Sunday 19 November 2017

Secrets and lies

Brighid McLaughlin

It has all the dynamics of the story of Chandra Levy, the murdered intern. Anne Marie Fahey was a beautiful Irish-American. Despite her Catholicism, she had a secret affair with married, wealthy lawyer and political adviser Tom Capano. Until he killed her. Brighid McLaughlin r

It has all the dynamics of the story of Chandra Levy, the murdered intern. Anne Marie Fahey was a beautiful Irish-American. Despite her Catholicism, she had a secret affair with married, wealthy lawyer and political adviser Tom Capano. Until he killed her. Brighid McLaughlin reports

'DON'T worry about me. I'll stick around for a long time." Anne Marie Fahey

ANNE Marie Fahey was fortunate in the geometry of her cheekbones, the tilt of her huge brown eyes, and the curling tresses that framed her beautiful freckled face.

It's always wrong to say that a person looks typical of a country, but Anne Marie, who was born and grew up in Delaware, looked Irish and, like a lot of Irish-Americans, she was inordinately proud of her Donegal and Sligo roots. Why else had she come all the way to Kilmacrennan in Co Donegal, the birthplace of her grandparents; why else did she visit the pub in Milford that her grandmother worked in; why else did she trawl her way through Sligo to see the famous Fahey stores?

"Our mother died tragically of cancer when Anne Marie was nine," says her sister Kathleen Fahey-Hosey, with whom I spoke in Philadelphia last month. "Our mother had been very, very close to her own family roots and knew the Clancy Brothers well. She sent Annie and I to Irish stepdancing classes with the McAleer School of Irish Dancing in Delaware and I remember that our teacher was from Belfast. As a dancer, Anne Marie was very funny and looked as cute as a button. Being Irish was very important to her and all the Faheys. It still is. We still have cousins in Goldrum near Letterkenny."

Back home in the US, Anne Marie was fortunate to have this loving, deeply protective family, fortunate to have a great job as the scheduling secretary for Tom Carper, the Governor of Delaware, and very fortunate, she felt, to have a new boyfriend, Mike Scanlon. Any girl might have envied her.

Lively and pretty, with an infectious laugh, she created a frisson of excitement when she arrived at Shannon Airport on July 20, 1994 with her brother Brian. Wherever she went in Ireland, locals stared at her blazing eyes, her spellbinding presence. Everyone loved Anne Marie. "Annie would walk into a room, and it was like someone threw the light switch. And all the lights came on," Brian remembers.

Those who were close to Anne Marie back home knew the real Annie as a bright, hardworking young woman who had struggled in the past to be happy. They knew that despite coming from a loving home, she frequently had to hide behind chairs or grab a hockey stick to escape the anger of her much-loved alcoholic father. They knew about her anorexia and her obsessive-compulsive cleanliness disorder; they knew her anorexia was a drastic attempt to exert control over her body and her life. They did not know about Tom Capano.

Tom Capano was extremely wealthy, a successful married man who worked in Philadelphia as an attorney and chief counsel. Capano relished his hugely powerful job advising Delaware governor Michael Castle on the constitutionality of upcoming legislation. He was, as his name suggests, Italian-American.

The Irish and Italian middle classes had flourished in Philadelphia and Delaware in the Fifties and Sixties and the Capano family was a remarkable story of entrepreneurialism. Louis Capano, Tom's father, had come from a small mountain village in Calabria in Italy, yet he became one of the biggest property developers in Delaware.

Anne Marie's father Robert Fahey came from the wilds of Donegal, a landscape as harsh as Calabria. Like the Capanos, the Faheys were hardworking, religious, clannish. But fate had been kinder to the Capanos. While the Faheys were struggling to provide Anne Marie with clothing and food, the Capanos were rich. They had summer houses on the shore, country houses and yachts, and they enjoyed lavish lifestyles. Tom Capano and his wife Kay lived in a gigantic house that was once the bishop's residence. An unbelievable 18,740sqft, it took up half a block in the city of Wilmington, Delaware.

Capano and his brothers grew up in a spectacular Colonial mansion that was straight out of Gone with the Wind. Like the Irish community, the Capanos attended Catholic schools. For the Italian- and Irish-American communities, Catholicism fostered and deepened their benevolence. Tom and his brother Louis were students at Archmere Academy, a plush Catholic school in Delaware. Again, like the Irish, the Capanos treated their parish priest Father Roberto Balducelli as family and, most weekends, he found himself milling into large bowls of spaghetti and meatballs. The Irish- and Italian-Americans lived a life even more conservative than that lived at home. It was as if they had preserved their Fifties heritage in aspic.

