Janesville67.8°

Murder suspect has long felt like 'non-citizen'

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 11, 2007

Before Jim Koepp was the only suspect in Janesville's triple murder, he spent nearly 20 years in prison or on parole.


He used much of that time to blame the system and accuse officials of making him a scapegoat, according to a reading of his probation and parole file.


The Janesville Gazette reviewed Koepp's 530-page file after Department of Corrections officials blacked out Koepp's medical information and the names, addresses and phone numbers of other people.


The file begins when Koepp was convicted of a 1982 sexual assault. It's fleshed out by documentation of break-in convictions, drunken driving arrests and lost jobs.


A large part of the file is logs written by probation and parole officers describing Koepp's good days and bad. Letters of support from Koepp's friends, family and leaders of local service organizations dot the 4-inch-thick folder.


It also contains letters blaming the Department of Corrections for his incarceration.


"Because the crimes that I have committed are, to society, unacceptable and unforgivable, and to the political climate, a perfect scapegoat for popularity and opportunity, this is something that I have to live with, no matter how wrong it is," Koepp wrote in May 1997.


Koepp was released from DOC supervision in July 2001.


On Jan. 17, 2007, Rock County sheriff's detectives expected Koepp to come in for questioning in the case of a gruesome triple homicide in the Janesville Terrace mobile home park. Instead, he led them on a chase south of the city and was arrested for drunken driving and endangering safety.


Koepp is being held on a $60,000 cash bond for traffic charges, to which he pleaded not guilty Tuesday.


He spent his 48th birthday in the Rock County Jail.


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During a 1984 interview with a social worker in preparation for incarceration, Koepp said he was so drunk he didn't remember the rape he committed on March 29, 1982-the day of his son's baptism. Koepp, then 23, raped a woman at knifepoint at a drug and alcohol treatment center in Monona. He also forced her to commit sexual acts with another woman.


On April 6, 1984, Koepp was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 years probation on four counts of sexual assault.


A note written by his social worker reads, "Mr. Koepp states that he does not remember committing the crime for which he has been convicted."


The same report describes Koepp as cooperative and congenial with average intelligence and a good attitude toward programming.


Koepp often applied for parole during his first incarceration. One 1986 application states he was enrolled in a Christian ministry correspondence course based in California.


On March 11, 1987-nearly two years before Koepp's release from prison-a social worker's report reads: "James continues to feel that it is unlikely that he committed his current offense."


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Ten years and several convictions later, Koepp filled four pages of legal paper in a hand-written letter to his parole officer.


"I am aware of the political agenda that derives from the actions of the DOC," Koepp wrote in May 1997. "And the political correctness behind the motivations of your policies and procedures, as well as the obvious fact that I am nothing more than a second-rate non-citizen that has less privileges and rights than an animal."


At the time, Koepp was behind bars for violating parole by drinking alcohol in 1995. He had served time twice previously for breaking into Janesville homes while drunk.


On Oct. 23, 1990, Koepp was arrested when a Janesville woman found him lying on her bed with a pillow over his face and her underwear on his stomach. She believed he had entered the home through a porch window.


Koepp returned to prison March 1, 1991, and was paroled May 7, 1991.


The following October, Koepp went on a road trip, getting drunk at bars in Rock and Dane counties. Afterward, he entered a home on Janesville's southeast side and attempted to enter the bedroom of the 19-year-old female occupant. The victim told police she knew Koepp slightly.


Koepp told police he was thinking of rearranging the furniture, which he had done after breaking in to other homes. He claimed that entering homes excited him and that he had done it several times without getting caught.


On Nov. 17, 1991, Koepp returned to prison.


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Koepp's parole application after the Janesville break-ins is more apologetic than those written in 1987. In March 1993, he requested that he be allowed to live and work at the Salvation Army in Milwaukee after parole.


"I would not try to get out of doing time," Koepp wrote. "I know and accept full responsibility and am truly sorry for scaring the hell out of that household.


"I don't know what is wrong with me. I wish I did. I did not want to drink, yet I felt so boxed in, so frustrated and depressed, and I saw no other outlet from the time I left that (words blacked out) until my first drink. I knew I wasn't thinking right."


In 1993, Koepp was released on parole in Janesville. A parole officer's report quoted Janesville police Lt. Lawrence Loveland:


"Based on his history, it is obvious that he has a propensity for violence. I am not happy he'll be in our community."


Before his October parole, Koepp said he read the conditions of parole "with absolute shock." He expressed frustration in a letter to the Department of Corrections.


"The way you have this formatted leads me to believe that you are under the impression that I am a child molester, a notorious one at that," Koepp wrote. "Try to put yourself in my position. To me, it seems as though you're applying stipulations that a saint would find practically impossible to adhere to."


A Department of Corrections letter informed Koepp that the conditions were standard for sexual offenders.


Four months after parole, Koepp lost a temporary job at Newco in Janesville after threatening a co-worker. He was ordered to check in with his parole officer. Instead, he went home and attempted suicide by eating a large amount of his roommate's medication.


Koepp was 35 years old.


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In October 1995, just before being sentenced to six years in prison for violating parole by consuming alcohol in August, Koepp's parole officer wrote that Koepp felt overwhelmed by the chaos in his life. Koepp was frustrated by having to borrow money to buy a birthday present for his daughter, who was born while he was in prison and whom he had never seen. Koepp also wanted to know where his 13-year-old son was.


On Oct. 1, 1998, Anthony J. Stregler of the Department of Corrections Bureau of Offender Programs wrote a letter stating the End of Confinement Review Board had reviewed Koepp. The board determined Koepp did not meet criteria for civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Person law-commonly known as the sexual predator law-and no special bulletin was needed to notify the community of his release.


Koepp was paroled in March 1999 and released from DOC supervision in July 2001.


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James Clifford Koepp was born in Stoughton on Jan. 29, 1959. He is the younger of two children. His parents divorced when he was 2. His mother remarried, and her new husband adopted Koepp and his brother.


According to a statement Koepp made to a social worker in April 1984, his father was occasionally physically abusive until he died when Koepp was 13.


Koepp said he attended Madison West High School as a freshman and was kicked out for drinking. The Madison Metropolitan School District could not confirm that.


Koepp attended Edgerton High School from August 1974 to January 1976.


He said he earned his GED at Madison Area Technical College in 1981 and attended basic training in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1982.


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In January 2007, Koepp's neighbors were shocked after a gruesome triple homicide took place near Koepp's home in the Janesville Terrace Mobile Home Park, 3315 S Highway 51.


Danyetta Lentz, 38, and her two children, Nicole and Scott, 17 and 14, were found in their bloody mobile home Jan. 12.


Neighbors recalled that someone had broken a window in Danyetta Lentz's home in late 2006. No one knew who had broken it, but it was fixed in December by a trusted neighbor, Jim Koepp.



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