Charges bring relief
JANESVILLE If Danyetta Lentz were still alive, she probably would have spent Friday afternoon with her friends, talking about everything and nothing at all.
Instead, Lentz’s friends sat around the kitchen table in Terry Schmidt’s trailer at Janesville Terrace mobile home park, talking about the latest development in the murder case that took their friend away from them.
One year ago today, Danyetta and her two teenage children, Nicole and Scott, were found dead in their mobile home at Janesville Terrace, 3315 S. Highway 51.
Yesterday, Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary filed three charges of first-degree intentional homicide against James C. Koepp, 48, an inmate of the Columbia Correctional Institution. Koepp was a Janesville Terrace resident who knew the Lentz family.
Koepp plead guilty to first-degree recklessly endangering safety and third-offense drunken driving. He was sentenced to four years in prison March 30. The charges arose from an incident after the Lentz family murders in which Koepp fled from police.
For the past year, the public has become increasingly antsy about the delay in charges. O’Leary said he was waiting for reports from the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and a lab on the East Coast.
However, when the lab reports arrived in late November they show a variety of evidence that appears to connect Koepp to the crime.
For Danyetta’s friends, Friday’s announcement was a relief.
They believed all along that Koepp had committed the crimes.
“He (Koepp) even told them that he did it; that he was sorry he did it,” Schmidt said.
But the lack of official charges left an unsettling feeling. Was there another person involved? Was it remotely possible someone else had committed the crimes?
“I feel better that they charged him,” said Angela Puckett.
The others around the kitchen table heartily agreed.
“I wish it could have been faster, but I wanted it to be right,” said Kim Drake.
They talked a little, too, about what Danyetta was like—a good-natured woman who worked hard for her family.
“She was always laughing,” said Puckett. “Her kids were like that, too.”
She was sociable, too, spending time with her neighbors.
“If she was still around, she’d be here with us,” Schmidt said.
Puckett agreed, adding, “Her kids would be here, too.”
Koepp’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 31. O’Leary anticipates Koepp will appear by videoconference from the Columbia Correctional Institution.
Other residents of the mobile home park said they were relieved Koepp had been charged, ending speculation that someone else might have been involved.
One woman who wished to remain anonymous said she hasn’t stopped “barricading her door,” since the incident.
Linda Mitchell, who lives near the entrance to the park, said she never really felt anxious about her own safety because she knew Koepp was acquainted with the Lentzes.
“I’m glad it’s over, though,” Mitchell said. “Now we know for sure.
Schmidt said he’ll be able to move forward after Koepp has been before a judge and jury.
“After the trial is over, that’s when we’ll be able to move on,” Schmidt said.