Lisa Cappeli: How She Solved Her Mother’s Murder Mystery

NBC’s ‘True Crime Story: Citizen Detective: Lisa’ features an almost hour-long in-depth interview with Lisa Cappeli, the daughter of murder victim, Nina Anderson. As an infant, she was a witness to her mother’s gruesome death in Fort Collins, Colorado, in late February 1973. However, she refused to believe the initial official cause of death that ruled the homicide as an accident and pursued an investigation spanning several years. It leaves us wondering whether she solved the case and brought her mother’s killer to justice.

What Happened to Lisa Cappeli’s Mom?

Lisa Cappeli Coppel was ten years of age when she lost her mother, Carmina “Nina” Ilch Anderson, on February 21, 1973. She had faint memories of that fateful night that changed her life forever. She remembered how a neighbor awakened her and her late sister, Paula Capelli, and she was rushed to the hospital with her mother’s husband of nine days, Charles “Chuck” LeRoy Anderson. She learned her mother had died due to a “shooting accident” before she and Paula became orphans and wards of the court.

Nina Anderson

Her friend, Renee Fuller, stated Lisa had every right to be angry after being thrown around in the system and flung from one foster family to another. After becoming an adult, she contacted her biological father — the one listed on her birth certificate — and he wrote a 15-page letter detailing his relationship with her mother. At the end of the letter, he posed a critical question — “Are you sure your mother died the way you think?” Lisa recalled that was the moment she started questioning the official reason listed for Nina’s death — an accident.

Lisa gathered all the official reports regarding her mother’s death under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in December 1994 and went through all the documents for days. She took notes, and as she went through with her investigation, she began questioning the authorities’ investigative steps. The notes offered three versions that Chuck had proffered to the police — firstly, he had claimed Nina was drunk when she accidentally shot herself while he tried to pry the gun from her hands. The second version was that she was startled and dropped the gun.

However, the third version was the one Lisa found most outrageous — Chuck claimed he was in the bathroom and ventured out to find her shooting herself. But she recounted on the show how she had faint memories of their parents having a bitter fight before she went to sleep on February 21, 1973. She drifted in and out of sleep and faintly remembered Chuck shouting, “Look what you’ve made me done, you bi**h!” She was dogged to find the truth about what happened to her mother and dedicatedly followed the investigation trail.

According to her website, Lisa noted several discrepancies in the 1973 Sheriff’s report and other investigative documents. While reading the first responders reports, she discovered the ambulance driver had found Nina “in a sitting position with her feet behind the wrung of the kitchen chair.” The positions of her body and the chair discarded the notion that she was in a defensive position, making Lisa think Chuck “shot her and tossed her aside.” The second doubt she had was after reading about the severed telephone cord.

She was confident that the phones were functional that evening. However, the most damning evidence of an “alleged cover-up” was the discovery of a second autopsy that discarded the findings of the first one. While the first autopsy had raised questions regarding Chuck’s claims about Nina shooting herself concerning the bullet’s trajectory, the second one overruled it and declared the death as accidental. However, Lisa got hold of the second autopsy report by sheer luck when she bumped into the former Larimer County chief coroner at a bar.

Where is Lisa Cappeli Now?

With the help of the discrepancies noted in the two autopsies and other help from different professionals, Lisa had her mother’s official cause of death altered from “accidental” to “suspicious for homicide” in May 1996. However, the authorities still lacked interest to re-open the case until a 2002 local news report carried the news of a daughter’s determination to solve the two-decade-old death of her mother. Lisa noted how she attended a meeting at Larimer County Sheriff’s Office on her mom’s 30th death anniversary and learned about case updates.

She was overjoyed when the police arrested Chuck for Nina’s murder on March 5, 2003, after three decades of the crime. However, Lisa was aghast when he was sentenced to one year only due to the statute of limitations in August 2003. She recalled what the judge stated to Chuck during his sentencing — “He said, ‘Everybody in this courtroom knows that you killed your wife 30 years ago. This is not a fair or a just sentence for the crime you’ve committed.'” She added, “But one year for a human life is a real cheap price tag.” According to reports, Lisa, now 60, lives in Arvada, Colorado, and has helped change a sentencing law for violent offenders.

Read More: Nina Anderson Murder: Where is Charles Now?