Custom Search

Saturday, April 25, 2009

[CA] LATE & RAGGEDY, BUT FINALLY, JUSTICE FOR JANET KOVACICH - killed by her deputy husband 26 years ago

...[Ex-Placer County Sheriff's Deputy Paul] Kovacich did not take the stand during his own trial... [Superior Court Judge Mark S.] Curry called the killing "cold, calculated and selfish." The judge said the defendant had the "good fortune" to have lived free for more than 25 years, and it was time for justice to be served...

I stood up and clapped when I read that Paul Kovacih had been sentenced to prison rather than given some alternate deal like probation, but I could drop my head and weep for how long it took - 26 years of Janet's killer living his life free, for Janet's parents who died destroyed by her murder, for Janet's children being so alienated from those who sought for her justice... and for the two and half decades of sorrow for her living family.
On the other hand - I am thankful that this day has finally come... as raggedy as justice gets - but it's finally here.

I am thankful that their children were not harmed.


...On Sept. 9, 1982, Paul Kovacich called the Auburn police, reporting his wife's disappearance and speaking in a tone that "seemed strangely calm and emotionless"... The husband asked for a few days to investigate the disappearance himself, a request that Smith said was granted to a fellow law enforcement official... It wasn't until "several days later" that officials made it to the Kovacich residence, where they were admitted by her husband...


Previous entries:

Video:


...Janet disappeared on Sept. 8, 1982, at age 27. She was reportedly preparing to end the couple's rocky marriage and confronted her husband about a divorce...


EX-DEPUTY GETS 27 YEARS IN PRISON FOR KILLING WIFE
CBS13
Apr 24, 2009
[Excerpts] A former Placer County Sheriff's deputy has been sentenced to 27 years to life for killing his wife. Paul R. Kovacich Jr., 58, of Placer County, today was given a 25 year prison sentence for his wife's murder, and was given an additional 2 years for using a weapon. Kovacich was convicted in January of killing his wife, Janet 26 years ago. Her skull was found 13 years later at the bottom of Rollins Reservoir north of Colfax... Janet disappeared on Sept. 8, 1982, at age 27. She was reportedly preparing to end the couple's rocky marriage and confronted her husband about a divorce. Prosecutors allege that Paul Kovacich offered to drive his wife to an appointment, but instead took her to the reservoir and killed her...

...
According to the Placer County District Attorney's office, in 1995, two people walking on the dry lake bottom of Rollins Lake noticed something partially buried in the silt. It turned out to be a partial human skull that was later found to have a bullet hole in its right side...

EX-DEPUTY GETS 27 TO LIFE IN WIFE'S DEATH
Paul Kovacich Jr. Found Guilty Of Murder In January

KCRA
April 24, 2009
[Excerpts] ...In January, a jury found Paul Kovacich Jr. guilty of murder, along with an enhancement for a weapons charge. Kovacich was accused of shooting Janet Kovacich in 1982. Placer County senior deputy district attorney Suzanne Gazzaniga said Kovacich was sentenced to 25 years to life on one count of murder in the first degree. He was also sentenced to two years for an enhancement - use of a firearm. "It was the sentence that we asked for," Gazzaniga said in a statement. Before the sentencing, the office said, Paul Kovacich denied his guilt and disputed trial witnesses... According to the Placer County District Attorney's office, in 1995, two people walking on the dry lake bottom of Rollins Lake noticed something partially buried in the silt. It turned out to be a partial human skull that was later found to have a bullet hole in its right side. DNA tests later revealed that the skull was likely that of Janet Kovacich... Placer County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Curry said although he hadn't heard of Paul Kovacich or the case before he received the trial, he said that after hearing all of the evidence, "I too was convinced that this gentleman murdered his wife"...

...
In court, Gregoire spoke of a sister who was his best friend. He spoke of the impossibility of his sister abandoning her children and of the emotional and physical strain her disappearance had on their parents, the late Leo and Jean Gregoire. "My dad lost interest in life," Gregoire said. "And my mother would just cry all of the time."...

