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DA plans to seek death penalty in confidential informant's murder

Three suspects re-arraigned Thursday afternoon

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - The Lackawanna County District Attorney says he will seek the death penalty for at least one of the three suspects who is accused of killing a confidential informant last month.

The news came Thursday afternoon as the three suspects were arraigned on new charges.

Cornelius Mapson, Kevin Weeks and Melinda Palermo all appeared in a Scranton courtroom.

Mapson was officially charged with criminal homicide.

Police believe he was the mastermind of the case.

All three of the suspects were also charged with tampering with evidence for trying to clean-up and cover-up the murder scene.

It was April 20, inside an apartment in Scranton's Bangor Heights Development, where police say Nina Gatto was killed.

After new arraignments Thursday afternoon, three suspects are all now formally charged with criminal homicide.

Investigators think Cornelius Mapson was the mastermind, wanting Gatto dead out of revenge because she set him up to be arrested on drug charges in February as a confidential informant.

"We believe it to be pre-mediated, calculated and cold-blooded," Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said.

Detectives say the three suspects tried to make Gatto's death look like an accidental drug overdose but they believe Cornelius Mapson actually smothered her to death.

The attack lasted for five minutes.

New court documents indicate Melinda Palermo allegedly gave Mapson a plastic bag to help him kill Nina Gatto while Kevin Weeks provided a sock to put in her mouth.

After the murder, prosecutors believe the trio used Lysol to clean Gatto's apartment, removing items and tossing them in different dumpsters around the city.

"There is evidence to support a cover-up of the crime and that is why the charges were based the way they were," Powell said.

District Attorney Mark Powell says based on all the evidence in this case, he plans to seek the death penalty against Cornelius Mapson.

Powell says depending on how the case proceeds, the other two suspects could possibly face the death penalty as well.

"He allegedly killed a confidential informant, he killed a witness, so based on that we believe the death penalty is appropriate," Powell said.

Detectives say after the murder, one of the suspects (Kevin Weeks) allegedly removed Nina Gatto's cell phone from the murder scene.

The new court documents filed Thursday indicate police have now recovered that phone which is a key piece of evidence in this case, helping connect the three suspects to Nina Gatto.

All three homicide suspects remain locked-up without bail.

They are currently expected to face a preliminary hearing next Friday, June 1 in Scranton.

 


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