Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Halloween Murder in the Napa Valley

Most Wanted

Although Lauren grew terrified for her safety when the killer was not quickly apprehended, she realized that, as the only witness, she had a responsibility to her former housemates. She agreed to go on the television program, America's Most Wanted, to talk about her terrible experience, and she went on other shows as well. She asked that her face be disguised or hidden, but she boldly told her story, hoping that someone in the viewing audience would see it and reconsider what they remembered from that night. Perhaps refreshing the details would shake something loose.

Cigarette butts found outside the house
Cigarette butts found outside the house

Yet as the months progressed, all substantive leads dried up and it was beginning to look as if the crime might not be solved. DNA evidence from blood found at the scene indicated that the perpetrator was a male Caucasian, and cigarette butts picked up outside were determined to have come from Camel Turkish Gold cigarettes, a brand only recently released. Since it was a distinctive brand, it would be easier to use to confirm a suspect whenever the police developed one. In addition, the DNA from intruder's blood matched DNA from saliva on the cigarette butts. However, the police did not disclose these facts to reporters and would later endure criticism for this. In retrospect, the information could have identified the killer right away, saving grief and resources.

DNA match between cigarette butts and blood evidence on stairs.
DNA match between cigarette butts and
blood evidence on stairs.

Over the course of a year, investigators conducted over 1,300 interviews in eight different states of people who had known the victims, as well as of residents from the area. They collected 218 voluntary biological samples for DNA analysis from men who'd had contact in some manner with the victims.

Yet it was not until August, nearly a year after the incident, that the police decided to release more information. To reporters they stated that the killer was probably a chain-smoker who had stood outside the house awaiting his opportunity. They revealed the brand of the cigarettes, thinking that someone would know a person who smoked it. Lauren recalled that Eric Copple, the husband of Adriane's best friend, Lily, had smoked. He had also been in the house on at least one occasion. She called the police to tell them.

They placed calls to him and his wife, but none were returned. A month went by, and they still had not spoken with him or collected his DNA. Lauren was not sure why. Finally, on a Tuesday night in September, Eric Copple, 26, arrived at the police station, in the company of his parents and his wife. He spoke with detectives for five hours, after which they told reporters he had made incriminating statements that they viewed as tantamount to a confession.

Copple was charged with two counts of felony murder, with special circumstances that made him eligible for the death penalty: two murders committed in the same time frame, as well murder committed by the use of a knife.