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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 High School 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 Corporate Park. 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."

Napa resident 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 State Hospital's 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 ones."

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 knew."

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.


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