DNA evidence highlights testimony

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, January 30, 2010
— In an era of TV crimes solved in 60 minutes, jurors look for DNA evidence to clinch a case.

Jurors who will decide the fate of murder suspect James Koepp heard hours of DNA testimony Friday.

The victims’ DNA was linked to bloodstains on the jeans and shirt Koepp wore the night of the murders, said Daniel Campbell of the Wisconsin State Crime Lab.

Koepp’s DNA was tied to blood found on a necktie, showerhead and body scrubber at the crime scene, Campbell said.

Koepp’s DNA also was found under the fingernails of the two female victims, he said.

The defense attempted to discredit the DNA evidence, suggesting an unknown male could have been the killer, possibly in an attempt to steal prescription drugs.

Male DNA found on the handle of a knife at the crime scene wasn’t Koepp’s, Campbell said.

Two samples of male DNA found on material used to strangle Danyetta Lentz also weren’t Koepp’s, he said.

Koepp, 51, faces three charges of first-degree intentional homicide in the January 2007 stabbings and strangulations of Lentz and her teenage children, Nicole and Scott.

Defense attorneys claim Koepp was in the Lentz home the night of the murders but left before the slayings. They also claim Koepp was having an affair with Danyetta.

Casting doubt

Campbell tested 124 items from the crime scene for DNA. He received samples of DNA from all three victims and Koepp for comparison.

It is unknown when DNA found at the crime scene and on Koepp’s clothes was exchanged, Campbell said.

Koepp’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Walter Isaacson, suggested Koepp’s and the victims’ DNA could have transferred from Koepp’s previous visits to the Lentz home.

DNA is passed easily through sneezing, coughing or the shedding of skin cells, Campbell said.

DNA found on bloodstains was a small amount, Campbell said.

Isaacson suggested it wasn’t a very large amount for such a bloody crime scene.

He also suggested the crime lab mishandled some DNA evidence.

For instance, blood on the blade of a knife found on a bed was never tested for DNA, Campbell said.

Interrogation video

Earlier, testimony included a video of detectives interviewing Koepp after his arrest.

Two detectives and Koepp sat at a table in a small interview room. Koepp smoked cigarettes and spoke softly. Many of his answers could not be heard.

Detectives asked Koepp for a confession.

“We know you killed them,” Rock County Sheriff’s Sgt. Craig Strouse said. “We want to know why.”

Koepp, silent and smoking, couldn’t be heard on the video giving an answer. The jurors had a transcript of the interview. The video was then stopped.

At some point, according to court records, Koepp implicated himself during an interrogation.

“I didn’t mean to kill anyone,” Koepp told investigators.

Koepp admitted he had an affair with Danyetta, but he initially didn’t confess to being at her home the night of the murders. He said he was at home drinking beer, reading and watching TV news.

Koepp later said he was at the Lentz home for 30 minutes that night.

The detectives questioned why Koepp wasn’t truthful with that information right away.

They also asked Koepp if injuries and cuts on his body stemmed from struggles during the murders.

On cross-examination, the defense suggested the injuries might have come from Koepp’s arrest or a domestic dispute with his wife.

The Rock County courtroom was nearly full for most of the day.

Koepp wore slacks and a sweater. It was his birthday. He occasionally whispered to his attorney or wrote notes.

Koepp was arrested five days after the murders for leading police on a high-speed chase when he was supposed to be questioned about the homicides.

He is in prison serving a sentence for felony fleeing stemming from the chase.

The trial is scheduled to continue at 8:30 a.m. today.

If convicted, Koepp faces three life sentences.

Last updated: 12:18 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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