Janesville34.2°

Crime, alcohol taint murder suspect's past

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Gazette Staff
January 18, 2007

James Koepp admitted to Janesville police in 2002-nine years after he was convicted of raping a woman in Monona-that he had been breaking into random houses while drunk.


He said he did it "for the thrill rather than having an intent to steal or taking something," according to police reports.


He told police investigating a 2002 report of burglary and trespassing that he would break into a random home and do something such as "make a sandwich," according to reports.


He said he had gone to bed so drunk that he had no recollection of getting out of bed and going to bars or parties, according to reports.


Koepp is well known to the criminal justice system, going back many years.


He is a registered sex offender in Wisconsin and is scheduled to remain so for the rest of his life, according to the state's sex offender registry Web site.


Online court documents show Koepp's criminal record dates to 1983, when he was convicted in Dane County on four counts of second-degree sexual assault. A jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced in April 1984 to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years on probation.


According to the criminal complaint, Koepp threatened two women with a knife March 29, 1982, at Tellurian South facility in Monona, saying he'd kill them if they didn't perform sexual acts with him.


Tellurian now is a substance abuse and mental illness treatment facility and homeless shelter.


Holding a knife, Koepp woke a sleeping woman at the facility and told her to be quiet or he would kill her. He forced her to have sexual intercourse and then made her go into a room where another woman was sleeping. He forced both women to perform sexual acts, while threatening to "slit your throat and kill both of you," according to the complaint.


Devan Dutra supervised Koepp in the 1990s when Dutra was a probation and parole agent with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. This morning, Dutra described him as a "dangerous individual."


"He's certainly not typical of people who commit sex offenses," said Dutra, now retired. "He was always on the high risk. Drinking has got to be the factor."


Dutra said he believes Koepp is in the top 1 percent of violently dangerous sexual criminals.


By today's standards, Koepp would be a candidate for Wisconsin's Chapter 980 Sexually Violent Persons Law, Dutra said. Under that law, criminals convicted of sex crimes who have served their terms but are considered a risk to re-offend can be discharged from prison to a secure treatment center.


From there, former offenders may be released to supervised home confinement.


"My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victims," Dutra said.


Koepp was released from prison in 1991 but arrested in Janesville later that year on charges of burglary. He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, according to police reports.


Koepp's probation was revoked in 1995, and a Dane County judge sent him back to prison for six years.


Koepp appealed, saying his sentence was improper because he suffered from mental problems that the court should have considered.


The appeals decision states that Koepp claimed problems with depression, alcohol and suicide attempts.


The state District 4 Court of Appeals denied his appeal in 1997. He was released March 30, 1999.


In 2002, after he was out of prison, Koepp asked the system for help.


It started when he was charged with criminal trespassing. The charge later was dropped.


According to the criminal complaint, Koepp was accused of breaking into the home of Mike Tracy of Janesville at 3:30 a.m. June 13, 2002, and lifting the shirt of a 14-year-old girl.


Tracy spoke with a Gazette reporter Wednesday. He said his family knew Koepp through Tracy's mother-in-law, who met Koepp at Alcoholics Anonymous.


Tracy said Koepp was living platonically with Tracy's mother-in-law, and Tracy's two teenage daughters visited often. Tracy said he was unaware at the time that Koepp had been convicted in 1983 of sexual assault.


Tracy was uncomfortable with Koepp's relationship with his daughters and asked him to stay away from them, he said. A couple of years later, the family heard a noise in the night, and the 14-year-old girl said Koepp had lifted her shirt, Tracy said.


Koepp filed a restraining order against Tracy after charges were dropped. Koepp claimed in a statement that Tracy had gone to Papa John's, where Koepp worked, and threatened to "get" him.


Tracy admitted going to Papa John's Pizza.


Koepp wrote in his May 12, 2003, application for the restraining order: "I have learned the hard way that acting in retaliation only results in criminal actions, and only pain, suffering and loss occurs. Before this happens, I am pleading to the courts to step in and attempt to prevent unpleasantness."


Tracy said his family has been fearful since hearing about the triple homicide so close to Koepp's home.


"As soon as we knew it happened at that trailer park, and we knew James Koepp is in that trailer park, we knew he was at the end of his rope," Tracy said.


Tracy said Koepp has relapsed since his Alcoholics Anonymous days and has been drunk every time he saw him in the last few years.


"He's probably at the peak of alcohol level that you could possibly put anybody," he said. "I never see him sober."


Koepp was convicted of drunken driving after being arrested Dec. 20, 2004.


Gazette reporters Gina Duwe, Frank Schultz and Stacy Vogel contributed to this report.

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