When Anne Marie saw Tom Capano on April 26, 1993, at a political fund-raiser in Wilmington, she recognised him at once. Capano was a much-photographed, powerful and popular figure in the Democratic party. In a brilliantly written book, And Never Let Her Go, subtitled Thomas Capano, the deadly seducer, the crime writer Ann Rule describes Capano as "43, handsome in a subdued sort of way with his expressive eyes and perfectly trimmed beard. As a younger man when his hair was very dark, he had had a smouldering look about him, but now he looked much more benevolent, even though he didn't smile much."

In a fit of confidence, Anne Marie and a friend went up and introduced themselves to Capano. They both had links with Philadelphia, Tom through his political campaigning and Anne Marie through her close family connections, so they were not surprised to discover that they had mutual acquaintances. We can only speculate what Anne Marie saw in Tom Capano. With his blend of high political profile and charm, and his well-publicised acts of charity, she must have seen him as a scintillating figure. Suffering from the low self-esteem associated with anorexia, she probably felt flattered that Capano looked at her as if she were the most beautiful woman in the room.

Italy has always fascinated us Irish. With their glorious food, wine, fashion, buildings and art, Italians notch up an allure for the Irish that is often beyond the realm of language. So where better to follow this allure than 'Big Time' America where the language barrier is gone and cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia fuse Irish and Italian together, making the Great American Dream. And basic desire is as much alive in Philadelphia as it is in Naples.

Capano, with his confidence and savoir faire, a man accustomed to living an opulent lifestyle, impressed Anne Marie when he brought her to fabulously expensive Italian restaurants such as Ristorante Panorama and Dilullo's in Philadelphia. It seemed inevitable that the two would embark upon a secret three-year affair.

On January 27, 1994, her 28th birthday, Anne Marie confessed in her diary that she had "fallen in love with a very special person. I feel free around him, and like he says, he 'makes my heart smile'! He deserves some happiness in his life and it makes me feel good to know that I can provide him with such happiness. Who knows if anything serious will ever happen between us. (I only know what I can dream.)"

"Anne Marie," says her sister Kathleen, "was a woman of exemplary virtue all her life who had never let a day go by without praying to her mother and her grandmother with whom she was very close."

And it's obvious from her plaintive diary entries that Anne Marie agonised interminably over the moral implications of a relationship with the married Capano: "We have problems because he has a wife and children, also. I don't want to be in love, but I can't help it. My God, please don't judge me."

ON holidays in Ireland in 1994, the problems Anne Marie wrestled with in terms of her weight and her confidence paled in significance when she thought of the ominous presence of Capano, who was by now preying on her deep-seated lack of self-esteem on a daily basis.

Sitting on Cape Clear, she attempted to forget him, tried to escape his manipulation. Ireland brought her peace. In her diary she wrote: "As I sit on this rock elevated at a few hundred feet, below a sky blue ocean, I do not know that I've ever been to a more beautiful place (or ever will for that matter) ... I lay down for a bit, listening to the waves crash against the cliff with a fair hint of seagulls in the background. ... I have never seen so many different shades of green ... I have my grandmother to thank for the relaxation that I'm experiencing right now. Without her this trip would not have been possible. Of course I would rather have her with me, but we all must die, I hope she knows that I am here."

Not all her diary entries are so idyllic. According to Kathleen, "Anne Marie would have preferred to stay somewhere a little nicer than the youth hostels that her brother liked, but after all it was his holiday as much as hers, so they compromised." In Anne Marie's diary she described one of the hostels as "another ten-person, five-bunk-bed room from the 1960s ... Black walls with a fluorescent psychedelic paint splatted all over. There was one side of the wall that had a big-ass toothbrush painted on it. How attractive!"

Like most siblings, Anne Marie and Brian had a few tiffs on their holiday, but quickly made it up. Overprotective as he was, Brian could never have imagined the dreadful worries that were going on in his sister's mind.

Anne Marie knew that when she returned home to Delaware, she would be faced with the same old problem. Tom Capano. She now knew, much too late, that her good fortune passed the day she met him. She was also terrified that her new boyfriend Mike Scanlon would find out about Capano. In Delaware, everyone including the Faheys had heard of Tom Capano and seen his photograph in the society pages.

Sadly, none of the Faheys had any idea that their baby sister was embroiled in a destructive relationship with this madman. If they had, things might have been different. The Faheys stuck together, protected each other. No one, not even the Faheys, ever suspected that Tom Capano had an insatiable appetite for deceit and premeditated evil.

Anne Marie would have been shocked to know that in one year Capano had eight relationships going on at the same time. His wife Kay, his long-term mistress Debby MacIntyre, Susan Louth, Linda Marandola, and others. None of these women had any idea of the others' existence.

