It all seemed so ludicrous, Ms. Capra thought, a tempest sure to blow over. Then the Office of Special Investigations assigned Mr. Scarcella, who had retired from the police force, to the case. For a year he slammed tables, yelled at, threatened and interrogated teachers at that high school.
He conferred hundreds of times with Ms. Capra's accuser and let him write much of the final report, which upheld every charge.
Mr. Scarcella even recommended that the state attorney general consider criminal charges against Ms. Capra.
It was devastation piled atop devastation - none of it grounded in fact.
Mr. Scarcella and his superiors resigned after the release of Mr. Condon's report. Mr. Scarcella has maintained that he was correct in going after Mr. Ranta and Ms. Capra. "I never framed anyone in my life," he said recently.
He never brought in anyone to examine the so-called corrupted tests, and he rarely took notes. "I personally believe that Mr. Nobile is a genius," Mr. Scarcella testified, referring to the accuser. "Everyone else I interviewed were dishonorable."
He threatened the principal, Mr. George: "Today is your last day as principal."
Mr. Scarcella was focused with no less certainty on Mr. Ranta. He had photographs of other suspects - and never showed those to witnesses. He rarely took notes, even of sensitive interviews. During what he claimed was Mr. Ranta's confession, he said he never asked a single question of the suspect.
"That's not my style," the detective told the judge in 1991. "I told him what I thought of him."
This is damage never repaired. Last Friday, Mr. Ranta ate a celebratory steak, and a few hours later suffered a heart attack. He survived. Ms. Capra married and had children and teaches at a community college in central New Jersey. And yet ...
"That detective took away 23 months of my life, and, sadly, 23 years from Ranta," she said. "There's no price tag on it, like for a broken bone."
By Michael Powell - NY Times