For this special edition episode, I wanted to talk about crimes that occurred on Halloween night. Surprisingly there are actually many cases that occurred on that particular holiday, but I found the two cases that I talk about in this episode especially intriguing due to the unusual nature of the crimes themselves.
The first case dives into a family's dynamic and how even though blatant warning signs may be given by a potentially violent individual, many times they are ignored because we want to believe the best in our loved ones. The second case is, I can say with certainty, every woman's worst nightmare...to have someone break into your home in the middle of the night with ill intent.
Transcribed Episode / EP11: Halloween Edition
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Welcome to Episode 11 of The Crime Shack! In this episode I’ll be discussing two cases that both occurred on All Hallow’s Eve. So grab your bowl of candy and let’s get into the cases of William Liske, Leslie Mazzara and Adriane Insogna….
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It was nearing the end of October, 2010 and 53 year old Bill Liske, an avid hunter, wanted to not only get in some fall season deer hunting, but also wanted to squeeze in some quality one-on-one time with his son, William. Using his accrued vacation time, Bill and William went to their Family’s hunting cabin in Carroll County, about 170 miles or 3 hours away from their home in Martin, Ohio - and returned home on Saturday the 30th for the Halloween weekend.
The Liske’s home was located in a rural area, on about 100 acres in Clay Township, Ottawa County Ohio. Clay Township lies in north Ohio, borders Lake Erie, and is one of the twelve townships of Ottawa County Ohio. It’s approximately 17 miles south-east of Toledo, with a population of about 1100 people.
Upon arriving back home, Bill invited a few friends over for beers, including his close friend Mark Gradel who lived in the house next door. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and Bill Liske’s wife, 46 year old Susan was also at the house. Susan had two sons from a prior relationship: a 23 year old son named Derrick Griffin and a 16 year old son named Devon Griffin. William Liske, or BJ as they liked to call him, was 24 years old and was Bill’s only child from his prior relationship. B.J. did not particular accept Susan when his father got married, and their relationship got off to a rocky start. When they initially got married, B.J. was 15 years old and began acting out by ditching school and rebelling against Susan, who tried to enforce rules in her home for the young teenager.
Derek lived with his mother and Bill, but chose not to hang out with his family that evening as he didn’t get along very well with B.J. As a matter of fact, B.J. didn’t get along with most of his family, and it was rare that he would stay the night at their house because of past violent fights with them. But this night was different - Bill had consumed too much alcohol and didn’t feel it was a good idea to drive B.J. to his home in Sandusky Ohio, about 40 miles away, so they made up a bed on their living room sofa for B.J.
Because B.J. had several previous altercations with his family members and had substance abuse problems, he had been living in a halfway house for mental health patients in Sandusky Ohio for several months. His father Bill would often go and visit him at the group home.
Their struggles with B.J. had been an ongoing battle. Eight years prior, Bill had called the police because his then 16 year old son B.J. had threatened to hurt himself - B.J. had been on house arrest at that time. When the police arrived at their home, B.J. attacked the officers which resulted in charges being filed. Then two years later, in 2004, B.J. got into an argument with his stepmother Susan, and struck her hard with a coffee cup to her chest and took her car keys. He was charged with felonious assault and robbery but found incompetent to stand trial - the charges were eventually dropped.
When he moved into the halfway house in Sandusky Ohio, he had a physical fight with his father Bill which resulted in the police being called to the house, and had at least two other encounters with officers, in addition to other violent incidents or outbursts.
There was an incident when B.J. was 18 years old, where Bill ended up kicking him out of his home as B.J. attempted to attack Susan as she was in the shower.
Bill and Susan would end up so frustrated with B.J.’s behavior that they would also reach out to their friends for help. Bill would often call his friend Mark Gradel to come over to their house when B.J. was acting up or when they were physically fighting with him.
Mark, seeing that B.J. behavior was alarming and violent, tried to talk to his friend and tell him that they needed to protect themselves and their family from B.J. But how do you tell a father that he should be scared and protect himself from his only son? Bill had a difficult time coming to terms with B.J.’s mental issues and behavior, and refused to give up on him. He continued to believe that with the right help and right medication, his son would eventually be okay, and expressed to his friend that his son would never hurt them.
