When a vicious double murder was carried out in the early hours of 1 November 2004, the last thing anyone expected was the perpetrator to be revealed as a friend of one of the victims. Eric Copple was 26-years-old with no prior criminal record when he broke into his fiancé’s friends house in the middle of the night and in a frenzied attack murdered both Adriane Insogna and her housemate Leslie Ann Mazzara. A man with a life-long history of depression and suicidal thoughts, he often used alcohol to try to deal with his moods, a factor which no doubt had influence over his decision that night to carry out the horrific and brutal attack which took the lives of two innocent young women.
Adriane and Leslie were both 26-years-old and lived with their housemate Lauren Meanza on Dorset Street in Napa Valley, California. The girls got on well and enjoyed house sharing, always having someone to talk about their day with yet having their own rooms for private quiet time when they needed it. Adriane had become close friends with a girl called Lily Prudhomme who she worked with at the Napa Sanitation District as a civil engineer. Both Lily and her fiancé Eric Copple had visited the house and seemed like a lovely couple together. Copple had met Adriane a number of times but had never met Leslie. A fact that did not appear to deter him on the night he took her life.
On Halloween night in 2004, the three girls gave out candy at the door to local trick or treaters, all going to bed not long before 11 pm. At around 2 am Lauren who had the downstairs bedroom was awoken by noises upstairs. As she crept out of her bedroom to investigate she heard what she described as “a blood-curdling, terrified scream.” Realizing something was terribly wrong and hearing heavy footsteps thundering down the stairs towards her, she fled out the back door and into the backyard. Fearing she was trapped, she hid listening as the sounds of a person climbing out of a basement window and running off echoed out into the night. Lauren Menanza bravely went back inside the house and up the stairs towards the sounds of cries coming from Adraine’s room.
When she got to the doorway she saw Leslie Mazzara face down in a pool of blood on the floor and Adraine crouched behind the bed, alive but bleeding heavily from multiple stab wounds. Terrified, she tried to call 911 on the house phone but found the line dead. Running to get her mobile phone, she called for help running out to her car and driving away while on the line to emergency services in fear for her life not knowing who was still in the house or who might be coming back.
When police and emergency services arrived at the house they found Leslie Mazzara dead at the scene and Adraine Insogna fatally wounded. She died soon after paramedics arrived. Both young women had been stabbed repeatedly. While Lauren could tell police what she heard, she had not seen the attacker and could not provide a description or any information to help find out who had done this.
The police and forensic investigators painstakingly combed the crime scene for evidence which may help with the inquiry while the girls’ families were informed of the horrific events that had taken place that night. For the next 11 months, officers interviewed over 1000 people and collected hundreds of DNA samples in desperate attempts to solve these murders. Murders that had rocked the normally quiet area of Napa Valley. A city which had not seen a murder within its boundaries for two years, the news of this crime and no one being caught terrified everyone who took extra precautions for their own family’s safety.
In September 2005, police released they had found a DNA match from cigarette butts that were found at the scene. Furthermore, these cigarettes which they believed belonged to the killer were an unusual brand, Camel Turkish Gold, which they hoped would prompt someone’s memory on who smoked this brand. The response they received just days later was a surprise. On 27 September 2005, Eric Copple, the now husband of Adriane’s friend Lily, turned himself into police confessing to the murders of both Adriane and Leslie.
According to FBI National Statistics of the murders carried out in 2015 where the offender is known, 21% were acquaintances of the victim and almost 3% were carried out by a person considered to be a friend of the victim. No motive was ever officially put forward for these murders, with Copple himself being unable to explain what drove him to carry them out. However, it is believed that Eric had become jealous over the close friendship that had developed between Adriane and his fiancé Lily. They worked together and often socialized together, something that Eric may have seen has a threat to his relationship.
His actions that night are those few can understand and actions he has expressed remorse for.
“I’m a broken man. I cannot fathom an explanation for my sinful deeds … the terrible agony inflicted upon a great number of people. Words evade me.”
Eric Copple’s confession came after he had become nervous about the police announcement, thinking it was only a matter of time before they found him. He confessed to his family that he was the killer they were looking for who convinced him he must tell the police, accompanying him to the police station to do so. For Lily, who had asked Adriane’s mother to read a poem for Adraine at her wedding to Copple, she had no idea that the man she had married was the same man who had brutally taken the life of her friend one year earlier and had stood by her side as she attended the funeral and candlelight memorial held in her honour just weeks after her death.
Eric Copple was charged with double murder and pleaded guilty to both charges. After discussions with the victims’ families and with Copple’s attorneys, an agreement was reached that Copple would be sent to prison for the rest of his life without any possibility of parole in exchange for not getting the death penalty. He also waived his right to appeal. As Copple was jailed, his wife Lily told the court, “In the days before he confessed I knew something was terribly bothering him. I told him, ‘Eric, there is nothing in this world that you could do to make me love you less.’ Those words are just as true today as they were that afternoon.” the Napa Valley Register reported.
Lauren Meanza who was also in the house the night her friends were killed has been plagued with fear and questions ever since the murders. Why didn’t he kill her she has asked herself, how did she survive and her friends didn’t?
Eric Copple will now spend the rest of his life behind bars. Two young women in the prime of their lives were murdered inside their own home in an act which has devastated their families and left holes in their lives that can never be filled. At his sentencing hearing, Leslie’s mother, Cathy Harrington, spoke directly to Copple. She told him, “For the rest of your life you and your family will experience what both your victims and loved ones have felt: Terror, desperation, hopelessness, violence. … I wish I could tell you that I forgive you. At this time, I cannot. And finally, I pray that never again will any mother’s child grow up to be a murderer.”