Saturday, January 12, 2008

James Koepp - Registered Sex Offender - Charged with Murdering 3

A sex offender now in prison was charged Friday with first-degree murder in the deaths of his neighbor and her two teenage children.

The criminal complaint against James Koepp says he stabbed repeatedly and strangled the family members on Jan. 11, 2007, and that DNA evidence linked him to the victims and to knives at the scene.

The bodies of Danyetta Lentz, her 17-year-old daughter, Nicole, and 14-year-old son, Scott, were found in their trailer home the next day by Lentz's father after they didn't show up for work and school.

Suspicion quickly fell on Koepp, a registered sex offender who lived kitty-corner from the family in the trailer park. Koepp initially denied being at the family's home that night but later told investigators he had been there because he was having an affair with Lentz, the complaint said.

Lentz's family and friends denied any affair.

Koepp, 48, skipped an interview with detectives four days after the bodies were found, but he was arrested that night after a wild car chase. He is serving a four-year prison sentence for drunken driving and reckless endangerment from the chase.

Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden previously had said the complex crime scene and evidence backlogs at the state crime lab in Madison slowed the investigation. The final lab reports in the case were completed within the last month, he said.

"We are glad to see that this investigation has moved into the next phase of the criminal justice system," he said in a statement Friday.

The sheriff said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims' family but declined to comment further. Lentz's father, Russ Lucht, did not return a message left for comment Friday.

Koepp's initial court appearance was scheduled for Jan. 31, District Attorney David O'Leary said. He declined to comment further.

A message left with Koepp's attorney, Larry Peterson, was not immediately returned Friday.

Koepp was convicted in 1983 of sexually assaulting two women at a substance abuse center where he once spent time. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and required to register as a sex offender for life.

He was returned to prison in 1995 for violating probation by drinking and told the judge at the time that he was alcoholic.

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