Mark even told Bill that he and the neighbors suspected B.J. was hurting their pets. Mark’s dog was discovered shot twice with .22 caliber bullets.
In February of 2006 Bill filed for guardianship over B.J., as the then 18 year old had been in the hospital for schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder that is characterized by hallucinations or delusions and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania. There are two types of schizoaffective disorder: the Bipolar type (which B.J. was diagnosed with), that includes episodes of mania and sometimes major depression...and the Depressive type, that includes only major depressive episodes.
The guardianship application stated that "[Bill] would eventually like to see him in a halfway house or a group home...When William is on his medication he does really well. After a while he will stop taking it because he thinks he is OK, starts drinking and smoking pot."
That night the party broke up around midnight and everyone, except Bill, his wife Susan, Susan’s son Derek and B.J. Liske remained at the house.
The next morning, Devon Griffin, who had spent the weekend at his father’s house, came by his mom’s house at around 9:30 the morning of October 31st, and went up to his room to grab a shirt for church that morning as he was going to be singing during the morning church service.
Devon was only at the house for about 5 minutes when he ran into his step-brother B.J. B.J. asked him what he was doing and how long he would be gone at church. Devon didn’t remember what else was said, but recalled that B.J. was acting happier and more upbeat than his usual dark and gloomy self. Devon didn’t see any other family members before he left for church and didn’t think to check in with anyone else in the house.
Once Devon had changed his shirt, he left. After his church’s service, Devon returned to the house and went straight to his room to play video games. It was between 1:30pm and 2:00pm that he noticed that the house was oddly quiet. He didn’t hear his mother, or his stepdad, or his brother Derek. He knew his mom should normally be up by that time. He walked down to the master bedroom, walked in, and found his mom and stepfather in bed under their maroon comforter. The comforter was pulled up over their heads, so he couldn’t see their faces.
Devon tried talking to wake up his mom, but with no response, he walked over to her side of the bed and seeing her foot sticking out of the covers, he nudged her leg. No movement. He then pulled the comforter down a bit and that’s when he saw the blood. Her pillow was soaked in blood, but because it was Halloween, Devon’s first instinct was that it was a Halloween prank, that his parents were playing a joke on him.
With no continued response from his mom or stepdad, Devon realized what he was seeing. Sheer panic set in and he started to cry and immediately ran from the room and out of the house.
He called his aunt Laurie Morse and told her what he saw and asked her to come to the house. When Laurie arrived at the home and found the bodies, she called 911:
[911 Call: Laurie Morse]
We need an ambulance and the sheriff to show up please.
Where's the blood?
It's on, on the bed.
It's in their house? In their bed?
He said it's in their bed.
Oh my God!
I don't know! Bill's in the bed, he's dead. He's got to be dead.
Okay, does it look maybe he was shot?
Oh he's, honey, he's, he's either shot or stabbed or something. His son B.J. was here last night, they were gonna go huntin'. They've had a lot of trouble with him, with the law, and he's threatened Susie before.
When investigators arrived at the home, what they discovered was shocking. They found Bill Liske and Susan Liske shot dead in their bed with the maroon comforter pulled up over their heads. Bill was lying in a natural sleeping position and had been shot five times in the head and face, at close range from about two feet. Susan was laying more awkwardly, as if she may have moved or been moved. She was shot three times at close range. The bullets that were found at the scene were small caliber, likely a .22.
Investigators then attempted to enter Derek’s room. The door was locked, so they had to kick in the door. Derek was found curled up in bed facing the wall - he had been bludgeoned in the head and likely died within a few minutes of the first blow. A bloody claw hammer was found in the house and was consistent with Derek’s wounds.
The claw hammer and multiple guns in the home were all confiscated for testing.
Inside of the home, authorities found muddy footprints along a deck near the family’s pond, indicating that the perpetrator may have tossed the gun in the pond. After draining the pond, no weapon was found.
Mark Gradel’s wife Michele, told investigators that she heard what sounded like gunshots, at around 6:30am on October 31st which meant that the family could have been killed before Devon arrived home the first time.
