‘You don’t hear of many cases this age’

District Attorney’s Office reflects on Kovacich sentence, verdict
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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What does it take to bring a 26-year-old cold case to an end? Prosecutors at the Placer County District Attorney’s Office found the answer after receiving a case in 2006 involving a missing mother of two and her husband. “You don’t hear of many cases this age,” District Attorney Brad Fenocchio said Monday. The case came to a conclusion Friday when former Placer Sheriff’s Sgt. Paul Kovacich Jr. was sentenced to 27-years-to-life in prison for murdering his wife, Janet Kovacich. Fenocchio said the range of time between when the mother, Janet Kovacich, disappeared to when the case went to trial, made it more “complicated.” For example, he said the case depended on the advent of scientific techniques such as DNA identification. DNA played a major role in identifying a skull found in 1995 in Rollins Lake. The skull was identified through scientific analysis as belonging to Janet Kovacich. The technology to make that determination wasn’t available until the mid-2000s. Fenocchio said ultimately the evidence, facts and details the District Attorney’s Office put before the jury painted a picture of the timeline surrounding Janet Kovacich’s disappearance. “The jury saw the picture that all of the evidence painted and that was that only one person had the motive to commit this murder and that was the defendant,” Fenocchio said. During Paul Kovacich’s sentencing hearing Friday, his and Janet Kovacich’s children, John and Kristi, spoke in support of their father, the defendant. John and Kristi Kovacich, now 32 and 33, said they were angered to watch an innocent man go to jail and that they’ve lost faith in the justice system. They strongly criticized the investigation and prosecution of the case. Suzanne Gazzaniga and fellow prosecutor on the case Dave Tellman said they invite John and Kristi Kovacich to meet with their office and review any evidence presented during the trial. Fenocchio said John and Kristi’s view was subjective. “I understand and appreciate the sensitivity that the children have to this verdict and to this sentence, but they are very subjective in their review of everything that led to this conviction,” Fenocchio said. “The jury, on the other hand, was objective and they made a decision based upon rather than emotion, but based upon logic and based upon the law.” When asked to sum up in one word how she felt about the end of the case, Gazzaniga answered, “justice.” She said both she and Tellman were pleased they were able to bring closure to Janet Kovacich’s family and the community. “I think ultimately we were pleased to be able to bring to peace the spirit of a young 27-year-old mother whose life and hopes and love for her children were extinguished by her husband,” Gazzaniga said. “That’s what it amounts to.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- See Wednesday’s Journal for local law enforcement reaction. The Journal will continue to cover this story throughout the week, including defense reaction to the Kovacich case. ----------