Capano was a master seducer and manipulator, using family, friends and mistresses as tools to gratify his strange afflictions. He persuaded Debby MacIntyre, his mistress of 14 years, to engage in a menage-a-trois; a charged-up, pent-up, perverse control freak, he egged her to go on "dates" so that he could watch her from outside the bedroom window.

In January 1996, Anne Marie was still writing in her diary about Capano: "Buenos dias, Senor Capano." Another entry, that same month: "I do love you Tommy ... no matter what happens."

But back home in her tiny apartment on 1718, Washington Street in Wilmington, lying between immaculately pressed sheets, Anne Marie was now musing miserably on the pitifulness of affections and the insecurities of human beings.

By February 1996, she was desperately seeking to end her relationship with Capano. A diary entry on February 7 is clearly an attempt to extricate herself from him: "I meant what I said Sunday night about right now only being able to offer you friendship and if you cannot deal with that, then I understand. I'm still very much confused and I am trying to work out a lot of personal things on my own. Annie."

She told her friend Kim Horstman that the mere sound of Capano's voice on her answering machine made her sick to her stomach. Only when she went out with her new boyfriend Mike did the unhappy days with Capano seem like momentary clouds. Mike was now her boyfriend, her protector.

But Capano was obsessed, and "closure" enacted by someone else was an alien concept to this control egotist. He decided when something finished. No one else.

He called Anne Marie incessantly, waited outside her apartment, glared at her from close range and hounded her friend Kim, the only person who knew about their relationship. When he found out about Mike Scanlon, he was furious and climbed Anne Marie's fire escape to take back some gifts that he had given her.

In the meantime, the stress of worrying about Mike finding out about Capano was making Anne Marie eat even less.

Alarmed, her sister Kathleen noticed that she was distressingly thin and tried to persuade her to get help. Anne Marie lived on pretzels and iced water, sometimes eating no more than 200 calories a day. She occasionally passed out. But her exhaustion was not just physical, for Anne Marie was a strong woman; it was the weariness of being stalked continuously by Capano that was taking its toll. With the help of a psychiatrist, Bob Conner, she had learned to eat more and deal with her eating disorder. On January 5, 1995, had a session in which they spoke about Anne Marie's problems, and they agreed to meet on January 25. On that date, his office called to inform her that Bob Conner was dead. He had been killed in a car crash.

Anne Marie was devastated. She had already lost her mother, her grandmother and now Bob. She had relied on Conner since 1992 to deal with her anxieties and her anorexia. "I loved Bob," she wrote in her diary, "and he has helped me grow so much. He was the only person who knew everything (even a little about Tommy [not much]) about me. Bob was funny, intelligent ... he believed in me and actually liked me. Not many people know the real Annie."

When Tom Capano, "the great persuader", dropped over a 29th birthday present for Anne Marie a 27-inch colour TV set, he caught her at a vulnerable moment. She had just lost her psychiatrist, a tower of strength, someone she trusted. She tried to stay clear of Capano. But she was helpless when faced with his charm, and his lies. Against her will, probably out of fear, she was back talking to him.

But her life was changing. Her relationship with Mike was growing, and she was increasingly afraid of Capano. Anne Marie told her hairdresser, Lisa D'Amico, that Capano had "gone crazy" and grabbed her by the neck. One night she spotted him cruising by her apartment in his black Jeep Cherokee and looking up at her window. Anne Marie was petrified. In an email to Capano, her fear was palpable: "Tommy, you scared me this weekend. Starting with Friday, and all the calls you placed. It really freaks me out when you call every half an hour."ON Valentine's Day 1996, Anne Marie received two bunches of roses. One was from Mike; she was thrilled. The other was from Capano. She chucked it in a bin. An email from Capano dated June 26, 1996 reads: "I promise to make you laugh tonight at Panorama [a very famous Italian restaurant in Philadelphia]... Please call."

Finally, Anne Marie agreed to go to dinner with Capano one more time. It was to be her last. "I finally have brought closure to Tom Capano," she wrote in her diary before going to meet him. "What a controlling, manipulative, insecure, jealous maniac."

On June 27, 1996, they had dinner at Panorama. The waitress remembered the couple vividly. She recalled that Anne Marie looked tired and thin, said very little and barely touched her food. Two hours later, they left. Anne Marie was never seen alive again. Capano drove her to his home in an attempt to to rekindle some romance, and then killed her.

When Kathleen Fahey entered her sister's empty apartment three days later, she felt uneasy. In the warm, muffled air, she sniffed the aggressive smell of rotting food. Groceries were left out. Anne Marie's rubbish bins had not been cleared. There were shoe boxes scattered across the floor. The bedspread was pulled back. This was completely unlike her sister who was so obsessively neat, her friends joked about it. While searching Anne Marie's apartment for clues, Kathleen discovered notes and letters indicating that she had been having an affair with Tom Capano. She was shocked. So was Mike Scanlon, but they decided to concentrate on finding their "Annie".