Once detectives secured the crime scene, they began searching for B.J. Liske.
After Devon had left the house that morning for church, B.J. took the family’s Ford F150, stopped at Subway and grabbed a sandwich, and drove to their hunting cabin in Carroll County.
Police knew of the cabin, and headed there to try to find B.J. It was around 5:30pm and B.J. had been at the cabin for less than an hour. He never got a chance to eat that sandwich, when authorized arrived and arrested him.
William B.J. Liske was charged with three counts of aggravated murder and plead guilty to all charges. He was sentenced by the Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters in September of 2011 to three life sentences without the chance of parole. In exchange for his guilty plea, he avoided the death penalty. William apologized in court for killing his father, stepmother and stepbrother, stating that it was his mental illness and Satan that caused him to murder.
On March 31, 2015, after being in prison for less than 4 years, Williams B.J. Liske, 29 years old, was found dead in his cell of a self-inflicted wound at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe Ohio.
Before we get into the next story, I really enjoy bringing you these episodes and if you like what you hear, head over to my website at thecrimeshack.com, and click the Support link to become a Patreon member where you’ll get access to additional case photos, get access to my personal story on how I got started in true crime and even vote on future episodes! Thank you for listening and for your support!
Our second story begins with three friends from Napa California...
Good friends Lauren Meanza, Leslie Mazzara and Adriane Insogna decided to become roommates in early 2004 and shared a 4 bedroom home on Dorset Street in Napa California. The city of Napa is known as the heart of the Napa Valley wine region, has amazingly moderate weather year-round, and is known as one of the safest communities in Northern California - in fact, before 2004, Napa hadn’t had a murder in over two years.
26 year old Lauren Meanza was an all-state athlete with a political science degree and 26 year old Adriane Insogna was a civil engineer who worked at the Napa Sanitation District. Their friend, 26 year old Leslie Mazzara, a former beauty queen from South Carolina and a public relations specialist, joined her friends in renting the house in Napa during the summer of 2004.
It was nearing midnight on October 31st, 2004. That Halloween evening, Lauren, Leslie and Adriane celebrated the night by handing out candy to trick or treaters before each of them headed to bed around 11pm - Lauren headed to her bedroom on the first floor of the home, and Leslie and Adriane headed up to their bedrooms on the 2nd floor.
Lauren Meanza got into bed and fell asleep. Shortly afterwards, between 1:30am and 2:00am, a security light was tripped behind their garage. Lauren’s dog Chloe, who slept in her room, gave what she called a “warning bark” but Lauren assumed the light was triggered by a cat and tried to go back to sleep.
A few minutes later, she woke up and heard someone inside the house going up the stairs. She assumed it was Leslie’s boyfriend at the time and didn’t think anymore of it. Suddenly she was jolted awake to the sound of blood curdling screams coming from upstairs and the sound of breaking glass. Adriane was screaming “Oh my God, please help! Please help!”
She opened up her bedroom door and started to head out of her room when she heard heavy footsteps quickly coming down the stairs and someone breaking stuff as they came down. Scared, Lauren ran out the back door of the house but ended up blocked in the backyard by a 6 foot fence, with no way to escape. She heard someone in the kitchen struggling with the kitchen blinds in the front of the house before it got quiet. She then heard Adriane crying for help upstairs. Lauren went back into the house and tried calling 911 but the line was dead. She went upstairs to check on her roommates and entered Adriane’s room first... and was met with a gruesome sight.
The entire floor of the bedroom was covered in blood. Leslie was facedown in a pile of clothes covered in stab wounds all over her upper body and arms. Adriane was in the same room, crouched behind her bed with multiple stab wounds. She was still alive, but not able to speak. Lauren ran back downstairs to find her cell phone, and called 911:
[Portion of 911 Call: Lauren Meansa]
911 emergency, what are you reporting?
Oh my God, we got attacked, please help!
Who attacked you?
I don't know...my roommates are upstairs and I think they're dying...
