JANESVILLE, Wis. -- A convicted sex offender was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday for strangling and stabbing his neighbor and her two teenage children in their trailer home in southern Wisconsin.
A jury found 51-year-old James Koepp guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in February in the deaths of 38-year-old Danyetta Lentz, her 17-year-old daughter, Nicole, and her 14-year-old son, Scott. Prosecutors believe Koepp had an affair with Lentz and killed her to keep the tryst secret. His wife divorced him six months after the killings.
Koepp's conviction carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison, and the only question Tuesday was whether Rock County Circuit Judge Alan R. Bates would allow Koepp a chance at parole. Bates did not, sentencing Koepp to three consecutive life terms without a chance at parole.
Lentz's father, Russell Lucht, called the sentence fair.
"Three lifes for three lives," he said. "It's a blessing it's over. Now everybody, family and all, can get on with their lives knowing he's not around to hurt anybody else."
Koepp didn't speak during the sentencing hearing, but Lucht said that didn't matter.
"I only had one question for him and that's 'Why?"' he said. "He wouldn't have answered that anyway."
Lucht found the bodies of his daughter and grandchildren in the trailer the family shared on the outskirts of Janesville in January 2007. All three had been strangled and stabbed multiple times. Scott's room had been ransacked, and the trailer was splattered with blood.
Detectives quickly focused on Koepp, who lived kitty-corner to the Lentzes in the same trailer park. His record showed he had been convicted in 1983 of sexually assaulting two women at a substance abuse center, and Nicole's boyfriend told investigators he talked to Nicole on the night of the murders and she told him "Jim" was in the trailer.
Koepp skipped an interview with detectives and tried to flee the state four days after the slayings, leading sheriff's deputies on a high-speed chase for which he was sentenced to four years in prison. He was charged in the Lentzes' deaths while serving that sentence.
Forensic analysts testified during the trial that Koepp's DNA was found under Lentz and Nicole's fingernails and DNA from blood on Koepp's clothing matched all three victims.
Koepp initially told investigators he didn't know the family. He later changed his story, saying he went to the trailer to talk to Lentz about their affair the night of the killings.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)