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Six months on, suspect's wife doesn't think he killed Lentzes

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Mike DuPre'
July 12, 2007

Nancy Koepp is divorcing her husband of seven years, James C. Koepp, this afternoon.


The reason, Nancy told The Janesville Gazette, is because he was having an affair with their neighbor, Danyetta Lentz.


James admitted the affair in letters to Nancy from jail and prison and acknowledged it to other relatives, she said earlier this week.


"He told his brother he had an affair with the lady that is dead now at the trailer," Nancy, 49, said. "He called my son and said, 'When this is all over and done with, please tell your mother how much I love her.'"


Danyetta and her teen-age children, Nicole and Scott, were found murdered Jan. 12 in their mobile home just yards away from the Koepps' mobile home.


The Rock County Sheriff's Department focused its investigation on James and arrested him five days later on suspicion of the murders and charges stemming from a chase he led deputies on when he was supposed to be interviewed about the triple homicide.


James, 48, is serving a four-year prison sentence because he pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from the chase.


James made statements and phone calls the night of the chase that seemed to admit an affair with Danyetta, but her relatives and many in the local law enforcement community think the statements were a ploy to explain why he and his DNA were present in the Lentz home.


"I really think he was building up the courage to kill himself," Nancy said of her husband's drinking and fleeing from the police.


Nancy doesn't think James killed the Lentzes.


"I've never seen that side of him," she said. "Like I told the lady sheriff, I guess anything's possible-probable, no-but anything is possible. ...And two of them children, personally I just can't see it. I just can't.


"In my heart, no."


James was convicted of simultaneously sexually assaulting two women at knifepoint in Madison in 1982. Nancy said she and her husband discussed that "very bad" crime and he told her "he was a very mixed-up kid.


"He said it wasn't a sexual thing. He wanted to show the world how much he hated the world, the system, everything in his life," Nancy said.


James never raised a hand to her and would not even argue back when she complained about his drinking, Nancy said.


"He had me on a pedestal. He would never yell at me, never," she said. "He would just leave."


"He had a drinking problem. It was probably about the last three or four years of our marriage that he started drinking again.


"I always argued. I'm a big goodie two-shoes. I never get in trouble, never, never, never. I have to have things a certain way, and when he would drink, it would make me mad.


"I'm not a drinker, and when he would drink, that's when we would argue," Nancy said.


Nancy said she once got so angry with James that she shoved and pushed him as neighbors watched at Janesville Terrace, 3315 S. Highway 51.


"Even with male testosterone, he didn't do nothing to me, nothing," Nancy said. "He just let me take out my anger."


If James had been drunk the night of the murders, "he would barely have the motor skills to do it," Nancy said. "He can barely walk when he's drunk."


Nancy said she didn't know the Lentzes because she doesn't socialize with anyone in the trailer park except relatives who live there.


The night the Lentzes were murdered, Nancy was working a late shift at a restaurant in the area. When she got home at almost 1 a.m., James was sleeping and, as usual, did not get up to talk to her, Nancy said.


The night of the missed interview and the chase, James gave Nancy a "big kiss good-bye. It was kind of a strange kiss," she said.


James called Nancy during the chase.


"When they were chasing him, he was crying. He kept saying that he was sorry, that he didn't know why he turned to another woman. He kept saying, 'Get the cops off me because I don't want to f'ing kill anyone,'" Nancy said.


She doesn't think sheriff's investigators did a thorough investigation because they focused on James immediately.


"He says the police think he did it because his DNA was there," Nancy said.


When it was pointed out that investigators had no DNA results when James was arrested, Nancy said: "They arrested him because he lied to them. He told them he wasn't over there when he was over there because he didn't want to admit to the affair, I guess....


"I don't know. Maybe he wasn't having an affair and made up this great, big lie.


"I just have a ton of letters trying to explain the why of the affair to me. He said she was a lonely woman, and they talked a lot, and one thing led to another...


"Jim is a very, very, very friendly person. Everyone in this whole trailer park knows Jim. They don't know me, but they know Jim.


"Jim was very, very friendly. That's why I would remind him never to mess around on me because people take that as flirtatious," Nancy said.


Danyetta's father, Russ Lucht, earlier told the Gazette that he spent every weekend with his daughter and there was no way she was having an affair with James Koepp.


But Nancy said: "If I was messing around, I would certainly never tell my father that I was sleeping with a married man."


Asked if she still loved her husband, Nancy replied:


"I care deeply about him, but I'll never be with him again because there's no trust now. It's not something you can turn on and off like water."



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