Janesville46.7°

Koepp faces large bond in murder case

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 1, 2008
— In the unlikely event that James C. Koepp wins an appeal on a previous conviction, he would have to put up a cash bond of $750,000 in order to get out of custody.

The man accused of murdering a family of three last year made his initial appearance in Rock County Court on Thursday.


Danyetta Lentz and her two children, Nicole, 17, and Scott, 14, were found dead on Jan. 12, 2007, in their mobile home at Janesville Terrace, 3315 S. Highway 51.


Koepp “appeared” via a video link from the Columbia Correctional Institution.


Assistant public defender Walt Isaacson said Koepp did not object to the video appearance. Isaacson asked Koepp if that was indeed the case, and Koepp responded “yes.”


Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer set bond at $250,000 for each count of first-degree intentional homicide.


Isaacson asked that the initial appearance be continued to Feb. 28.


Koepp requested that the Feb. 28 appearance also be via video.


District Attorney David O’Leary said afterward that the public defender’s office needed the extra time to evaluate Koepp’s finances to make sure he qualifies for a state-paid attorney and to take care of other administrative items.


Koepp appeared in blue prison garb with long hair and long beard.


The jerky video images on the flat-screen TV showed Koepp, 49, sitting at a table in an otherwise bare room with a door behind him. He got up and walked around at one point, and he did not appear to be wearing any restraints.


No guard could be seen on the video, but the camera did not show the entire room.


Koepp is in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree recklessly endangering safety and third-offense drunken driving. The charges arose from an incident after the Lentz murders in which Koepp fled from police.


He was sentenced to four years in prison March 30.


O’Leary requested the $750,000 bond.


Koepp is appealing his sentence, which is one reason why the court should set a high bond, O’Leary said.


O’Leary also noted the seriousness of the charges; statements Koepp allegedly made shortly before he was arrested, to the effect that he would try to flee the state; and the fact that Koepp endangered safety when he led police on a chase.


Isaacson asked that Meyer set bond without commenting on the case because “one of our concerns, obviously, is ongoing publicity.”


Meyer honored that request.


Isaacson said a $5,000 bond per count would be enough to ensure Koepp’s appearance.


O’Leary said he and the public defender’s office are concerned about pretrial publicity because they want to make sure that an impartial jury can be assembled, “preferably from here in Rock County.”


Koepp will be able to request or waive a preliminary hearing when he appears on Feb. 28, O’Leary said.


At a preliminary hearing, a judge can bind a case over for trial if the state shows there is probable cause to believe that the crime was committed.


A TV reporter asked O’Leary whether he was happy to get the case started after the months of delay.


“I’m not going to comment—happy or anything else—until this case is resolved,” O’Leary said.


Sheriff Bob Spoden and Cmdr. Tom Gehl of the Rock County Sheriff’s Department were in the back of the courtroom for the hearing.


Koepp faces life in prison on each of the charges.



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