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Investigator, roommate offer details of double slaying at hearing for Copple
Officer Russ Fitzpatrick releases handcuffs off Eric Copple, the man accused of murdering two Napa women on Halloween in 2004, for the preliminary hearing, Monday, May 15, 2006. Lianne Milton/Register LIANNE MILTON

The police officer who first interrogated accused double-murderer Eric Copple offered the public the first taste of that September 2005 interview, telling a Napa Superior Court judge on Monday what he heard from the man suspected of killing two 26-year-old women in their west Napa home.

"I asked (Copple) who killed Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara. He said he did it," Napa police detective Todd Shulman testified at Copple's preliminary hearing.

At the end of that hearing, Napa County Court Judge Stephen Kroyer ordered Copple, 27, to answer to two felony murder counts in the Nov. 1, 2004, deaths of Insogna and Mazzara.

Copple is also charged with the special allegations of using a knife in the commission of the murders and committing two murders at one time. If found guilty, Copple could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In a courtroom packed with family and friends of both Copple and the victims, Shulman recounted the events of the night of Sept. 27, 2005, when Copple turned himself in at the police department and confessed to killing Insogna and Mazzara nearly 11 months earlier.

Copple's wife, Lily, sat in the audience between her mother and father. She is employed by the Napa Sanitation Department, where Insogna was working as a civil engineer at the time of her death. Insogna's mother, Arleen Allen, clutching a photo of her dead daughter, and Mazzara mother, Cathy Harrington, sat across the room, frequently looking at Copple, who several times removed his wire-rimmed glasses to wipe tears from his eyes.

Shulman, lead detective in the investigation of the double murders, testified that his sergeant called him at home, saying a person had come into the station admitting to killing Insogna and Mazzara at their Dorset Street home.

Shulman said Copple told him that he and Lily had attended a party on Halloween night, just prior to the murders, and that Copple had gotten very intoxicated.

"He said he went home and passed out. When he woke up, he went to the garage and got some zip ties" — thin plastic cords used to tie cables together — "and a four-to-five-inch knife. He said he drove his vehicle to Dorset Street, where he parked his car across the street from the victims' home," Shulman said.

Copple told Shulman he stood in front of the victims' garage, smoking cigarettes under the security light.

Prosecutor Mark Boessenecker asked Shulman if Copple said why he had the zip ties. "He said he couldn't respond to that," Shulman replied.

Shulman said Copple told him he used the knife to pry open the downstairs window near the kitchen to gain access to the house.

"He said when he was in the living room, he heard a dog growling. He said he went upstairs and entered (Insogna's) bedroom, fell on a pile of clothes and went to sleep," Shulman testified.

Copple also told Shulman he was awakened when Insogna turned on the light. "It startled him, and he jumped on the bed…He said he didn't want (Adriane) to make any noise. He said he couldn't remember from there. He closed his eyes and heard a sound behind him. He stepped off the bed and made his way to Leslie's room," Shulman said. "He said her door was open, but it was dark. He said he could not remember attacking Leslie. He said he had his eyes closed. He said he could not remember stabbing Adriane or Leslie and that he only had bits and pieces of what happened."

Boessenecker asked Shulman if Copple was able to describe how he blacked out and still accomplished this. "No," Shulman replied.

Shulman said Copple told him he left the same way he got in, through the downstairs window, cutting himself on the mini-blinds. He said Copple remembered throwing the knife in his car, however, he said he did not remember how he disposed of the knife.

"(Copple) said he drove home and his next memory was building a fire in the fireplace and burning his clothes. He was very deliberate with the answers he gave me," Shulman said.

The question of why the women were stabbed was not asked or answered at the hearing.

During cross examination, defense attorney Greg Galeste asked Shulman if Copple talked to him about any personal problems.

"He said he was having troubles with his family life and his wife," Shulman said, adding Copple said he had been drinking wine and beer at the party prior to the killings and could not remember his wife bringing him home. "He said he had family issues and felt suicidal. He said he had a drinking problem," Shulman said. "He told me he didn't know why he went to the (Insogna and Mazzara's) house."

Lauren Meanza, the roommate who was asleep downstairs when Insogna and Mazzara were murdered, also testified a Monday's hearing.

She said Copple helped her and Insogna move into the Dorset Street home about nine months prior to the murders. Mazzara did not move in until five months later. She testified Mazzara and Insogna were giving out candy to neighborhood children when she returned home on Halloween night around 7:30 p.m.

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She said Insogna and Mazzara went to bed around 10 p.m. and she watched television.

"I checked to make sure the doors were locked and then went to bed," Meanza testified.

Meanza said around 2 a.m., her dog began barking and she noticed the backyard sensor light was on. "I dismissed it, thinking a cat tripped it," she said.

She testified she heard sounds coming from the living room, and then from Mazzara's room, which was directly above her bedroom. But Meanza said she thought Mazzara had a visitor. The next thing she heard was screaming and realized it was Insogna's voice.

"I knew it was Adriane. There was a lot of commotion and sounds of fighting going on upstairs … like things were being thrown around the room. When I heard the second scream I knew someone was in danger," Meanza testified. "I stood in my doorway for about 30 seconds and I heard Adriane saying, 'Oh god, oh god, help me.'

Meanza said she was afraid the suspect could be coming for her, so she went out the sliding glass door into the back patio. After hearing someone leave through the living room window, she went back inside the home.

"I could still hear Adriane crying for help. I called out Adriane. 'Are you OK?' She said no. I tried to call 911 on the kitchen phone but I couldn't get through," Meanza testified.

She said she climbed the stairs where she found her roommates dying. "Adriane was no longer able to speak. Leslie was face down in a pile of clothes. I was barefoot and sliding around in the blood on the floor," Meanza said.

She left the home in her car and called 911 on her cell phone. Police were on scene within a few minutes.

Copple is being held without bail in the county jail. He is set to be arraigned on May 31.

Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein has said he will go through a methodical process, including interviews with the families of the victims, before he decides whether or not to seek the death penalty.


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