Lesley Kopp, 67, of Cove, who was found dead at 1902 Fourth St. on April 19, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to police.
Initially, investigators used the word ‘homicide’ to describe the case. La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey said that is a technical term used when someone dies an “unnatural death.”
“It’s used when there’s an unattended death — someone who has died who was not under the care of medically trained staff,” Harvey said.
Additionally, Harvey said, the way Kopp was found, law enforcement could not determine the cause of death initially.
“We couldn’t tell what we had until very far into the investigation,” he said.
A press release from the La Grande Police Department stated that James Kopp, an orthopedic surgeon whose office is in the Fourth Street building, reported his wife missing the night of April 18 at 8:26 p.m. He reported he had not seen his wife since 9:30 a.m. that morning and was told by an employee that Lesley had left work sometime around 2:30 p.m. She had not been seen or heard from since.
Union County Sheriff’s Office deputies took the missing persons report and began an investigation. The deputies found her vehicle in the parking lot near the business. Deputies and officers from the La Grande Police Department were unable to locate Lesley in the area of the business.
The next morning, James found his wife deceased inside the building. She was found in the basement in a private and secluded area of the building that only a few employees of the business had access to, according to Harvey.
Harvey said the unusual set of circumstances surrounding the death called for the major crimes team to join the investigation.
Lesley being reported as a missing person is one of the things that made this case out of the ordinary, Harvey said. Secondly, the location she was found at added to the complexity.
“It’s more common for people to commit suicide at their homes or in the woods,” Harvey told The Observer Friday morning. “This was a little used area in the basement.”
That also would have impacted the timeline of when Lesley’s body was found, he said.
Investigators obtained surveillance videos from multiple sources and were able to determine Lesley had left in her vehicle from the office and returned within a few minutes to the back door of the building toward the basement with a sack in one hand.
After a thorough evaluation, police believe it is largely consistent with a finding that Lesley died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The evidence also makes it clear that Lesley died at the location she was found, according to the release.
The LGPD was assisted by UCSO, Oregon State Police, Union County Search and Rescue, Union County Emergency Management, State Medical Examiner’s office and the Union County District Attorney’s Office.