A Florida man who killed his romantic rival in Laramie and tried to chop up the body with a saw will spend up to 30 years in prison if the prosecutor has her way, while his defense attorney is arguing for less than 20.
Hunter Orion Fulton, 32, pleaded guilty in January to manslaughter, mutilation of a dead body and possessing a weapon with unlawful intent.
The Albany County Attorney’s Office originally charged Fulton last summer with second-degree murder in the June 25 shooting of Mathew Caggiano, 27. That charge has since been lessened to manslaughter.
Caggiano, Fulton and Fulton’s girlfriend Erin Wade, 26, were drinking together at a Laramie bar the night of June 24. After witnesses saw Caggiano leave the bar with Wade, the three ended up in Fulton and Wade’s motel room.
There, Fulton shot Caggiano between his right ear and temple with a 9 mm Glock, court documents say.
Laramie police found Caggiano’s body June 29 inside a black plastic contractor bag, in a bathtub in the motel room.
Partially stashed under Caggiano’s body was a saw with human tissue on it, the case affidavit says.
Fulton says that he killed Caggiano because he thought Caggiano was raping his girlfriend, Wade.
“I acted like I thought was best. I recognize now, I didn’t understand … what was happening,” wrote Fulton in a defense filing last week. “I apologize to Mathew Caggiano and his family.”
But How To Sentence
Now Fulton faces up to 30 years in prison if Albany County District Court Judge Misha Westby gives him consecutive prison sentences on the three counts at his sentencing hearing later this month.
Becky Farley, Albany County chief deputy attorney, is arguing for consecutive sentencing and 26-30 years in prison.
Fulton and his defense attorney are arguing for concurrent sentencing instead.
The mutilation and unlawful weapon use convictions are punishable by up to five years in prison each, plus fines. The manslaughter charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
In a concurrent sentencing, Fulton could serve the lesser sentences at the same time as the larger sentence, for a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Fulton’s defense attorney in a May 9 court filing characterized Fulton as a protector.
Fulton was suspended from high school as a freshman for fighting, in what his defense attorney and his mother say was an effort to protect a disabled kid from bullies.
He went on to get his GED and his associate degree, the filing says, and has remained close with his mother and his adoptive father. Both parents wrote letters to the judge in February, which the defense filed Friday with the court, asking for leniency for Fulton.
A young woman also wrote to the court, saying Fulton is kind-hearted and capable and his charges surprised her.
“Hunter is my best friend and someone I could see being the father of my children someday,” wrote the woman.
Abused As A Toddler
Fulton’s biological father abused Fulton and Fulton’s mother, wrote defense attorney David Korman in his request for concurrent prison terms.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Fulton’s first memory was one of abuse; his father violently threw (his mother) through the windshield of their first car,” wrote Korman.
Fulton’s mother left his father for a man who adopted Fulton and gave him a stable home, when he was 5.
But his father’s abuses and his occasional involvement in his life continued to plague Fulton, the document says.
So he turned to drugs and alcohol.
Fulton took up marijuana at age 13, which helped control episodes from his childhood epilepsy, he told his lawyer. He also used alcohol throughout his teen years and adulthood.
He then started using cocaine at age 16, the document says.
Fulton and Wade were snorting cocaine the night of Caggiano’s murder, according to Wade’s police interview last year.
Fulton has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his defender’s filing.
“The scars Hunter’s father left on his body and brain have impacted his ability to regulate emotion, regulate impulse control and perceive threats,” says the document. “These handicaps are directly applicable to the case at hand.”
Korman said Fulman already is suffering for what he’s done.
“He will be known as the culprit in one of the most ‘heinous and gruesome’ crimes which this community has been witness to,” wrote Korman. “The people of Laramie have gossiped and incorrectly assumed who he is, all while condensing his whole persona into one incorrectly interpreted action — a vagabond who killed a member of their community and chopped him into pieces.”
‘Angry, Jealous And Possessive’
The prosecutor gave a very different account of Fulton’s nature.