EX-PLACER SHERIFF'S SERGEANT SENTENCED FOR WIFE'S 1982 KILLING
The Sacramento Bee, Page 1B
By Chelsea Phua cphua@sacbee.com
Apr. 25, 2009
[Excerpts] ...[Superior Court Judge Mark] Curry called the killing "cold, calculated and selfish." The judge said the defendant had the "good fortune" to have lived free for more than 25 years, and it was time for justice to be served. In a nearly packed courtroom, Paul Kovacich, 59, defended himself against evidence that led jurors to convict him in January. Kovacich did not take the stand during his own trial. "I don't know what or who to believe. All I know is that I love my wife and would never harm her... I (was) in a violent occupation, and I'm not a violent person... I think I served the community of Placer well." Kovacich remained mostly composed, sobbing softly and bowing his head only when he listened to his daughter, Kristi Kovacich, speak about him helping her with tying pigtails one morning soon after her mother's disappearance. Kristi Kovacich, then 7 years old, said she threw a tantrum that morning because she missed her mother, who was not there to help fix her hair. "My dad was truly amazing as we tried, as a family, to navigate through a very difficult time," Kristi Kovacich said. Kristi and her younger brother, John Kovacich, said they love and miss their mother very much and have fond memories of her, but vouched for their father's innocence. "My mom has been taken from us, not by my dad," John Kovacich said, highlighting aspects that showed prejudice against his father. "As sad as it sounds, sometimes I wish I could believe he was guilty," Kristi Kovacich said. "It would make it so much easier to deal with all the pain." But for Gary Gregoire, Janet Kovacich's older and only brother, justice has been served. "This is what we've been hoping and praying for, for 26-plus years," Gregoire said after the sentencing. Prosecutors said the Kovaciches' marriage was on the rocks and Janet Kovacich was planning to leave her husband, who some witnesses said was abusive toward her. Senior Deputy District Attorney Suzanne Gazzaniga said Kovacich hid his wife's body, and "only a pure series of miracles revealed it to this world." Hikers found a weathered human skull in 1995 at the bottom of a dry lake bed, and sophisticated DNA technology in 2007 determined it most likely belonged to Janet Kovacich. In court, Gregoire spoke of a sister who was his best friend. He spoke of the impossibility of his sister abandoning her children and of the emotional and physical strain her disappearance had on their parents, the late Leo and Jean Gregoire. "My dad lost interest in life," Gregoire said. "And my mother would just cry all of the time." He said his parents relentlessly searched for his sister and unsuccessfully fought to see their grandchildren. He pleaded with his niece and nephew to examine evidence and see the truth for themselves. By not admitting the crime, Paul Kovacich's "cowardice allows him to continue to deceive his children, forcing them to continue to suffer," Gregoire said. Turning to Kovacich, Gregoire asked him to disclose the location of Janet's remains. "She deserves a respectful burial and we deserve, after 27 years, a proper place to say goodbye," Gregoire said...

...He said he was not a violent person and never hurt his wife. He said when he looks at his daughter today he sees his wife. When he looks at his son, he sees his wife’s tenderness...

KOVACICH SENTENCED TO 27 YEARS TO LIFE
Children, Janet's brother speak in public about loss

By Jenifer Gee
April 25, 2009
[Excerpts] ...Paul Kovacich’s children, John and Kristi Kovacich, earlier expressed their utter lack of faith in a justice system they claim sent an innocent man to prison for a crime they are convinced he did not commit. Before and during the trial, the children have remained silent as a result of a court-imposed gag order... Kristi Kovacich, who was 7 and her brother 5 when their mother disappeared, said she was angered by rumors that she and her brother didn’t think of or love their mother. Kristi said her father was at every event in their lives from soccer games to graduations, to learning how to put her hair in pigtails and making lunches for school. When Kristi was speaking, Paul Kovacich bowed his head and shut his eyes. “Things were really tough for my dad,” Kristi Kovacich said. “I could tell he was really hurting inside.” John Kovacich spoke about how the investigation was never fair and how the case was wrongly prosecuted. He said no one in law enforcement “looked enough” to truly find out what happened to his mother... Paul Kovacich’s attorney, public defender John Spurling, said also voiced his disgust with the investigation. “I’ve been practicing criminal defense for 20 years and in my entire career I have never seen a case so disgracefully investigated and despicably prosecuted” Spurling said. Paul Kovacich also took the opportunity to speak. He stumbled through trying to vocalize 90 pages of notes on yellow legal pad paper in a limited amount of time. He said there were many leads that could’ve exonerated him that were never carefully investigated by law enforcement. Important information was never revealed in trial, either, he said. He said he was not a violent person and never hurt his wife. He said when he looks at his daughter today he sees his wife. When he looks at his son, he sees his wife’s tenderness. “The bottom line, your honor, is I don’t know what or who to believe,” Paul Kovacich said regarding the investigation into his wife’s disappearance. “I do know that I love my wife and I would never harm her.” Janet Kovacich’s brother, Gary Gregoire, strongly disagreed. He said when his parents first told him his sister was missing, he knew Paul Kovacich was involved. He said Paul Kovacich hid behind his badge as a Placer Sheriff’s sergeant and his “distorted rationalization of his church.” “Paul’s cowardice allows him to continue to deceive his children, forcing them to continue to suffer,” Gary Gregoire said. “That is not the love of a father. He has destroyed so many parts of so many people’s lives.” Prosecutors Suzanne Gazzaniga and Dave Tellman played a photomontage of Janet Kovacich. Afterward, Gazzaniga discussed how Paul Kovacich’s actions “plagued” the community and “tarnished” the respect of his law enforcement position. “It is not only his failure to take responsibility for this injustice but his continued deception,” Gazzaniga said in explaining why the defendant deserved the maximum sentence... Inside the courtroom, Gazzaniga had talked about how Janet Kovacich’s family has suffered immensely from Paul Kovacich’s crime. “Nothing kills the spirit of a human being more than the loss of a loved one,” Gazzaniga said. It was then that she implored Judge Curry to apply the harshest sentence possible in the name of justice for Janet, her family and the community. “Please,” Gazzaniga said, “put the spirit of a young mother, who loved her children and who never left her children, to rest”...

