‘Three lifes for three lives’
Hear WCLO's audio of the sentencing hearing for 51-year-old James Koepp of Janesville.
Koepp murder trial
JANESVILLE It’s been more than three years since Russell Lucht found his daughter and grandchildren murdered in their mobile home.
He waited a year for James Koepp to be charged.
He waited another two for Koepp to stand trial.
And he sat through seven days of testimony before jurors convicted Koepp in February of three charges of first-degree intentional homicide.
On Tuesday, Lucht and his family finally got closure.
“It’s a blessing that it’s over with. It’s finally come to an end,” he said. “Now everybody, family and all, can move on with their lives.”
James Koepp, 51, was sentenced in Rock County Court on Tuesday to three consecutive life sentences without parole in the January 2007 stabbings and strangulations of Danyetta Lentz and her teenage children, Nicole and Scott.
“It’s a fair sentence,” Lucht said. “Three lifes for three lives.”
Koepp chose not to speak before his sentencing, but Lucht would have liked Koepp to answer one question: “Why?”
“And he wouldn’t answer anyway,” Lucht said.
Kimberly Lucht, Danyetta’s sister, told the court she couldn’t accept the way her family was attacked and murdered.
“I lost a friend. I lost a sister. I lost a niece and nephew,” she said. “I feel like I lost myself.”
District Attorney David O’Leary said the sentence was appropriate. He said he hoped the victims’ family is satisfied that justice was served.
“It’s a horrific offense,” he said. “It’s horrific for the community.”
In court, Koepp’s attorney, Walter Isaacson, said Koepp should be eligible for extended supervision after 20 years.
He said Koepp has mental-health issues, including bipolar disorder. He said Koepp attempted suicide twice in the 1980s.
Alcoholic parents abused Koepp; a friend’s father assaulted him, and he lacked supervision while growing up, Isaacson said, and those factors reduce Koepp’s responsibility for the murders.
In court, O’Leary argued for three consecutive life sentences without parole.
O'Leary highlighted Koepp’s 12 criminal convictions from the time he was a juvenile until the murders.
He said the convictions include burglary, drunken driving and others related to invading women’s homes. He said Koepp has been in and out of institutions his entire life.
Koepp was convicted in Dane County in 1983 of sexually assaulting two women at knifepoint. He is a registered sex offender.
He also has admitted molesting a family member and is an alcoholic, O’Leary said.
“That is the demeanor and that is the character of Mr. Koepp,” he said.
While in prison and other institutions, Koepp never accepted opportunities for treatment and can’t be rehabilitated, O’Leary said.
“Mr. Koepp is an absolute danger to the community,” he said.
First-degree intentional homicide requires a mandatory sentence of life under state supervision. A judge can decide how much of that time is spent in prison or under extended supervision.
Judge Alan Bates said residents in the community have lost friends. He said the feeling of being safe and secure in our homes is gone. He said the victims lost their futures.
Bates said Koepp should get the maximum for each charge.
“Each of these victims deserves recognition,” Bates said. “Each of these victims deserves justice.”
Prosecutors said Koepp was having an affair with Danyetta, 38, and killed her and Nicole, 17, and Scott, 14, to cover it up. They presented DNA evidence linking him to the murders during the trial.
Koepp was arrested five days after the murders when he fled police. He and the Lentzes lived in the same mobile home park.