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Newspaper: Witness in doctor's slaying left 'disturbing' packages

Slepian
Slepian  

November 6, 1998
Web posted at: 7:06 p.m. EST (0006 GMT)

HAMILTON, Canada (CNN) -- A man wanted as a material witness in the shooting of a New York doctor delivered "disturbing and threatening" packages to a Canadian newspaper twice in the past six months, employees of the newspaper say.

Three employees at the Hamilton Spectator recognized James Charles Kopp from a photograph provided by the FBI, said deputy news editor Dana Robbins. The packages contained anti-abortion materials and bore a similarity to other packages mailed to the newspaper over the past year, the Spectator reported.

Kopp, 44, whose last known address was St. Albans, Vermont, is being sought by the FBI as a material witness in the sniper shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was killed October 23 at his house in Amherst, New York, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Hamilton.

The packages delivered and mailed to the newspaper contained photocopies of news articles about abortion-related shootings and threats. One delivery taunted police to "solve the puzzle, pig."

The last two packages arrived simultaneously in the mail on October 28, five days after Slepian was murdered. One contained a wanted poster bearing Slepian's photograph and arrived the day after an unidentified man phoned the Spectator to say that more killings would follow.

Kopp
Kopp  

All of the packages have been turned over to Hamilton police, who are working with a joint U.S.-Canadian task force investigating Slepian's slaying and four non-fatal sniper attacks on abortion providers during the past four years in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and New York.

Police say Kopp has a long history of arrests during protests outside abortion clinics. However, the FBI insists Kopp is wanted only as a material witness and is not a suspect in Slepian's murder.

The material witness warrant issued for Kopp was based on reports that his 1987 black Chevrolet Cavalier with Vermont tags was spotted in Amherst in the weeks before Slepian's death. Amherst is about 370 miles (592 kilometers) east of St. Albans.

But friends and relatives of Kopp portrayed him as a peaceful anti-abortion activist, not someone who would be involved in a string of violent acts.

"He's absolutely not a violent person. He's pro-life; he wouldn't hurt a soul," said Kim Caldwell of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kopp lived with Caldwell's family for more than a year in Delaware about 10 years ago, she said.

Kopp's stepmother, Lynn Kopp of Irving, Texas, said she doubts he could have been involved in Slepian's death. But she urged Kopp to turn himself in.

"I think it's unbelievable. He's not capable of it. He's very gentle, meek, shy and smart," she said. "I would tell him to get in touch with a priest and let a priest be his spokesperson."

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