A Mother's Faith

Anthony Capozzi at home with his parents. His mother, Mary, says,
Anthony Capozzi at home with his parents. His mother, Mary, says, "We told Anthony we're a big family and we've got to stay together." (Photos By Robert Kirkham -- Associated Press)
By Carolyn Thompson
Associated Press
Sunday, May 13, 2007

BUFFALO Mary Capozzi looks for a moment at the white kitchen door as if she is seeing once more the police officers leaving through it, with her son, Anthony.

Police had been to the house a day or two before looking for a tank top, shorts, a ski mask, a gun -- the tools of a rapist who was striking victims in the city's Delaware Park.

"Go ahead and look anyplace you want," Mary Capozzi had told them. Not only was her Anthony not a rapist, he wouldn't be caught dead in the gym clothes police described. Not Anthony, with his crisp, white shirts and trousers pressed so particularly that she had to take extra care so the crease didn't fall too sharply on his shoes.

A gun?

"My son was afraid of a needle this big," the slight, feisty mother of five said, holding her thumb and index finger two inches apart. "He would never own a gun."

But now, two officers were here in her kitchen, leading away 29-year-old Anthony as she and her husband, Albert, watched, panic-stricken. It was her middle daughter, Kathy's, birthday: Sept. 13, 1985. "Don't worry, Mom," Anthony told her. "I'll be back."

She believed him. And waited -- for technology not yet imagined, for people whose names she did not yet know -- for the next 22 years.

On Feb. 5, 1987, Mary Capozzi wept in state Supreme Court as a jury convicted her son of two of three rapes he had been accused of committing between December 1983 and July 1984. The victims had picked the dark-haired Capozzi out of lineups after a former police officer pointed investigators in his direction. Capozzi, who has schizophrenia, had been acting strangely at a coffee shop about a mile from the park, the officer reported.

Capozzi was sentenced to 11 2/3 to 35 years in prison on two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of sexual abuse and two counts of sodomy.

"Please don't take comfort in the fact that Anthony Capozzi has been convicted of these two crimes, because he didn't do them," Capozzi's attorney, Thomas D'Agostino, advised as news cameras converged after the verdict. "Don't feel that you can go running without company in Delaware Park."

Hope that the legal system would save Capozzi was quickly fading.

His mother had already put her faith in something bigger.

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