Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara Are Murdered in Napa
(“Good as Gold,” Forensic Files)
Eric Copple surrendered to a blind fit of anger and ended up killing two women and ruining his own life. The murders of Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara were the subject of a 2008 episode of Forensic Files.
“Good as Gold” trumpets the way investigators identified the murderer with the help of an advance in DNA analysis.
Bad romance. The testing not only revealed that the murderer was a white male but also provided specific clues about his appearance and what part of the globe his ancestors came from.
While the DNA drama was suspenseful, it didn’t tell viewers anything about Copple’s emotional underpinnings.
Something made him fear being alone so much that he killed his girlfriend’s bff as well as one of her roommates, and the reason had nothing to do with his light-colored eyes or European heritage.
Lily Prudhomme, a contract supervisor from Napa County, had ended her engagement to Copple, age 25, at some point before the murders happened, and he was caught up in anguish over the breakup.
Home invasion. For this week’s post, I dug around for any hints from Copple’s childhood that might explain his psychology and also looked into where he is today.
But first, here’s a recap of “Good as Gold,” along with additional information from internet research:
After midnight on November 1, 2004, a volleyball coach named Lauren Meanza awoke to the sound of her dog growling. She then heard the screams of her roommates, Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara, both age 26.
The three women shared a house on Dorset Street in the city of Napa, California.
Massive investigation. Meanza found Mazzara, a tour guide at the Niebaum-Coppola Winery, and Insogna, a civil engineer for the Napa Sanitation District, bleeding from multiple stab wounds.
Meanza saw a male fleeing but couldn’t give a description because it was dark.
No motive was evident. The assailant didn’t sexually assault the women or steal anything from the house.
Detectives followed all sorts of false leads, like the fact that the father of Mazzara’s former boyfriend had become infatuated with the onetime Miss South Carolina pageant contestant.
The police gathered 218 DNA samples and conducted approximately 1,000 interviews, with no payoff.
Revealing genes. In the meantime, Copple and Prudhomme reconciled and got married in February 2005. She had no idea her new husband was a murderer.
At some point during the 11-month-long investigation, detectives turned their attention toward the DNA on some Camel Turkish Gold cigarette butts found outside the house.
Since none of the roommates smoked, perhaps they came from the attacker.
Asked if the roommates knew any smokers, Meanza casually named Copple, although she apparently didn’t suspect him at that time. (He had helped the women move into their apartment. He also attended Mazzara’s and Insogna’s funerals.)
As mentioned, the latest breakthroughs in forensic science allowed investigators to obtain specific details from the DNA on the cigarettes. The smoker probably had blue or green eyes, light-colored hair, and a northwestern European ethnicity, according to the test results.
Remorse and woe. Once that information became public, Copple turned himself in to the police and confessed.
Copple’s appearance matched the physical specs the test had indicated, so that part of the investigation was a success.
But he wouldn’t give a motive for the homicides or reveal what he did with the knife.
Later, at his sentencing, he said he suffered from depression and had been suicidal throughout his life.
Mental health professionals say that, in men, depression often manifests itself in anger, and Prudhomme’s cancellation of their initial plans to get married in Hawaii probably didn’t help.
Jealousy and anger. With the wedding off, Prudhomme and Insogna had been planning a trip to Australia together.
Insogna, who had a degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was interested in structural engineering and wanted to climb Sydney’s Harbor Bridge.
Although Copple didn’t exactly say so, some sources told investigators that he suspected Prudhomme’s friendship with Insogna had contributed to the broken engagement. The women worked together at the Napa Sanitation District and were close.
Bloodbath upstairs. Copple and Prudomme had argued about their broken engagement at a party they each attended on Halloween 2004, the night of the murders.
Seething with resentment, Copple later went to the house that Mazzara, Insogna, and Meanza shared. He reportedly killed Mazzara first, then Insogna.
Meanza, who occupied a bedroom downstairs, didn’t cross paths with Copple, so she escaped the attack. Her dog, Chloe, who was in the bedroom with the door closed, also was unharmed.
Contrition spoken. In court, Copple seemed like the rare defendant who regretted his actions, not just getting caught. He described himself as “broken man” and expressed remorse, as reported in the Napa Valley Register by writer Marsha Dorgan:
“I cannot fathom an explanation for my sinful deeds … the terrible agony inflicted upon a great number of people…My relationship with Lily was (in jeopardy) and crashing. It was all like it fertilized the seed of anger in my heart… There was rage inside me. If I had only listened to those who pleaded with me to get the help I needed.”
He also admitted to trying to cope by abusing alcohol.
At the sentencing hearing on January 12, 2007, Arlene Allen, the mother of Adriane Insogna, told the court:
“My baby never wore a turtleneck sweater in her life, and yet she had to be buried in one — and still — it could not hide the extent of her wounds.”
Prudhomme seemed unwilling to completely condemn the man who killed her friends. She spoke of him at the sentencing hearing as someone who had a “gentler side.”
Copple received life without parole.
Insecurity and worry. As far as what made Copple, a surveyor for a civil engineering company who had no prior criminal record, so obsessive about his relationship with Prudhomme, a book about the case, Nightmare in Napa: The Wine Country Murders by Paul LaRosa, gives a clue.
It mentions that Copple’s family moved around a lot because of his father’s career in the military.
Maybe he felt desperate for a sense of stability and permanence.
The book also discusses an alternate theory that Leslie Mazzara was the real threat to his relationship, that he had made a pass at Mazzara and he was afraid she’d tell Prudhomme about it.
That’s all the information that turned up about Copple’s motive and emotional constitution.
Friendship preserved. As far as epilogues for the cast of characters, Copple resides in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California. His status is LWOP, life without parole. End of story.
Leslie Mazzara’s mother, Reverend Cathy Harrington, and her two sons built a cottage in Mazzara’s memory at the Calvary Home for Children in Anderson, South Carolina.
Adriane Insogna’s mother, Arlene Allen, who appeared on Forensic Files, remained close to Lily Prudhomme after the murders. Allen has discussed her grief in the media.
No match for FF. Today, Prudhomme, who holds a master of science degree from the University of Edinborough, lists her job as an administrative assistant at the Napa County Office of Education on her LinkedIn profile.
NBC’s Dateline Mystery produced an episode about the double homicide, “Nightmare in Napa,” which you can watch on YouTube. It’s drawn-out and a bit tiresome. But hey, not every true-crime show can rise to Forensic Files‘ level.
That’s all for this post. Until next time, cheers. — R.R.