OLDER, BUT INCLUDED HERE:

...Then, in August 1982, just weeks before Janet disappeared, their dog Fuzz reportedly got into the trash. Upset, Paul Kovacich threw the dog around, breaking its bones and putting it into a coma... The dog died the next day... the dog's burial site was found by investigators in 1982 but not exhumed...


DETAILS OF A VANISHING - NEW BOOK SHEDS LIGHT ON DISAPPEARANCE AND THIS WEEK'S SEARCH
TheUnion.com
Becky Trout
Mar 3, 2005
[Excerpts] The tale of Janet Kovacich, the young Auburn wife and mother who vanished in 1982, troubled Jordan Fisher Smith long after he encountered her story during his work as a ranger in the Auburn State Recreation Area... In September 1982, the Kovaciches lived in a "starter" house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Skyridge, an Auburn subdivision, with their two children and German shepherd, Smith wrote. Paul Kovacich worked at the local jail and had a few head of cattle, which grazed on an acquaintance's ranch. But he also had a violent side, which came out in reports from neighbors and others who knew the young family, Smith wrote. Neighbors had reported yelling coming from the house, Smith wrote, and Janet once told a friend that Paul had smashed a chair into pieces during an argument. Concern for Janet caused one of Paul's co-workers to call the police, Smith wrote. "In her last weeks, (Janet Kovacich) exhibited new signs of independence and what could be interpreted as attempts to shore up her flagging self-esteem in the face of her husband's withering criticism," reads one excerpt from "Nature Noir." Janet had enrolled at Sierra College, trying to gain self-sufficiency, Smith wrote. Then, in August 1982, just weeks before Janet disappeared, their dog Fuzz reportedly got into the trash. Upset, Paul Kovacich threw the dog around, breaking its bones and putting it into a coma, Smith reportedly learned from Janet Kovacich's mother. The dog died the next day, he wrote. Auburn police have not confirmed that Fuzz was the dog found Wednesday at the Lake of the Pines house, but the chief did say the dog had died shortly before her disappearance. In his book, Smith says the dog's burial site was found by investigators in 1982 but not exhumed. About a week before she disappeared, Janet had cosmetic surgery to remove her scars and have breast implants put in, according to "Nature Noir." Her surgery forced her to rely on others for transportation and would have made it difficult to run away, Smith wrote, attributing his knowledge to investigators and Janet Kovacich's parents, who have since died. The day she disappeared, Smith wrote, Janet Kovacich called and made an appointment to enroll her children at Forest Lake Christian School, but she never showed up. Paul Kovacich had not wanted the children to attend Forest Lake Christian, investigators reported, according to Smith's book. On Sept. 9, 1982, Paul Kovacich called the Auburn police, reporting his wife's disappearance and speaking in a tone that "seemed strangely calm and emotionless," Smith wrote. The husband asked for a few days to investigate the disappearance himself, a request that Smith said was granted to a fellow law enforcement official... It wasn't until "several days later" that officials made it to the Kovacich residence, where they were admitted by her husband, Smith wrote. There, they "found the house spotless," Smith wrote. The missing woman's husband told the police he went to Kmart on Sept. 8, the day his wife was last seen... Paul Kovacich was unable to provide evidence of his trip to Kmart...
[police officer involved domestic violence law enforcement fatality fatalities murder delayed justice california roseville auburn children]

2 comments:

  1. Haunting homicide
    Author closes the chapter on Janet Kovacich murder

    By Liz Kellar lkellar@theunion.com
    Thursday, February 5, 2009


    A murder verdict handed down in a Roseville courtroom last week closed the book on more than 26 years of speculation about the Janet Kovacich disappearance — and literally closed a chapter on the mystery detailed in the pages of Jordan Fisher Smith’s book, “Nature Noir.”

    The Nevada County resident’s critically acclaimed book describes his 14 years patrolling the American River canyon as a park ranger. The chapter “Rocks and Bones” describes in detail the suspicions about Janet’s husband, Paul Kovacich, though Smith uses false names.

    Smith — who helped Auburn Police investigators review possible dump sites for Janet Kovacich’s body in 1997 — called his involvement in the investigation “never anything more than peripheral.”

    He perceived his role — with the publication of “Nature Noir” and the subsequent media attention — as keeping alive the memory of the crime.

