Jurors became ‘family’ during triple homicide trial
Koepp murder trial
JANESVILLE Jean Koessl left behind a husband, two daughters, three grandchildren and two jobs when she was selected as a juror in James Koepp’s triple homicide trial.
The school district secretary and Sears employee had a couple hours to pack clothes and find people to work for her. She then said goodbye to loved ones and boarded a coach bus to Rock County.
“It was total chaos, put it that way,” the Bristol resident said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God.”’
Koessl was one of 12 jurors who found Koepp guilty of three charges of first-degree intentional homicide in the January 2007 stabbings and strangulations of Danyetta Lentz and her teen children, Nicole and Scott.
Nine men and seven women, including four alternates, were selected in Kenosha County. They remained under 24-hour security, became close friends and even planned a juror reunion after their service.
“We became a family while we were up there,” Koessl said.
The Gazette tried to contact all 12 jurors. Others couldn’t be reached or declined to comment.
Jurors were selected from Kenosha County after Judge Alan Bates ruled that Koepp couldn’t get a fair trial from local jurors because of pretrial publicity.
Jurors stayed nine nights at the Best Western on Milton Avenue. They were paid $32 a day for their service. They traveled in a school bus between their hotel and court.
Jurors weren’t allowed to have a TV or radio in their room. They had no phones. They could watch TV in a common room with a deputy present, but they couldn’t watch local channels.
Jurors could call home or work each night, but they had to use a phone in a common area. A deputy stood by to listen. Jurors weren’t allowed to mingle with other hotel guests.
“Everything was kept under very strict and secure measures,” Koessl said. “We felt more like the prisoners than the prisoner did.”
Jurors were allowed to order food off the hotel menu, and they ate their meals together in a hotel conference room.
They had food delivered to the courthouse during the trial’s lunch breaks. They ate meals from Italian House, Milio’s Sandwiches and Jimmy John’s Gourmet Subs.
Sheriff’s deputies, bailiffs and drivers watching over jurors were professional, Koessl said. Hotel staff was polite.
“Everybody in Janesville treated us so well,” Koessl said. “It was just marvelous.”
Thanked for service
Judge Alan Bates thanked the jurors for their service. He acknowledged the inconveniences they suffered. He told them Rock County was grateful.
After jurors returned their verdict, some of the victims’ friends and family members thanked them as they left the courtroom, Koessl said.
“Our prayers and everything go out to the family members,” she said.
Koepp will be sentenced to three life terms at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 27. Attorneys will argue whether he should be eligible for parole.
“I’m just grateful that the jury agreed with us,” District Attorney David O’Leary said after the verdict was read. “I’m relieved.”
Jurors became close during the trial, Koessl said.
“As a group, we all got along so great,” she said. “It was wonderful working with the 16 people on the jury panel.”
Jurors plan to stay in touch. Many exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
A couple jurors were picked up Tuesday night and went home after the trial ended. Others stayed overnight at the hotel and took the school bus to Kenosha on Wednesday morning.
Koessl and other jurors are now carrying on with their lives. They were allowed to go to Walmart on Wednesday. A few jurors grabbed copies of the Gazette’s trial coverage.
Jurors plan to reunite at the end of month, and they also are talking about a one-year reunion.
Some jurors cried when they said goodbye.
“It was emotional,” Koessl said.