Two Men Charged With Murder Of Informant To Stand Trial, Judge Rules

April 8, 2019

SCRANTON — After more than three hours of testimony Monday, a judge ruled prosecutors have enough evidence to send two men to trial on charges they killed a confidential informant last year to scuttle a drug case. Cornelius Mapson and Kevin Weeks each face criminal homicide and related counts for the April 20 death of Nina Gatto. The third person charged in the plot to kill Gatto, Melinda Palermo, took center stage during a preliminary hearing Monday as the prosecution’s star witness. Palermo previously waived her preliminary hearing. For much of the early afternoon Monday, she detailed how the effort to murder Gatto stretched out over several weeks and finally ended with her suffocation at Mapson’s hands. Gatto, 24, cooperated with drug detectives to set up Mapson, 33, during a February 2018 sting. Mapson, who was Palermo’s boyfriend, had a long criminal history and one more conviction for drugs meant that “he would do some time,” Palermo testified through tears. Palermo and Mapson went over their next move. Mapson considered running but that presented challenges. Palermo “couldn’t let him go” and she couldn’t run with him — she had three children to care for. “So what other options did you have?” Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell asked. “She had to go,” Palermo said, meaning Gatto. “She had to die.” Palermo, 38, has a cooperation agreement in place with the district attorney’s office, Powell said. However, Powell declined to elaborate what the terms of the agreement are. Palermo testified that their plan involved giving Gatto, a heroin addict, a deadly dose. They needed a friend of theirs, Weeks, 26, to befriend Gatto and feed her drugs. The plan came to a head at Gatto’s North Scranton apartment April 20. Gatto, though, had a very high tolerance. On the day she died, Palermo said she had injected about a dozen bags of heroin, snorted Xanax, drank Mike’s Hard Lemonade and seemed perfectly fine. Palermo unlocked Gatto’s back door to let Mapson in. He crept up behind Gatto and suffocated her. Palermo checked three times for a pulse. Weeks drank the beer Gatto did not finish and kicked her body to make sure she was dead. They cleaned up the empty cans and cigarette butts and left. They were in custody within days. Attorney Bernie Brown, who represents Mapson, said Palermo’s credibility is dubious. Attorney Donna Devita, who represents Weeks, argued that Powell’s office failed to show Weeks participated in the killing. Powell disagreed. “He laid the groundwork for the murder to occur,” he said. Contact the writer: jkohut@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9144; @jkohutTT on Twitter.