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Donna Trapani claimed she was deeply in love with George Fulton, despite the fact he was married. When he broke it off, she proved she was determined to do whatever it took — a fake pregnancy, a cancer claim, a murder plot — to win him back.
George and his wife, Gail Fulton, met as teenagers in a Catholic youth group in Corpus Christi, Texas. She was a popular, straight-A student and he was class president. After high school, George attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. Gail stayed in Texas, eventually getting her degree from Baylor University in Waco.
Despite the challenges of a long-distance relationship, George and Gail married after college. They moved often due to George’s military career and had two daughters and a son.
“Gail was very focused on her children, wanting them to have as normal an upbringing as possible even though they traveled so much,” friend Sylvia Morales told Oxygen’s “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. "She was very focused on being a good mother, a good wife, a good person.”
After two decades with the Army, George retired in 1993 at the rank of Major. The family initially moved back to Corpus Christi but a lucrative job opportunity for George as an engineer took them to Lake Orion, Michigan. Gail found work at the local library while George was often away on business. But their new life in Michigan would come violently crashing down within years.
Just past 9 p.m. on Oct. 4, 1999, a caller reached 911. She said she had just found her friend and co-worker Gail Fulton, then 48, lying in a puddle of blood in the parking lot of the Orion Township Public Library.
Responding officers quickly realized they were dealing with a homicide.
“She was shot in the head and twice in her stomach and her chest area,” former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Ralph DiFonzo told producers.
None of Gail’s personal possessions were missing, ruling out robbery as a motive. Plus, Gail was beloved by all who knew her, making her murder particularly shocking, especially in this idyllic community. So, investigators started by looking into her husband.
By speaking to Gail’s co-workers, investigators learned all was not well in the Fulton marriage. George had recently had an affair with a businesswoman in Florida named Donna Trapani.
Trapani, 43, was a registered nurse who opened her own home health care business, which at one point brought in $1 million a year.
“Donna hired George to help with some of her financial aspects of her business,” attorney Larry Kaluzny told producers. “The two of them just kind of hit it off and ultimately became lovers.”
In May 1998, George relocated to Florida, telling Gail it was for work and only temporary — but that October, Gail learned about the affair with Trapani and confronted George.
Devout Catholics with three children, the Fultons decided to save their marriage. George moved back to Michigan and the affair with Trapani seemed to be a thing of the past.
Investigators questioned George, who claimed he was at home with his 17-year-old son, Andrew, at the time of his wife’s murder. Andrew confirmed his father’s alibi.
When asked about his affair with Trapani, George claimed the relationship was over. He even said he was actually on the phone with Trapani discussing business when he learned of his wife’s murder.
George told investigators that after returning to Michigan, Trapani had contacted him to say she was pregnant and had been diagnosed with cancer. Believing Trapani was going to have his baby, George brought her and Gail together to hash out their differences at an area hotel.
George left the two women alone to get to know each other — but after learning the details of the affair, Gail left in tears. George later returned to the hotel where he admitted he had sex with Trapani. The whole shocking story had alarm bells ringing for detectives.
Investigators spoke to Trapani at her home in Pensacola, Florida. She claimed she had nothing to do with Gail’s murder, and phone records proved she was in Florida at the time it occurred.
There was clues to go on, though: Security cameras at the library captured Gail’s murder. In the footage, she was seen getting into her car, driving a few yards, and realizing she had a flat tire. When she stopped to check it, a car pulled up and a man got out. He shot her three times.
The footage didn’t capture a license plate, but images of the car were released to the public. Police soon received a tip that three people were in the car at the time of the murder and that the driver was a woman.
Investigators also received a phone call from a man in Florida named Brian Miller in November 1999. He claimed his ex-girlfriend, Sybil Padgett, had been recruited to take part in the murder along with her current boyfriend, Patrick Alexander, according to court documents.
“He came in with some credible information,” DiFonzo told producers. “He’s giving me names, he’s telling me a story that I can buy because there’s a lot of information in that call. When the detectives got off that call, they were hitting the computers, bringing these names up fast.”
After pulling up Padgett’s personal information, investigators were stunned to see a direct connection to Trapani: Padgett had worked for her as a certified nurse.
Detectives traveled to Florida to interview Trapani in person, who appeared pregnant at the time. She again denied any involvement in Gail Fulton’s murder.
"It was a very lengthy interview, seven hours,” DiFonzo told producers. “She was pretty cagey about what she said and what she did.”
Next, detectives interviewed Padgett and Alexander. While Padgett denied everything, the 19 year-old Alexander quickly cracked.
Alexander said Trapani was looking for someone to kill her “boyfriend’s wife," according to court documents. Trapani offered Padgett and Alexander $15,0000 to murder Gail. He claimed Trapani manipulated Padgett, threatening to fire her if she didn’t help.
They traveled to Michigan in September 1999 and followed Gail around Lake Orion but lost their nerve and returned to Florida, he said.
Trapani then recruited 32-year-old long-haul trucker Kevin Ouelette, who agreed to be the triggerman. Alexander told detectives he and Padgett drove Ouelette to Michigan on October 4.
Outside the Orion Township Public Library, the killers slashed Gail’s tires and waited for her to get off work. When she left that night and discovered her flat tire, Ouelette stepped out of the car and shot Fulton to death.
When confronted with Alexander’s confession, Padgett caved and backed up his story. They were arrested and charged with murder.
FBI agents caught up with Ouelette while he was driving his 18-wheeler in Connecticut.
“I think he knew that he was really caught,” former FBI supervisory agent Rich Teahan told producers. “He proceeded to confess to the crime of murder-for-hire of Martha Gail Fulton and that he was hired by Donna Trapani.”
Authorities also searched Padgett’s home and found a photograph of Fulton, notes on her daily schedule, an annotated map of Lake Orion, and a fake suicide note that Trapani had typed out, according to court documents.
Trapani was arrested, but despite the evidence against her, remained defiant. She insisted that if Padgett, Alexander, and Ouelette had murdered Gail Fulton, they acted on their own volition. However, authorities discovered she was undoubtedly lying about something major.
“When they patted her down and cuffed her up they found like three towels underneath her shirt,” DiFonzo told producers. “She was playing this pregnancy scenario, I guess, to her grave, if you will.”
Not only was Trapani not pregnant, she didn’t have cancer, either. It was all lies.
Trapani insisted she was in love with George Fulton, but then tried to implicate him in his wife’s murder. Police, however, found no evidence George had prior knowledge or condoned his wife’s murder.
Alexander cut a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to murder in the second degree and testify against Padgett and Trapani in exchange for 22 to 40 years in prison. Now 40, he will first be eligible for parole in 2022.
Ouelette pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy and was sentenced to life without parole. He agreed to testify against Padgett and Trapani in exchange for serving his sentence at a federal prison in Maine close to family — though he is currently incarcerated at Michigan’s Chippewa Correctional Facility.
Padgett and Trapani were tried together and both found guilty of murder in the first degree and conspiracy. They were sentenced to life without parole and are incarcerated at the same prison, Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
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