Feature Articles

October 2005

Partners In Crime: The Mafia Cops

By J. R. de Szigethy and Lou Eppolito, Jr.

Part Nine: The Wrong Man

     The final terrifying images 27-year-old Virginia Robertson witnessed on the last day of her life were the eyes of the madman strangling her to death. Unable to speak, let alone scream, the Brooklyn mother of a young daughter went to her early grave with that final image of evil being her last view of this cruel world. It was November, 1986, and it would fall to Virginia�s grieving parents to endure what no parent should ever be confronted with; burying their child.

     Virginia�s parents could take some comfort in that the Judicial system in this case acted swiftly when a young man named Barry Gibbs was convicted of this brutal crime and sent to prison for 20 years to Life. That should have been the end of the story. However, Gibbs steadfastly maintained his innocence over the years, claiming he had been framed.

     In 1992 attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld founded the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that utilizes DNA testing to exonerate people wrongly convicted of crimes. To date, the Project has helped to vindicate over 160 people sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. In 1999 the Innocence Project took up the case of Barry Gibbs, but with no success. Unwilling to admit remorse for a crime he did not commit, Gibbs seemed doomed to live out his entire sentence without Parole or vindication.

     Then, in March, 2005, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided the Las Vegas home of former NYPD Detective Lou Eppolito after arresting him, his son Anthony, and his former partner Stephen Caracappa on drug trafficking charges. Eppolito and Caracappa were also accused of participation with the Mafia in numerous murders. Inside Eppolito�s basement agents found the case file on the Barry Gibbs prosecution, which Eppolito had been an investigator on.

     Clearly, there were problems with the case. Gibbs had been convicted primarily on the testimony of one man, Peter Mitchell, who claimed he saw a man in a park dumping the slain body of Virginia Robertson. Mitchell had picked Gibbs out of a police line-up as that person and testified as to such at Gibbs� trial. However, once confronted two decades later by Federal agents, Mitchell claimed he had been coerced by Detective Eppolito into falsely identifying Gibbs.

     Gibbs is now at last a free man. Understandably, the mother of Virginia Robertson is upset that Gibbs was apparently framed by Detective Eppolito. In a New York Post interview, Robertson angrily recalled the day on which Detective Eppolito came to her house to tell her that her daughter had been found murdered. Bizarrely, Robertson says Eppolito told her that her murdered daughter had spoken to him, stating: "I didn�t mean to die like this!" Mrs. Robertson accuses Eppolito of being a liar, admonishing: "How can dead people talk to you?"

     Such strange behavior on Eppolito�s part is even more troubling given that he has now been accused of participating in 10 murders. Those who have known Eppolito for years say he has never claimed to be able to speak to the dead.

     If Virginia Robertson ever attempted to speak to Detective Eppolito, it must have been while she was still alive.

To be continued

Related Features:

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Eight: Yet Another Murder, Another Warning

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Seven: The NYPD�s �Other� Mafia Cop: Steve Gardell

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Six: Another Murder, Another Warning

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Five: A Troubled Prosecution

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Four: Judge Grants Bail

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Three: The Emergence of 'Crystal Meth'

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Two: The Cop Who Loved Snakes

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part One: Mafia Cops Indicted

Buy "�MAFIA COP,� by Lou Eppolito and Bob Drury, Simon and Schuster, 1992.
�MAFIA COP,� by Lou Eppolito and Bob Drury, Simon and Schuster, 1992.

James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at:

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