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Complaint oulines case against Koepp

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Mike DuPre'
January 11, 2008
— The criminal complaint charging James C. Koepp with three counts of murder does not offer a motive to why prosecutors think he killed three people or a theory as to how he single-handedly did it without a gun.

Koepp was charged this morning with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Danyetta Lentz, 38, and her two children, Nicole, 17, and Scott, 14.


Danyetta’s father, Russ Lucht, found their bodies Jan. 12, 2007, in their blood-splattered mobile home south of Janesville. Investigators think the family was slain the night before.


Koepp, 48, was their neighbor at Janesville Terrace, a mobile home park at 3315 S. Highway 51.


Although the complaint doesn’t offer a motive or a scenario, it cites numerous pieces of circumstantial and physical evidence, including Koepp’s eventual admission that he was in the Lentz home the night of the murders and that stains on Koepp’s clothing were most likely the victims’ blood.


In addition, DNA found on a necktie that investigators think was used to strangle the Lentzes most likely is a combination of Koepp’s and the victims’ DNA, according to the criminal complaint.


According to the complaint:


-- Danyetta was found in the mobile home’s hallway with 23 stab wounds, 15 of which likely were inflicted after she had died.


A ligature mark—evidence of strangulation—was found around Danyetta’s neck. Strangulation apparently killed her, but several of the stab wounds also could have been fatal.


-- Nicole was found lying on her back with bloodstains on her torso and apparent markings around her neck. A steak knife with a bent blade was found on one side of her and a black knife handle on the other side.


The pathologist conducting the autopsy concluded she died from strangulation and lethal knife wounds.


-- Scott was found in a pool of blood with a knife in his chest. Strangulation was the principal cause of death, but a combination of stab wounds could have contributed to Scott’s death.


-- Nicole’s boyfriend, James Warner, talked to her on the phone about 7:30 the night of the murders, and she told him “Jim” was in her home. Nicole told Warner specifically that Jim was the man who had fixed her window.


Warner tried to call Nicole again about 9:30 p.m., but no one answered the phone.


Koepp acknowledged he repaired a broken window in Nicole’s room a month or two before the killings, but he initially denied being there the night of the murders. He claimed that he was last in the Lentz home when he fixed the window.


Koepp eventually admitted he was in the Lentz home that night.


A married man, Koepp claimed he had an affair with Danyetta and said he wanted to talk to her that night “because he was uncomfortable in his own skin and had that guilt thing going on.”


-- Koepp admitted drinking every night and that sometimes he drank so much he could not remember what he did. He said he was drinking beer that night and took several cans with him to the Lentz home.


-- A detective who examined Koepp found a small cut or scratch on his head, small cuts and abrasions on both hands and wrists, small cuts and scratches on his lower legs and a baseball-size bruise on the inside of his left knee.


-- A detective who talked with Robert Himes, Koepp’s stepson, said Himes told him he talked with Koepp on Jan. 16—the night on which Koepp led deputies on a chase.


Koepp was acting unusual—“agitated and wasted”—and wanted Himes to tell Koepp’s wife, Nancy, goodbye.


Koepp said Tennessee was nice that time of year and he didn’t think he would make it all the way to Mexico.


“The defendant told Himes that (he) was running and needed to take off because the police had come over and gotten clothes from him and asked him to give a statement and he was certain he was going to be arrested.


“The defendant also told Himes that (he) could not remember everything that happened that night (of the murders).”


-- Koepp gave a detective clothes he said he was wearing the night of the killings. Brownish-red stains on the clothing were blood.


Danyetta’s blood was most likely on Koepp’s blue jeans. The odds that blood on Koepp’s jeans was from someone other Danyetta are 38 billion to 1, according to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory.


A bloodstain on Koepp’s shirt contained a mixture of DNA consistent with being a blend of Koepp’s and the victims’ DNA. The odds that an unrelated person’s DNA was part of the mix are 5,000 to 1, according to the lab.


-- Danyetta’s blood was found on a necktie thought to be a murder weapon. A DNA mixture from at least three people was found on the tie, and Koepp’s and the victims’ DNA are consistent with the mixture.


The odds that an unrelated person contributed to the DNA mix are 709,000 to 1, according to the crime lab.


Click here to read a pdf of the criminal complaint
Click here to read article on the charges filed against Koepp

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