murder, and she remembered being woken up by sirens in the morning.

Papol’s mother told police that Papol told her he saw a body on a hill, touched it to see if it was alive and then the body rolled down a hill. Papol told his mom his DNA would be all over the body because of that. He also told her he stole jewelry from the body, according to the paperwork.

Papol is facing first-degree murder charges. He’s currently in the El Paso County Jail awaiting an Oct. 4 court date.