“Hunter Fulton killed Mathew Caggiano because he was angry, jealous and possessive,” wrote Farley in a May 9 filing urging the court to consider consecutive and maximum sentencing.
Caggiano had been playing pool and hanging out at the bar with friends, Farley wrote. He was between living situations — court documents say Caggiano had been staying in his gold Dodge Ram truck — but was good-natured.
He had a good job and was a hard worker, Farley said.
Wade went up to Caggiano and kissed him at the bar, Farley’s filing continues. Fulton confronted Caggiano. Witnesses saw Caggiano put his hands up, apologize and try to defuse the situation, Farley wrote.
Caggiano later bought the couple drinks and hung out with them for most of the evening.
Two, Or Three?
Caggiano told a friend he was leaving to get Wade home because her boyfriend, Fulton, had left her. Two other friends saw Caggiano leaving the bar in his truck, with Wade and possibly Fulton in the truck.
“That was the last time any of Mathew’s friends saw him,” wrote Farley. “Only three people know what really happened in the Gas Lite motel room #28. However, Mathew can no longer speak for himself.”
Through The Front Door
Besides the bullet wound between his right ear and temple, Caggiano didn’t have any other defensive wounds suggesting he knew the fatal shot was coming, Farley wrote.
A blood spot near the motel room door indicates that’s where Fulton shot him, either when Caggiano was trying to leave or when he first came through the door.
Four Gory Days
Fulton tried for four days to dismember the body, says Farley’s filing.
“Not only did (Fulton) senselessly kill Mathew, but he also treated Mathew like garbage and tried to cut Mathew’s body up and hide his body so no one would ever find him,” wrote the prosecutor.
The evidentiary affidavit gives grim details of dismemberment efforts.
Video evidence from Ace Hardware showed Wade and Fulton the night of June 25 going to the store together, holding hands and laughing while Fulton bought a toolbox saw and the black contractor bags.
Three days later records show Fulton purchased a reciprocating saw and Milwaukee Sawzall 6-inch blades.
When police discovered the body June 29 after arresting Fulton, they discovered a saw cut through Caggiano’s spine and pelvis, into his abdomen, from hip to hip. There was another cut on his left thigh.
A hand-operated wood saw was stashed partially under the body and had human tissue on it, the affidavit says.
Fulton was sitting in his truck with the engine running just about to leave town when he was arrested.
Bloody Odds And Ends
A search of Fulton’s van revealed a 9 mm Glock handgun with 14 rounds in it, which is one round shy of full. There were skull fragments stuck in the pistol’s slide and blood on the slide and barrel, the affidavit says.
Police also found black disposable gloves, motel bedding covered in blood, and human tissue and clothing belonging to Wade, Fulton and Caggiano, one black women’s sandal, two of Caggiano’s credit cards and contractor bags in the van.
Investigators found the other black women’s sandal in Caggiano’s truck, along with a “butt plug” sex toy that also appeared in photographs on Fulton’s phone, which featured Wade using it, the affidavit says.
In Caggiano’s truck, which was also his home, police did not find zip ties, duct tape or a knife.
Wade, however, had told police that Caggiano tried to rape her using a large knife, zip ties and duct tape, the affidavit says.
‘I Do Love You’
Police seized Fulton’s phone. On it they found Fulton directing Wade to delete his texts and saying he wished she hadn’t left.
Wade left for her home state of California soon after Caggiano’s death.
“I do love you so … much,” Wade texted to Fulton after she left. She then asked Fulton for money, to which he responded with surprise because he’d already given her some.
“Really wish you hadn’t left me,” Fulton told her.
Later she urged him to do a good job with the cleanup effort.
“It’s not finished. It’s out of the bath and bagged up though,” Fulton texted.
“The carpets are cleaned?” asked Wade.
“Yes,” said Fulton.
Authorities arrested Wade in California last July.
She originally was charged with being an accessory after the fact to second-degree murder, conspiracy to mutilate a body and with being an accessory after the fact to assault and battery.
Her case has been dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement, but the agreement was not publicly available Tuesday.
Clair McFarland can be reached at: Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com