Bradford R. Fenocchio
PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678
For Immediate Release
Date: April 22, 2009
Contact: Suzanne Gazzaniga
CONVICTED MURDERER IN 26-YEAR-OLD CASE TO BE
SENTENCED FRIDAY AT BILL SANTUCCI JUSTICE CENTER
Convicted murderer Paul R. Kovacich, Jr. is scheduled for sentencing Friday in a Placer County case that took 26 years to solve.
The proceeding will be held at 1 p.m. in Dept. 31 at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville.
Kovacich, 59, a former Placer County sheriff’s sergeant, was found guilty by a Placer County Superior Court jury on Jan. 27 of murdering his wife, Janet Gregoire Kovacich, and with the use of a firearm. The crime occurred on Sept. 8, 1982.
Kovacich is facing a prison sentence of 27 years to life when he comes before Judge Mark S. Curry, who presided over the trial.
Placer County Senior Deputy District Attorney Suzanne I. Gazzaniga said the case involved “a tremendous body of evidence” that was developed from 1982 to 2008 and that was ultimately presented to a jury.
Gazzaniga briefly outlined the evidence that was presented at trial as being the following:
In 1982, Paul Kovacich was employed with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. He was a sergeant assigned to the Placer County Jail.
Kovacich’s wife, Janet, was a homemaker, and the couple had two children, ages 5 and 7. The family lived in Auburn.
Kovacich was the last person to see Janet alive or to talk with her. Other than the defendant, the last person to see Janet was the driver of a car pool who took her children to school at 8 a.m., and the last person to talk to Janet was Marion Entz in a phone call at 10 a.m.
Since those hours, Janet, who was 27 in 1982, was never seen again nor heard from. There were no cars missing from the house and Janet, who had recently undergone surgery, was in no physical condition to drive or walk away from the home.
There was no evidence of a break-in at the home and Kovacich’s own police dog was home that morning.
In October 1995, two people walking on the dry lake bottom of Rollins Lake near Colfax noticed something partially buried in the silt. It was a weathered, partial human skull with what was later proved to be a bullet hole in its right side.
From the Kovacich home in Auburn, the lake is about a 25-minute drive if one travels a direct route from Interstate 80 and then onto paved country roads.
By 2006-07, DNA technology and extraction methods of dry bone had advanced to the point where a test could be done on the skull. The results showed that the skull was likely that of Janet Gregoire Kovacich.
In October 2008, the case against Paul Kovacich went to trial. It lasted almost four months before the jury went to deliberations and convicted the defendant of first-degree murder with use of a firearm.
Gazzaniga and her co-counsel, Deputy District Attorney David Tellman, praised the jury for dedication to performing its civic duty and for its diligence and commitment to a lengthy trial. They also credited Judge Curry for his handling of the trial.