OROFINO — Jessica L. Colpitts was an intelligent woman and a devoted mother who allowed a toxic relationship with her former boyfriend to lead her to murder, 2nd District Judge Gregory FitzMaurice said Tuesday.
Colpitts, 34, was convicted March 29 by an Idaho County jury of first-degree murder in the May 22, 2017, shooting death of Samantha S. Fignani. On Tuesday, FitzMaurice sentenced Colpitts to life in prison with a fixed sentence of 18 years — meaning she would not be eligible for parole during that time.
“I do not find that you have a malignant heart,” FitzMaurice told her while announcing his decision. “You are not a monster, you are not evil. ... You are a person that made a fatal mistake.”
FitzMaurice pointed out that Colpitts had been a good student in school, was active at Orofino Junior High and high school in sports and other extracurricular activities. But she also made poor choices that led to drug and alcohol addictions, and destructive and degrading relationships with men.
“Why did we get from here to there?” the judge asked. “I see, but I cannot understand a slide ... to a life with poor choices,” that have destroyed Colpitts’ self-esteem and former promise in life.
During the hearing attended by about 50 people packed into the tiny Clearwater County district courtroom, Colpitts, dressed in a trim grey suit, sat silently beside her attorney, Mark Monson, of Moscow, and occasionally dabbed her eyes and nose with a tissue.
She displayed no emotion, even when confronted by Fignani’s mother, Consuela Steiger, who described, between sobs, her disbelief when she was told her daughter, Samantha, had been shot, and the heartache it has caused the family since then.
“I have pain more than anything,” Steiger said, her voice sometimes rising with anger as she looked straight at Colpitts sitting at the defense table in front of her.
“Her children are never going to see their mom again. ... All she ever did was want to help people. I was so proud to be her mom. ... Our life has been engulfed by what you have done. All she (Fignani) did was open the frickin’ door.”
Evidence during the nearly three-week trial in Grangeville showed that on the day Fignani was murdered, Colpitts had earlier been engaged in an angry telephone conversation with her estranged boyfriend, Joseph “Jo Jo” Walker, who was in jail in northern Idaho. Colpitts had recently discovered that Walker was having a sexual relationship with Fignani.
Following the conversation with Walker, Colpitts, dressed in dark sweat pants and a hoodie pullover sweater, asked a friend, Cassie Madsen, to drive her to Fignani’s house. Colpitts and Fignani both lived in Orofino.
When Fignani opened the door, according to Madsen’s testimony, Colpitts opened fire with a short-barreled shotgun. As Fignani lay writhing and bleeding on the floor, Colpitts returned to Madsen’s car laughing and saying, “I shot her in the crotch. She’ll live.”
Monson told FitzMaurice his case presented a dilemma because “Jessica steadfastly maintains her innocence.”
Instead, just as he did during the trial, Monson attempted to cast the blame on Madsen who, he said, made incriminating statements following Fignani’s shooting that were never followed up on by investigators.
Without facing them, Monson told the Fignani family, “we are sorry for your loss,” but said his client also was suffering because she has been deprived of the company of her two young children for more than two years.
Monson said previous to Fignani’s murder, Colpitts had only minor brushes with the law and no record of violence. He said she had been clean of drugs for two years before the shooting, and asked FitzMaurice to impose only the minimum mandatory fixed sentence of 10 years.
Clearwater County Prosecutor E. Clayne Tyler, however, pointed out that it took the jury only four hours to reach a verdict and there was “a tremendous amount of corroborating evidence” demonstrating Colpitts’ guilt.
“I don’t believe this is even a close case,” Tyler said. “There is no question. She did it” while Fignani “passed from this life writhing in pain.
“She has shown no remorse, takes no responsibility,” Tyler said. “This defendant had a dark side. This was a deliberate act.”
FitzMaurice said Fignani’s murder “was not a calculated, well-thought-out plan,” but when the jury heard Colpitts’ profanity-laden, angry voice on the telephone with Walker, “that was the match that lit the gasoline.”
The judge also said he was disturbed by how the trial had laid bare “the culture of drug use and the lack of significant feeling for the sanctity of life.” FitzMaurice said he hoped Colpitts would not become hardened by her time in prison, but use the time to rehabilitate herself.
Besides the prison term, FitzMaurice ordered Colpitts to pay Fignani’s mother $5,000 in restitution, $100 to the Idaho State Police crime laboratory and $13,722 to the Idaho Crime Victim Compensation Fund.
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.