``I'm not here to stand by my man,'' Ryan, 48, told the panel of six women and six men who are considering whether to recommend a death sentence or life in prison for her former spouse. ``I'm here to stand by my daughters. I am as repulsed by his vile actions and behavior as most of you here in this courtroom. But I will say that for everything that he's done, he's been a loving father.''
Ryan, who had been cheated on by Capano for at least 20 years, spoke with determination, compassion and anger - baring emotions she has managed to keep private since the Fahey murder investigation began more than two years ago.
Her four daughters listened intently from the front row of the courtroom, their eyes glued to their thin, dark-haired mother. One, Alex, 13, would nervously take the witness stand after Ryan and beg for her father's life. The three other daughters, Jenny, 15, Katie, 16, and Christy, 18, are expected to testify before the penalty phase hearing ends later this week.
At the defense table, Capano, 49, showed little emotion as the woman to whom he was married for 26 years pleaded for his life and cried for the brothers and sister of Fahey, the onetime secret lover whom Capano was convicted of murdering in 1996.
The Faheys, as they have throughout the trial, sat silently in a front row of the courtroom opposite the Capano family.
`I'M SO SORRY' ``I'm so sorry for your loss,'' Ryan said as her voice began to crack and tears filled her eyes. ``I can't imagine what it's like to lose a sibling. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry Tom is somehow involved in that.''
Moments later, speaking directly to the jurors, she asked them to spare her ex-husband's life because a death sentence ``would have a horrific effect on my daughters.''
``If you can't do it for Tom,'' she pleaded, ``do it for the girls.''
Ryan, a pediatric nurse with a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, separated from Capano in the fall of 1995. She was granted a divorce in November. Testimony about her ex-husband's numerous extramarital affairs - which spanned at least two decades - and libertine attitude toward sex provided a seamy backdrop to the 12-week murder trial that ended with his conviction last week.
Her appearance on the witness stand capped the first day of the defense's presentation in the penalty phase of the high-profile case. The jury also heard from 11 other witnesses, including Alex Capano.
``He's still there for me,'' said the dark-haired seventh grader, a student-athlete at nearby Ursuline Academy. ``When I can't go to my mom or my sisters, I can still talk to him.''
TALKS NIGHTLY Alex Capano spoke hesitantly at first but her voiced grew more confident as she continued. She said she talks to her father almost every night by phone from Gander Hill Prison, where he has been housed since his arrest in November 1997. She said that she and her sisters visit him whenever possible and that they all want their father to be around, even if it is merely by way of a prison phone call or visit.
``He encourages us,'' she said. ``And he's still our dad.''
The jury, which must recommend a sentence to Judge William Swain Lee at the conclusion of the hearing, also heard from one of Capano's three brothers, Joseph, and from several other friends and associates, including a former mayor and two Catholic priests.
The prosecution did not question any of the witnesses called to testify. Prosecutors, in seeking the death sentence, have argued that Fahey's murder was premeditated, one of several so-called aggravating circumstances that permit a jury to recommend a death sentence under Delaware law.
The defense is trying to introduce mitigating circumstances that could outweigh that factor and allow the jury to recommend life without parole, the only other sentence permitted following a first-degree murder conviction.
The recommendation of the jury does not have to be unanimous. The actual sentence will be imposed by Lee at a later date - weeks, if not months, after the penalty-phase hearing has ended.
The hearing is set to continue here today with more testimony from friends and family members. In addition to Capano's three older daughters, two other brothers, Gerard and Louis, are also on the defense witness list.
DOESN'T WANT THEM Both brothers testified for the government during the trial and, according to several sources, Thomas Capano is balking at his lawyers' intention to call them to testify in his behalf, despite their willingness to do so.
Prosecutors said that Capano killed Fahey, 30, because she refused to resume an affair she had ended in the fall of 1995.
Fahey, the former scheduling secretary for Gov. Tom Carper, was last seen alive having dinner with Capano in a Philadelphia restaurant on June 27, 1996.
Capano, testifying in his own defense, told the jury that another mistress ``accidentally'' shot Fahey in his home later that night. He admitted that, with his brother Gerard's help, he dumped Fahey's body in the Atlantic Ocean the next day. And he said he persuaded his brother Louis to help dispose of some evidence and to lie before a grand jury investigating the case.
The once-prominent lawyer is the oldest son of one of the wealthiest families in the city. Capano's status as a former political mover and shaker was characterized in part by other witnesses called to testify yesterday, including former Mayor Thomas C. Maloney and current City Councilman Theo Gregory.
They and others spoke about Capano's involvement in community and civic activities, his willingness to help others, and his previous reputation as a social and political leader.
Most asked the jury to spare Capano's life.
But only his ex-wife made the plea with passion.
``I've told my daughters,'' she said, ``that no matter what he's ever done, they can come away knowing their father loved them very much.''
She then asked the jury to allow her daughters to work out their relationships with their father on their own terms and in their own time. And to do that, she said, would require a life sentence.
``They do love their father very much, she said. ``In time, I think, they could forgive him for what he's done. . . . They have to do that on their own terms.''