Family stands behind convicted murderer’s claim of innocence

Morgan Hill
– Even though the police, the district attorney and a jury were
convinced that Morgan Hill resident Daren Campodonica murdered his
wife in 2002, his mother and grandmother are sure he never
committed the crime that resulted in his 40 year prison sentence.
He just wasn’t that kind of person, they i
nsist.
Morgan Hill – Even though the police, the district attorney and a jury were convinced that Morgan Hill resident Daren Campodonica murdered his wife in 2002, his mother and grandmother are sure he never committed the crime that resulted in his 40 year prison sentence. He just wasn’t that kind of person, they insist.

“I’m sure it was an accident,” said Barbara Nightingale, Campodonica’s mother. “I don’t know how they can say it was murder; there was no gunshot residue on Daren’s hands and there was on Tarina’s. And the polygraph test he took came out 100 percent (in his favor).”

Campodonica’s family and his attorney have already began preparing to appeal and Nightingale has filed complaints against the deputy district attorney and the judge who tried the case. She said the prosecution was built on lies about her son and that he was wrongly convicted of the crime.

“I’m going to do whatever I have to do,” she said.

Nightingale said in a recent interview that her son was really a nice person, not the controlling bad guy the prosecutor made him out to be – a view the jury accepted.

“Daren was very kind as a child, very loving. His father wasn’t much of a dad and that really bothered him; he felt left out,” she said.

The prosecution portrayed her son as an angry man who wanted to control his wife, Tarina, during his second-degree murder trial. Campodonica was convicted of the crime on April 27 and sentenced Friday to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder and using a firearm. It was the maximum sentence allowed by law.

On the day Tarina Campodonica died, the couple were arguing in the garage of their Morgan Hill home over extra-marital affairs. During the argument, Tarina was shot in the head. Campodonica said the shooting was an accident, but the Morgan Hill Police Department and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office believed it was murder.

On the day of Tarina’s death, Campodonica told his mother that he was hugging Tarina because she was having an anxiety attack.

“Daren told me later it was a stupid thing to do,” Nightingale said.

Nightingale, who lives in Merced, related a tale of a loving but difficult marriage. She said Daren had two affairs, but only after he was hurt by his wife’s affairs.

Deputy District Attorney Ed Fernandez, who prosecuted Campodonica, said the two men accused of affairs with Tarina both denied it during the trial.

Nightingale said she was not pleased with the way the trial was conducted or the behavior of the judge during sentencing last week.

“They didn’t let Daren’s boss testify for him, that he was a good employee for five years and won awards,” she said.

She was happy, though, that her son defended himself on the stand.

“He testified because he wanted them to know what happened. I can’t see how the DA brings in people who don’t tell the truth, just to win the case,” Nightingale said.

She hopes to bring to light a litany of misconduct charges that will prove her son wasn’t given a fair trial in court. It would be difficult enough, she said, if Campodonica had committed the crime, but she knows he’s innocent. It’s just a matter of proving it, she said.

“It used to be you’re innocent until proven guilty, but now it’s guilty until you’re proven innocent,” she said.

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