By Ivy Brown
GREEN BAY, Wis. (Court TV) – A Wisconsin man convicted of murdering his missing wife eight years ago has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In February, a jury found 75-year-old James Prokopovitz guilty of first-degree murder in the presumed death of Victoria Prokopovitz. Victoria was last seen in April 2013. Prosecutors successfully argued James killed his wife to be with another woman.
ORIGINAL STORY 2/15/21
GREEN BAY, Wis. (Court TV) – Authorities believe James Prokopovitz killed 59-year-old Victoria Prokopovitz around April 25, 2013. Her body was never found. He reported his wife of 22 years missing on April 26, claiming he last saw her the night before. When he woke up around 4:00 a.m., she was gone, but her purse and cell phone were on the kitchen table. Prokopovitz says he then went to work, calling 911 when he returned home around 1:00 p.m.
During the search, authorities say the only person Prokopovitz informed of Victoria’s disappearance was her son, Wes Edges. They also claim he didn’t seem worried, including telling relatives searchers were “wasting their time” and “She is dead… She is never coming back.”
Prosecutors allege Prokopovitz killed Victoria to have an affair with his old girlfriend, Kathy Friday. However, the two claimed for years that they reconnected after Victoria’s disappearance until 2019. The same day they appeared in court, repeating the lie on the witness stand, they came clean in written statements. Prokopovitz said he lied because he was “concerned what people would think if they found out (he) was involved with another woman so soon after (Victoria) went missing.”
They were each charged with perjury and conspiracy to commit perjury. After pleading guilty, Kathy took her own life in 2020. Prokopovitz is also charged with first-degree intentional murder for Victoria’s death.
- State and defense deliver opening statements
- Victoria Prokopovitz’s daughter, Stacey Deer, describes mother’s mental health struggles, including suicide attempts
- Court enters stipulation regarding Kathy Friday:
- She killed herself in 2020 and will not testify
- She was convicted
- Emotional testimony from Victoria Prokopovitz’s daughter Marsha Loritz about all the efforts taken to find mother; her mother’s condition; when she started to suspect James Prokopovitz was holding back information
- Emotional testimony from Victoria Prokopovitz’s son Wesley Edges about his mother’s condition last day she was seen
- The defendant’s former coworkers testified that he showed up to work the morning his wife went missing and didn’t tell anyone about her disappearance
- Volunteers describe the defendant’s unseemly comments and behavior during search and rescue efforts
- Court was adjourned until Monday, Feb. 22, after it was announced that Judge Hinkfuss broke his ankle the night before and is scheduled for surgery on Friday.
DAY 5: Court is dark
- Confidential informant testifies that the defendant told him in 2019 that he was 100% sure Victoria was dead and her body would never be found
- Victoria’s psychiatrist testifies that she suffered from anxiety and depression, but he never considered her to be at risk of killing herself
- Defendant maintains his innocence in interviews with police, but acknowledges that he moved on quickly because he’s not one to dwell on the past
- James Prokopovitz dabs tears as he listens to testimony about his deceased girlfriend from her daughter
- Defendant’s ex-wife says he abused her mentally and physically and once pointed a gun at her and her daughter
- Daughter of alleged mistress Kathy Friday says she didn’t care that her mother was dating someone; what concerned her was her mother’s deceptive behavior and the fact that James Prokopovitz’s wife had only recently gone missing when they started dating
- Jury hears defendant’s inconsistent statements in 2014 to a private investigator about various aspects of the timeline of his wife’s disappearance
- Lead case investigator plays several hours of videos showing defendant’s lies and inconsistent statements about various aspects of the investigation
- Jailhouse informant says defendant said he was 100% sure his wife was dead and would never be found
- Kathy Friday’s son testifies his mother told him she started talking to JP in the “beginning” of 2013
- Defendant’s daughter testifies that her father considered VP’s medical bills a burden
- Defendant dabs tears while watching video of himself angrily telling investigators that he hopes they find Victoria 1,000 miles away so he can’t be held responsible
- Brown County prosecutors rest their case after calling 44 witnesses over 7 days of testimony
- No defense case after the defendant declines to testify
- Brown County Deputy District Attorney delivers state’s closing argument
- Jury hears the defendant exclaim to police “OK, I killed her” in a post-Miranda interview, but he immediately walks it back and describes as a desperate statement to save his girlfriend and not confession
- In the same interview, James Prokopovitz admits to lying to police about bumping into old flame Kathy Friday at a casino nearly two months after his wife Victoria disappeared
- Jury deliberates for 11 hours Friday after hearing the defense closing and state’s rebuttal argument
- Two female jurors are designated alternates and excused before deliberations start
- Jury asks to review two of the defendant’s police interviews and phone records
- Before leaving Friday, jury asks court to prepare the following exhibits for them to review Saturday morning:
- Statements of Kathy Friday and James Prokopovitz confessing to lying to authorities about the alleged circumstances of their first meetup after Victoria disappeared
- Statement of witness 2, the jailhouse informant who testified that he was 100% sure that Victoria’s body would never be found
- Verdict is reached after another full day of deliberations.
- The defendant is found guilty of all charges.
- Count 1: 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide w/ domestic abuse modifier GUILTY
- Count 2: Resisting or Obstructing an Officer GUILTY
- Count 3: Perjury-Before Court w/ conspiracy to commit modifier GUILTY
- Count 4: Perjury-Before Court GUILTY
Court TV field producer Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.