DNA points to Copple as the killer
Test of Copple after arrest,
confession, 'consistent' with his presence at scene of double-slaying
Saturday, October 1, 2005
By MARSHA DORGAN
Register Staff Writer
DNA samples from accused murderer Eric Matthew Copple suggest the Napa
Police Department has its man in the November slayings of two young women
in west Napa.
Although authorities would not confirm if Copple's DNA sample matched
blood found at the murder scene, police Cmdr. Jeff Troendly said,
"The results of the DNA testing are consistent with our belief that
Eric Matthew Copple committed the crimes."
Tuesday evening, Copple, 26, accompanied by a family member, went to the
Napa Police Department and made admissions to investigators, leading them
to arrest him for the fatal stabbings of Adriane Insogna and Leslie
Mazzara, both 26, at their home on Dorset Street in Napa on Nov. 1, 2004.
Police have not disclosed a motive. Napa Police Chief Rich Melton said
investigators had been trying to contact Copple for about a month prior
to his arrest. However, Melton would not release any details as to what
led them to believe Copple was involved in the homicides.
On Thursday, the Napa County District Attorney's Office charged Copple
with two felony counts of murder. Copple was also charged with special
allegations of using a knife in the commission of the murders and
committing two murders in the same time frame.
If convicted of all counts, Copple could face the death penalty or life
in prison without the possibility of parole.
Copple's wife, the former Lily Prudhomme, was a friend and coworker of
Insogna, and played a role in organizing a candlelight vigil in honor of
the slain women.
Copple is a Vintage
graduate who is described by those who know him as a loner, a quiet
person who kept to himself.
Copple and Lily were not married when the women were murdered. They
married in February. Insogna and her mother, Arlene Allen, attended the
wedding. Allen said she considers Lily a close friend, but her relationship
with Copple has been more casual.
When Copple was arrested, he was working as a surveyor for Brooks and
Associates in Yountville.
"He worked the Tuesday he turned himself in," said owner Mike
Brooks. "He started working for us in April or May. We are still in
the state of shock. He never gave us any inkling or clue that he could be
involved in something like this. Eric showed great promise as surveyor.
He had great math aptitude. He was very quiet, but very intelligent. He
showed great promise. All of us here are dumbfounded."
Prior to working for Brooks and Associates, Copple was employed part-time
at Chaudhary Civil Engineering in Napa Valley
He left the firm in November 2003, according to a company spokesman.
Copple came to Napa
in his senior year of high school, where he enrolled at Vintage,
graduating in 1997.
"His dad was in the military. They moved a lot," said a
classmate who asked to remain anonymous. "(We) tried to make friends
with him but Eric didn't really talk much, except about how he wanted to
go to West Point. That's about the only
thing he ever wanted to talk about. I know he didn't play sports or was
involved in any clubs. He didn't really fit in. He wasn't dangerous or
anything like that, just odd."
Benjamin Katz was a good friend of Insogna. Through her he met both
Copple and Lily.
"Lily is a great person who likes to have fun. She's full of
enthusiasm with a great sense of humor. She and Eric lived together for
quite a while before they got married. I went to their wedding. Eric
seemed like a nice person. He certainly wasn't outgoing. It was difficult
to have a conversation with him," Katz said. "If we were in big
crowds, Lily did all the talking. Eric would be secluded.
"I'm really in shock. I just can't believe anyone would want to harm
Adriane, especially anyone who knew her."
In his teens, Copple worked at Napa
cafeteria as a cashier and stock boy. A coworker, who wished to remain
anonymous, worked with Copple at Napa State
and recalled him as a friend who helped her through some tough times.
"My ... (fiance) was killed and he wrote me a beautiful card of
sympathy to help me get through this," she said. "He told me
things happen for a reason, and we get through it with the help of loved
She said Copple and Lily, then dating, would often spend lunches together
reading Bible passages to each other. Copple never smoked during smoke
breaks and didn't drink alcohol, she said.
"This is really hard for me," she said. "He was a good
boy, when I knew him. The Eric that people know now is not the Eric I
Copple stopped working at the cafeteria during college, she said. When he
left, the only news she'd hear about Copple and Lily came from Copple's
father, who also worked at the hospital. She was invited to Copple and
Lily's wedding in Napa,
she said, but didn't attend.
"He was such a wonderful, warm person. He was like one of my
kids," she said. "This one I don't know, he's so blank. I don't
know who this is. I believe there are things that can happen to people to
make them snap."
Following the deaths of Insogna and Mazzara, Copple lived in Napa and went about
a daily routine, authorities said.
"People are capable of separating different parts of their
personalities ... shutting off part of yourself that you don't feel
comfortable confronting ... something you can't integrate into your
everyday personality you present to the world," said Robin Merrill
Payne, adult services supervisor with the Napa County Department of Health
and Human Services. "Our personalities can do amazing things. The
internal structure of the mind can suppress certain drives and urges to a
point where you believe they don't exist."
Merrill Payne said mental illness or substance abuse
are risk factors that can cause people to do things they know are
wrong. "Look at serial killers. They can live in their communities,
be clowns at kid's birthday parties and then when no one is looking, they
do these terrible things. You are more at risk developing a mental
illness at a younger age."
Copple is being held without bail in the county jail. He is scheduled to
be arraigned on Oct. 13.
Register staff writer Carlos Villatoro contributed to this story.