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Gazette Premium Content Nozolino's defense suggests alternate suspects in lawyer shootings

By Lance Benzel Updated: February 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Defense attorneys for revenge-shooting suspect Bruce J. Nozolino on Monday began putting on testimony about two men they believe could have been involved in sniper attacks on a Colorado Springs divorce lawyer.

Both of the alternate suspects cited by the defense had at least one thing in common with Nozolino: Contentious divorces involving John Ciccolella, a lawyer who was twice targeted in the early 2000s.

And one of them was angry enough to kill - at least according to a former co-worker who took the stand on Monday.

Chet Schlegel, a heavy equipment operator at GE Johnson Construction Co., recalled an exchange he believed occurred in 2001 or 2002 in which he said a company safety inspector named Kenny Doyle Lynn asked if he knew anyone who would be willing to kill his wife's attorney.

At the time, the men were commiserating about their respective divorces, and although Schlegel said he chuckled at Lynn's question, a quick look at the man's "stonefaced" expression convinced him it was no joke.

"He told me he was serious about that. I didn't have to ask," Schlegel said. "He said his wife's attorney was ruining his life."

Lynn shot himself in a suicide in 2004. His ex-wife testified earlier in the trial that she was represented in part by Ciccolella, whom she hired to address child support issues.

During cross-examination, prosecutors sought to pin down a timeline for when the conversation happened, but Schlegel said he couldn't be specific.

He acknowledged that Lynn didn't mention the attorney by name but rebuffed prosecutor Deborah Pearson's suggestion that Lynn was "all talk."

"I think he could have followed through easily on the threats that he made," Schlegel said, calling Lynn an "imposing figure" who "would make a kid cry just by looking at him."

Also testifying on Monday was a woman who said she had come to suspect her ex-husband of involvement in the shooting of Ciccolella.

Diane Bennett told jurors that she was in Ciccolella's office on the evening of his Jan. 23, 2002 shooting in downtown Colorado Springs and told family members of her fears that her ex-husband, Mike Thomas, could have fired the shot. Ciccolella was shot in the eye, but survived.

She told jurors she believed that her husband's friends were following her around town and taking pictures of her.

She described him as a Vietnam veteran who owned guns and held grudges.

"He was angry with everyone," Bennett said. "He's always been that sort of person - angry."

In previewing their case on Friday, defense attorneys said one of the alternate suspects actually confessed to shooting Ciccolella, though a witness has yet to testify to that claim.

Earlier in the trial, the defense had sought to question the former wife of slaying victim Richard Schreiner about her possible involvement in his November 2008 killing, but presiding judge Victor I Reyes blocked the effort, ruling the attorneys had failed to meet the legal threshold that would allow them to present her as an alternate suspect to jurors. Schreiner had an affair with Nozolino's then-wife nearly a decade before he was killed.

The judge cleared the courtroom before hearing arguments about that issue.

The trial was adjourned early on Monday because of a sick juror.

Nozolino, a 52-year-old former defense contractor, is accused in a decade-spanning series of four shootings authorities tie to an acrimonious divorce.

Opening statements in his trial were Jan. 14. The evidence phase is expected to wrap up by Friday.

The defense case continues at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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