Robbery theory debated
Koepp murder trial
JANESVILLE While the defense has argued an unknown robber murdered three Janesville residents, prosecutors spent part of Wednesday poking holes in that theory.
Nick Stahlke of the Wisconsin State Crime Lab testified that blood patterns showed the victims’ bodies were moved after their deaths, indicating a robbery might have been staged.
Rock County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steven Selby testified that bank cards and gift cards were found among the empty contents of a dumped purse, suggesting the killer wasn’t motivated to steal.
Michael Stier, a forensic pathologist, testified that $13.10 was left behind in one victim’s pocket.
District Attorney David O’Leary called several witnesses in the third day of James Koepp’s trial in Rock County Court.
Koepp, 50, faces three charges of first-degree intentional homicide in the January 2007 slayings of 38-year-old Danyetta Lentz and her teenage children, Nicole, 17, and Scott, 14.
The defense has previously argued Koepp did not commit the murders.
Koepp had a short relationship with Danyetta, said Walter Isaacson, assistant public defender.
Koepp was in the Lentz home the night of the murders but left before the family was killed, Isaacson said.
The Lentzes were murdered later that night or early the next morning during or after a robbery, he said.
Stahlke testified blood evidence indicates the bodies were moved or repositioned after the slayings.
A kitchen chair leg was placed on top of Scott’s pant leg, Stahlke said.
Nicole was found on her back, her arms spread away from her body, and her legs similarly spread on the floor of the living room, he said.
A large photo album was propped on top of her leg, Stahlke said.
Blood transfer was found on the floor near Nicole’s body, he said.
Blood swipes were found on the floor near Scott’s head, he said.
The shoes and socks also were removed from the children’s feet, and one of the socks was removed from one of Danyetta’s feet, he said.
The feet had no bloodstains, suggesting that the footwear was removed after their deaths, Stahlke said.
The prosecution has suggested the murderer used the socks to cover his hands to avoid leaving fingerprints.
The victims also were stabbed after their deaths, experts testified.
Isaacson attempted to discredit Stahlke.
He asked Stahlke why he didn’t collect other relevant evidence from the crime scene such as a bloody mattress and carpet.
Isaacson also asked Stahlke why he didn’t use an ultraviolet light to find other blood evidence not visible in normal light.
He then attacked Stahlke’s expertise, pointing out that he had worked as a document examiner until 2006.
Stahlke said the Rock County Sheriff’s Office gathered additional evidence at the scene.
He also said some blood stains weren’t collected because they weren’t relevant.
Strangled and stabbed
Stier did autopsies on the bodies.
He testified that the Lentzes died of strangulation and stab wounds from at least three weapons.
The Lentzes were strangled from behind and stabbed in the chest or back, Stier said.
They had defensive wounds on their hands or arms from trying to protect themselves, he said.
Danyetta had a strangulation mark on her neck, Stier said. She also had a scrape on her nose.
She was stabbed 23 times in her neck, chest, arm and back, he said. She was stabbed before and after her death.
Danyetta also had rib fractures, Stier said.
Scott was found with a knife in his chest, he said. Scott also had been strangled.
Nicole tried to remove the strangulation device from around her neck before she died, Stier said. She got her fingers underneath it.
Nicole also had four stab wounds to her back.
Items left behind
Selby testified about items recovered while searching the Lentz home.
Gift cards for a gas station, Walmart and a restaurant were found at the scene, Selby said. Bank check cards also were found.
Social Security cards, licenses and other items also were left behind, he said.
Murali Jasti, assistant public defender, asked Selby why no cash was found in the home, even though ATM receipts were recovered.
He suggested cash could have been stolen.
The receipts, however, showed no money was withdrawn, Selby said. Danyetta had only 80 cents in her bank account.
Agitated phone calls
Anne Knobel, a trucking company owner who once employed Koepp, testified she received three phone calls from Koepp after the murders.
“He was very agitated,” she said. “He was very nervous because he had informed me that his fingerprints were there at that trailer.”
Koepp explained his fingerprints by saying he did handyman work at the Lentz home, Knobel said.
He also described the crime scene to Knobel but avoided explaining how he knew those details, Knobel said.
Koepp also said, “I’m sorry,” after each phone call, she said.
Isaacson, however, asked about other parts of Koepp’s conversation with Knobel.
Koepp said he felt bad for the murdered family, Knobel said.
Koepp also was worried about his own family’s safety, she said.
The courtroom was nearly full for most of the day Wednesday.
Koepp wore tan slacks and a matching sweater. He has a mustache and his hair is cut short compared to his previous court appearances.
Koepp occasionally wrote notes to his attorneys.
The trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today.
If convicted, Koepp faces life in prison.