Mary Lynn Vialpando cold case
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James Edward Papol is accused of raping and killing Mary Lynn Vialpando in 1988 in Old Colorado City.

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A man tied by DNA to the long-unsolved 1988 rape and killing of a woman in the Old Colorado City area of Colorado Springs pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Thursday.

Attorneys for James Papol say he was so disturbed that he didn’t know right from wrong when he allegedly sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled Mary Lynn Vialpando more than three decades ago when he was 15.

If Papol, 46, were acquitted on the basis of insanity, he would be confined indefinitely for treatment at a secure facility in Colorado.

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Although rare, insanity acquittals aren’t unheard of in El Paso County. In February 2018, Timothy Hagins was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a 4th Judicial District judge after he killed a man at random in Falcon and barged into a different home declaring, “I am here to slaughter the lambs.” Hagins was in the grip of schizophrenic delusions. He remains confined for treatment at the Colorado State Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

AS a result of his plea, Papol, who is being held at the El Paso County jail without bond, will be transferred to the Pueblo facility for a sanity evaluation. He is expected to return to court Oct. 8 for an update.

Thursday’s plea marks a significant step forward in the Papol case, which has been slowed by the defendant’s tangled history of mental health commitments, including from two prior findings of not guilty by reason of insanity.

“You’ve had a couple of these before, right Mr. Papol?” District Judge Robin Chittum asked him as she heard his plea.

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“Yes ma’am,” Papol responded, wearing an orange El Paso County jail jumpsuit with his legs shackled and his hands cuffed.

The case has also been delayed by slip-ups at the El Paso County jail in which Papol went days at a time without receiving his antipsychotic medications, leading to mental declines. In an unusual move, Chittum ordered the jail’s for-profit health contractor, Armor Correctional Health Services of Miami, to submit monthly reports proving that he received his medication on time.

Among those in the gallery was Vialpando’s daughter, Coral, who sat with her arms folded, staving off tears as the judge questioned Papol in court.

At the time of the attack, a teenage Papol was living with his mother and younger siblings in an Old Colorado City motel near the alley where Vialpando’s body was found.

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At the time of his arrest, he was a patient confined at the state hospital, the result of prior insanity commitments that have mostly kept him at the state hospital for much of the past two decades, according to his legal team.

While confined at the state hospital, he told his mother that he didn’t kill Vialpando, police said in an arrest affidavit.

Papol instead claimed that he encountered her body and touched it to check for signs of life, causing it to roll down a hill. He told his mother he took jewelry and ran off.


I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to

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