The 11-month search for the man who fatally stabbed two women in their Napa home turned inward on tight-knit Northern California wine country Wednesday with the arrest of the husband of one of the victim’s best friends.
In the days after the Nov. 1 early morning slayings of former South Carolina beauty queen Leslie Ann Mazzara and Napa engineer Adriane Insogna, both 26, one of the most vocal in her grief over the deaths was Lily Prudhomme, Insogna’s co-worker at the Napa Sanitation District.
“We are all grieving; we all hurt,” Prudhomme said at a candlelight vigil. “It’s taken one of my best friends.”
Less than four months later, Prudhomme married Eric Matthew Copple, also of Napa.
Early Wednesday, Copple, 26, was arrested on suspicion of murder in the two deaths. In 2003, he worked at a Napa-based civil engineering and surveying company. Authorities did not release additional information about him.
Copple’s family, most of whom also live in Napa, declined to comment. But friends of the victims expressed relief that an arrest had finally been made in the rare double-homicide in quiet Napa Valley.
“It is all just now sinking in,” said Calistoga schools Supt. Jeff Johnson, who had known Insogna since her childhood. “We are happy that someone has been apprehended, but at the same time, because it is someone local, there is also a tragic aspect.”
Tim Healy, Insogna’s friend and supervisor at work, said her co-workers were “very relieved that somebody has been caught. This is a small district and we all knew Adriane very well.”
Insogna, a civil engineering graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, worked as an assistant engineer at the sanitation district. Prudhomme is a contract supervisor there.
In interviews after the killings, Prudhomme said that she and Insogna had been planning a November 2004 trip to Sydney, Australia, to visit Insogna’s sister. She told the San Francisco Chronicle that Insogna had been fascinated with bridges and that they had planned to climb Harbor Bridge in Sydney.
“She told me several times that once she had done that, she could die a happy woman,” said Prudhomme, who vowed to complete the trip. “I do intend to climb it for her.”
According to public records, Prudhomme and Copple had lived together at several Napa residences before they were married Feb. 13.
The victims lived 2 1/2 miles from Copple and Prudhomme at the time of the slayings, the records show.
Authorities said Insogna and Mazzara were stabbed multiple times about 2 a.m. as they slept in their Napa tract home. Mazzara, a University of South Carolina graduate, was a concierge and tour guide at Niebaum-Coppola Winery in Rutherford, Calif. A roommate, sleeping downstairs, heard noises, fled and called police on her cellphone. A patrol car cruising nearby arrived within minutes.
Napa police and California Highway Patrol officers searched the area but were unable to find the killer, who had fled.
Until Wednesday’s arrest, there was little new information in the case.
Last week, in an effort to revive the investigation, Napa police issued a release saying that blood samples and other evidence at the scene had indicated that the killer was a white male who smoked Camel “Turkish Gold” cigarettes. Police would not comment Wednesday whether the brand of cigarettes played a part in the arrest.
Napa Police Chief Richard Melton and Napa County Dist. Atty. Gary Lieberstein, both of whom have been under public pressure to solve the crime, have scheduled a news conference for today.