Friday, April 13, 2018

Teens in Dojo Pizza Case Testify to Abuse From Loren Copp

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 7:40 AM

Loren Copp is facing child porn charges. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Loren Copp is facing child porn charges.
The teenage girl — Jane Doe 1 in the court record — says she first began to feel weird around Loren Copp when she was still in grade school.

"The way he looked at me and the way he would touch me," she testified on Thursday in federal court.

By the time she was twelve, the abuse had progressed to sexual intercourse and he was soon taking illicit photos of her, she said.

Copp, the former owner of Dojo Pizza in Bevo Mill, is on trial on charges of production of child porn, attempted production of child porn and possession of child porn. Prosecutors say he targeted underage girls who moved in with him while their parents struggled with poverty, drugs or jail.

Through the first day and a half of the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Winfield described Copp as a manipulator who relentlessly groomed his victims, even posing on Facebook as a thirteen-year-old girl named "Chrissy." A law enforcement investigator testified for hours about the stomach-churning evidence culled from hard drives seized from the converted church where Copp lived, taught karate, ran a pizzeria and housed a shifting crew of juveniles.

Federal agents leave Dojo Pizza on November 12, 2015 after one of several raids on the former Bevo Mill church. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • Doyle Murphy
  • Federal agents leave Dojo Pizza on November 12, 2015 after one of several raids on the former Bevo Mill church.

Two of those girls took the stand on Thursday afternoon. It was the first time they had been in the same room with Copp in more than two years, and it was viscerally uncomfortable. Copp is representing himself, which meant the girls not only had to see him but answer his questions on cross-examination.

The first girl — Jane Doe 5 — hugged her thin arms across her ribs as she testified about chatting with "Chrissy" online. She said conversations always seemed to veer into games of "truth or dare," with Chrissy challenging her and other girls to send graphic nude photos of themselves or run out of their rooms and perform increasingly sexual acts in front of "Grandpa" — a nickname for Copp.

Prosecution witnesses have testified that IP addresses as well as emails and phone numbers linked to the Chrissy account are all tied to Copp. Investigators also found a number of the images saved in folders on his hard drive.

Jane Doe 1 was called to testify late in the afternoon. She stared straight ahead when she walked in the courtroom as Copp watched her from his seat. She had lived with him for nearly a decade — so long he used to introduce her to strangers as his daughter. Her family met Copp through school and a church where he was then the pastor. When the girl's mother decided she was too overwhelmed to parent all her children, Jane Doe 1 moved in with Copp and his then-wife. Her sister — Jane Doe 3 — and an older brother moved in, too.

The brother soon left, but the girls stayed. Jane Doe 1 testified that Copp's wife was often at work, and he began sexually abusing her. One day, the wife returned home unexpectedly while Copp was having sex with her, Jane Doe 1 said.

"He jumped up and went to the door," she said, adding, "He was saying he was just waking me up."

Someone called in a tip about sexual abuse shortly after that. Police investigated, but the girl said she lied to the officer and denied she was being abused.

"I was afraid," she testified.

Copp split with his wife after that and moved into the old Bevo Mill church, taking the girls with him.

On cross examination, Copp made Jane Doe 1 read Facebook posts where she had written nice things about her "dad," and then tried to use them to rebut her comments about feeling uncomfortable around him. The posts included a Father's Day message and essays she had written to mark their annual celebration of the day Copp took over as her guardian. They called it "Gotcha Day."

"It sounded like we were close," Copp said. "What changed?"

He spoke from his side of the courtroom, obeying a judge's order that prevented him from approaching the stand. Jane Doe 1 turned her shoulders away during the questioning so she was facing the opposite wall and answered only in clipped sentences.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig had hoped to finish the teen's testimony on Thursday to prevent her from having to return for a second day. However, Copp still was not finished at 5:45 p.m. and said he had a significant amount of material to cover, so Fleissig called a halt to the day with plans to resume on Friday morning.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.


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