Anne Marie's life was more important than her secrets. The diary, as well as notes from Capano, pointed the police in Capano's direction. He admitted that he had taken Anne Marie to dinner in Philadelphia a few nights before she had disappeared, but insisted that he had dropped her home. The Fahey family asked Capano to talk to the police. He refused.

Family panic spread as they sought any lead on their missing loved one. Even President Clinton called Anne Marie's boss, the distraught Governor Carper, offering the FBI's assistance.

While Anne Marie's family frantically helped in the search, circulating leaflets with her photograph and hanging a banner outside O'Friel's Irish Pub in Wilmington pleading for information, investigators began checking Capano's past. They knew that in September 1995, Capano had left his wife after 26 years of marriage and four daughters. But no one realised to what extent he had led a dark, duplicitous life.

The police discovered that two days after Anne Marie had disappeared, Capano had purchased a new rug. With this information, they obtained a search warrant for his house. Capano was indignant. His inner circle of wealthy, powerful friends supported him, firmly believing he could not be a killer. Anne Marie's sister Kathleen felt differently and said so.

"I've known Thomas Capano for probably 15 years," she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Up until six weeks ago I thought he was a nice man. Now, I probably know more about Thomas Capano than his wife even does."

Inside the house, police found tiny spots of blood. This was no fluke; the blood turned out to be Anne Marie's. Sadly, this wasn't enough to arrest Capano. Then the police investigators were tipped off. A man named Joe Riley told them that in 1981 Capano had become obsessed with another woman, Linda Marandola, and had asked him to stalk her. At one point, Riley said, Capano had even talked about killing her. The police saw this as evidence he might be capable of murder.

But without a body, or witnesses, this still wasn't enough, so they concentrated on Capano's close circle, especially his brothers. Investigators knew that one brother, Gerry, the black sheep of the family, had been with him the day after Anne Marie had disappeared. But Gerry Capano refused to testify against his brother.

HOWEVER, faced with drug and weapons charges after a raid on his home, Gerry Capano told authorities a grim, horrific story. He said his brother Tom came to his home the morning after his dinner with Anne Marie and asked to use his boat in Stone Harbor, New Jersey to dispose of a body. They took the boat about 70 miles offshore and tossed a large fridge cooler overboard. It floated. Gerry said he fired a deer slug from a 12-gauge shotgun into it. Blood seeped out, he said, but the cooler did not sink.

Gerry said he handed his brother two anchors, turned his back and told him he was on his own. Turning back around, he testified, "I saw a foot sinking into the deep." Chillingly, police searches showed that Tom Capano had bought a Styrofoam 162-quart cooler, paid for by MasterCard, the night before the fateful last dinner. The store had noticed that the man buying the marine cooler had no boat. He paid $192 for it.

Gerry also said he helped Tom put a bloodstained sofa into a rubbish bin at one of the family's construction sites. A second brother, Louis Jr, a millionaire property developer, said Tom told him he threw a gun in the bin. Searches of landfills proved futile. There was no sofa or gun. A sea search never produced a body. By a stroke of luck, investigators found evidence that appeared to corroborate Gerry's story, including the fridge cooler with a bullet hole through it that a fisherman found floating in the sea. But the most damaging evidence was testimony from Tom Capano's ex-mistress Debby MacIntyre who confessed that she unwittingly gave him the gun that killed Anne Marie.

No one could sink quite so low as Capano. While in prison awaiting trial, he used up his phone time, so he bought some from a convicted paedophile and rewarded him by providing photos of his own pretty daughters. This man was sick. But he didn't fool the jury. The jurors were convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that the murder was premeditated and planned; and Capano's own story, in which he blamed Debby MacIntyre for the killing, was too far-fetched to be believed. The former prosecutor was given the death sentence.

Tom Capano's appeal against his death sentence to the Delaware Supreme Court was denied on August 31, 2001. He remains on Death Row in Smyrna, Delaware. For an arrogant, evil manipulator, 25 more years in prison must be a nightmare but only a fragment of the sentence of despair and loss he imposed on the Fahey family.

I want to thank Kathleen Fahey-Hosey for giving me a glimpse of her "Annie". When I saw the photograph of Anne Marie standing outside an Irish cottage, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. To think an Irish beauty, with vast potential and a heart of gold, lost her life because of Tom Capano. When evil lurks, to paraphrase words of Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, the remains of a lovely life go "down the road all roses go".

The painful experience of Anne Marie's death led to the establishment of the Friends of Anne Marie Fahey Foundation, a charitable trust set up by Kathleen Fahey-Hosey in memory of her sister. To make a donation, contact

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Also in this section