As she was talking to the 911 operator, the line suddenly went dead. Fearing that the intruder could still be somewhere in the house, she grabbed her car keys, ran outside, got into her car, drove away from the house and dialed 911 again.
When investigators arrived at the scene, they collected 266 pieces of evidence, including cigarette butts that were found outside of the home, microscopic fibers, and a drop of the suspect’s blood outside the broken kitchen window. They interviewed over 1000 people and collected more than 200 DNA samples, but were unsuccessful in finding a match.
After testing the blood droplet and the DNA from the cigarette butts, the DNA results came back as being from the same perpetrator who was a white male of probable north European descent...the testing was also able to narrow down specifics such as his skin color, eye color and hair color.
Even with those specific characteristics, months went by with no potential suspects, until investigators began to take a closer look at the cigarette butts recovered from the scene. The cigarettes were of a particular brand, Camel Turkish Gold which had only been on the market for four months at the time of the murders.
Investigators questioned the family and friends of Leslie and Adriane and asked them if they knew anyone who smoked that brand of cigarettes. Leslie remembered trying to think of everyone she knew who smoked, and one name popped in her mind…Eric Copple.
25 year old Eric Copple, a land surveyor, married Lily Prudhomme in early 2005. Lily worked as a civil engineer at the Napa Sanitation District and was friends with Adriane Insogna. Eric and Lily attended Lauren and Adriane’s house-warming celebration when they moved into their Napa house. Eric also attended a candlelight vigil organized by Adriane’s friends two weeks after the murders.
The police then publicly released photos of the brand of cigarettes that were found at the scene and when Eric Coppel got news that they had this evidence, he walked into the police station and turned himself in before he could be arrested.
After hearing news that Eric was arrested, Lauren was shocked. She recalled the time she had spent around Eric and that he was seeming nice, but super shy, and that she never felt he was dangerous or felt any negative vibes from him at all.
Eric was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and special allegations of lying in wait, the use of a knife and committing a crime with multiple victims. He plead guilty, admitting to stabbing Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara.
By pleading guilty, there was no trial, which spared the victims’ family members from having to testify - and the death penalty was not pursued.
Eric was sentenced to life in prison and waived his right to appeal and agreed to never profit financially from the deaths of Leslie and Adriane.
Eric’s attorney, Amy Morton, described the victim impact statements at Eric’s sentencing:
[Amy Morton; Courtesy of Snapped]
The victim impact statements are just horrible to have to listen through, but out of respect for the victim’s of violence, you listen of course to what the victims have to say, and both mothers were very articulate about the pain that they felt, and the loss and the anger that they felt towards Eric. Arlene was extremely articulate and I do remember her demonstrating on the podium (slap, slap, slap, slap) this is what you did when you were stabbing my daughter. And ya know, chills. I mean, it was a packed courtroom, and it was just, you know you just stand my your client and, and try to keep him together, but it’s very sad. I mean you know you have to understand it from the victim’s point of view.
To date, Eric’s motives for the killings remain a mystery, and Eric claimed to not remember what happened that night. It’s believed that he was upset about Adriane’s relationship with Lily and that Adriane had tried to warn Lily not to marry Eric. He told authorities that he burned the clothes he wore that night and tossed the weapon - however, no weapon has ever been found.
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Adriane’s mother Arlene Allen, spoke out about Eric’s sentence and why they chose not to pursue the death penalty:
[Arlene Allen; Courtesy of Snapped]
With the idea of going for the death penalty, you just have so many opportunities to appeal. And then, at the end, if indeed it would happen in the state of California, that you know it’s been sort of off the table for quite some time now. But let’s pretend that it is operational, that it would happen. I, I did not want to find myself at 80 years old, opening the door to have a camera stuck in my face saying “he’s dead now, how do you feel?” I didn’t want that - ya know, I wanted an opportunity to walk away and start to rebuild my life.
Cathy Harrington, Leslie’s mother stated that the plea deal was (and I quote): “most compassionate outcome for the terrible and unspeakable thing that has happened. This stops the cycle of violence. I believe this is what my daughter would have wanted,” she said. “I will never get over the loss. I relive this nightmare every day. But this is the most compassionate way for it to end.”
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