Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Two judges discuss 'strange' behavior, unwelcome run-in with Bruce Nozolino

By Lance Benzel Updated: February 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

A retired judge testified Tuesday that he withdrew from a bitter divorce battle involving alleged sniper shooter Bruce J. Nozolino after discovering court filings signed by Nozolino on the doorstep of his Lakewood home.

Among the documents left tucked behind then-Senior Judge Gaspar Perricone's storm door in spring 2002 was one labeled "Notice of Accountability" demanding that the judge reimburse Nozolino $28,000 for what he called an improper ruling.

"The personal accountability you have incurred by your actions extends to your spouse, children and any other relatives as necessary," the document advised.

Jurors on Tuesday heard testimony from Perricone and another judge previously involved in the case about what they called threatening behavior by Nozolino, who is on trial for the 2008 murder of his ex-wife's former lover and three earlier shootings prosecutors tie to his divorce.

Judge Claude W. Appel - who is assigned to the bench in the 3rd Judicial District, comprising Huerfano and Las Animas counties - recalled that shortly after he was tapped to succeed Perricone, he received an unwelcome phone call at home from Nozolino.

"I remember I was in bed with my wife and it was Saturday morning, early in the morning," Appel said, adding that he told Nozolino never to call back and threatened him with jail time if he did.

Appel told jurors that when he traveled to the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex to make his first scheduled hearing in the Nozolino matter, a man he didn't recognize boarded his elevator.

It was Nozolino, and "he appeared to be waiting," said Appel, adding that Nozolino greeted him by name though they had never met.

The judge described the encounter as "kind of strange" and "just one more thing that (Nozolino's) done."

"He was smiling and tried to make small talk, and I just didn't respond," Appel said.

Appel stayed on the case for three more years - dismissing a divorce-related lawsuit and granting a restraining order for Nozolino's ex-wife's attorneys, among other actions - until deciding to recuse himself from all matters Nozolino in 2005.

"I had done four cases," Appel told jurors Tuesday. "I thought I had done my duty."

Both judges inherited the case after the previous judge, Gilbert Martinez of Colorado Springs, recused himself in October 2001 after someone fired shots into his home, an incident for which Nozolino is charged.

The testimony came as prosecutors continued building a circumstantial case against Nozolino, a former Lockheed Martin software programmer they say resorted to threats, intimidation and ultimately murder over his divorce.

Prosecutors also informed the court Tuesday they will soon have the results of a forensic examination on two rifles that belonged to Nozolino in 2001, a period covering two of the four shootings for which Nozolino is charged.

The guns were turned over by Richard Bland, a one-time friend of Nozolino who did not disclose until last week that he bought the guns from Nozolino.

Colorado Springs police received the weapons on Monday evening and testing was scheduled to be done even as testimony continued Tuesday.

Defense attorneys for Nozolino have said in court that a possible match between one of the rifles and any of the shootings could be grounds for a mistrial.

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