Murder indictment in Slepian killing
June 24, 1999
BUFFALO, New York (CNN) -- A grand jury in Erie County has returned a three-count indictment against James Charles Kopp, the fugitive wanted for the murder of an upstate New York abortion provider.
The main count is "murder in the second degree," for the intentional killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian on October 23, Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark told CNN.
Slepian was hit last October by a single bullet that was fired from the woods behind his house and pierced a kitchen window.
The murder charge carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
In May, federal and state authorities filed separate criminal complaints against Kopp, 44, and issued warrants for his arrest. The indictment solidifies the case.
"It's not just a bare allegation," Clark said.
The grand jury heard all the physical evidence available, Clark said, but due to secrecy rules, he could not reveal information about that evidence.
Authorities have found a rifle buried in the woods behind Slepian's home, but have not revealed what kind of gun it is or how it is linked to Kopp.
The second count, for "reckless endangerment," is for firing into the house while other family members were present. Neither Slepian's wife or four sons were hurt in the attack.
The second count, also a felony, carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
The third count, "criminal possession of a weapon," is for the high-powered rifle used in the crime. This count, a felony, also is punishable for up to seven years in prison.
The Erie County district attorney said the indictment will help move the case along quickly, especially if Kopp were caught outside New York state. "If we extradite him from another state or country, it's a far easier procedure to do once an indictment is returned," Clark said.
Meanwhile, the United States Attorney continues to present evidence to a federal grand jury.
Kopp is wanted under a federal warrant for violating the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) act.
In a pending complaint, U.S. Attorney Denise O'Donnel accuses Kopp of using deadly force to prevent Slepian from providing reproductive health services.
The FBI added Kopp to its "10 Most Wanted List" just two weeks ago.
"There has been no new information since the FBI the placed him on the list," Clark said.
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