    When Smith first was introduced to the Kovacich case, he said, “they’d been schlepping along forever” on the cold case, which was worked intermittently by retired law enforcement volunteers.

    “I saw a sense of discouragement, a sense of defeat among the (Auburn) police officers, that the case had never come to anything and (Kovacich) was walking the streets as a free man,” Smith said.

    After all, this was a homicide with no body, no crime scene, no murder weapon and a suspect with professional knowledge of homicide investigations: Kovacich was a Placer County Sheriff’s deputy assigned to the county jail at the time of his wife’s disappearance.

    Another hindrance was the naïveté of law enforcement at the time regarding the cycle of domestic violence. This was a classic domestic violence killing — but in 1982, the police didn’t have that level of psychological profiling available to them, Smith said.

    “The Auburn Police Department, when I encountered them, was a great department, but it was a small department,” he said. “I think they saw a homicide once every five years.”

    ‘Rocks and Bones’

    Smith retired in 2000, after contracting Lyme disease while working in the Auburn State Recreation Area.

    The next year, he sold a proposal for “Nature Noir” to Houghton Mifflin.

    “I went through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cases for the book — going through my notes, my old reports,” Smith said.

    The cases he chose had to fit into the larger narrative arc of the fate of the Auburn Dam.

    “The book was not intended to be a collection of anecdotes,” he said. “It was intended to be the story of a fated piece of land and its inhabitants — and in particular the rangers ... (who were) looking after this piece of land slated to go under water.”

    The “Rocks and Bones” chapter weaves together geology and murder. Smith included the Kovacich case for several reasons.

    “I wanted a story that would talk about geology, because at that point in the book, the story was about what slowed the dam down and caused the limbo the rangers found themselves in,” he said.

    The search for Janet Kovacich’s body in the old mine shafts and geologists’ trenches dug for the dam site made her case a natural fit.

    “This case allowed the book to talk about rocks under the dam site — but also it was probably the most haunting case I came across,” Smith said.

    By the time Smith finished “Nature Noir,” Janet Kovacich’s disappearance was “falling away from institutional memory ... This was a case that was rapidly being forgotten.”

    And Smith wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen.

    “A writer is the memory of the people,” he said. “My friend (the late) Utah Phillips used to say, ‘The long memory is the most radical idea in America today.’ ... Politicians want us to have short memories. Murderers in cold cases count on us not having memories. I set out to try to remember Janet.”

    ‘Noir’ shines light on cold case

    In November 2004, Smith contacted Placer County District Attorney Brad Fenocchio to give him a heads up that an account of the Kovacich case was about to be published.

    At the time, Fenocchio was only familiar with Janet Kovacich as a missing persons case, not as a homicide, Smith said.

    The book’s release in February 2005 “put Placer County on notice,” he added.

    Within weeks, Auburn police and FBI agents searched the Lake of the Pines property owned by Paul Kovacich’s father, finding only the remains of Fuzz, the German shepherd whose fate is discussed in “Nature Noir.”

    Also that year, a skull fragment with a hole in it, found at Rollins Lake in 1995, was identified as being Janet’s. Paul Kovacich was indicted for her murder in 2006.

    “No one in Placer County will ever be willing to say this book affected their timelines,” Smith said. “But it did galvanize public opinion in the case — it speeded up the timeline a little bit.”

    Charging Kovacich in a 26-year-old case was a “risky” move for the district attorney, Smith said.

    “He is making what ultimately amounts to a political decision as to whether the citizens of the county will stand for that kind of expenditure,” he said. “The book created an atmosphere where people would support the DA doing something of this type.”

    Kovacich on trial

    Smith decided not to follow the trial, although he did attend Kovacich’s arraignment. He said he might go to the sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 20.

    “I didn’t have it in for Paul. I didn’t want to appear a carrion bird,” he said. “My job was done when (the book) came out. I’m on another book now.”

    He gives the investigators and prosecutors full credit for the guilty verdict.

    “There is a part of the justice process that is poetry, especially in a case like this,” Smith said. “The prosecution has to tell a story that makes sense to the jurors.”

    He has no plans to follow up on the Kovacich case in print. Smith is enmeshed in his newest project: A look at the future of American wildlands in a time of global environmental change. The book will be published by Harmony Books, an imprint of

    Random House, and is scheduled for publication in 2011.

    To contact staff writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

    http://www.theunion.com/article/20090205/NEWS/902049894/1081/NONE&parentprofile=1055&title=Haunting%20homicide

    ReplyDelete
  2. NATURE NOIR - JORDAN FISHER SMITH
    http://naturenoir.com/

    ReplyDelete

Please post updates or email them to behindthebluewall@gmail.com. No cop-hating or victim-hating comments allowed. Word verification had to be added due to spam attacks on this blog.