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Childhood friend recalls chance encounter with Janet

Attorneys argue over what to say in front of jury
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Dean Klemencic’s 1982 chance encounter with Janet Kovacich, who was one of his childhood friends, turned out to be a day he said he will always remember. Klemencic, 54, testified as a defense witness Thursday during the trial for former Placer County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Paul Kovacich. Paul Kovacich has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder with the use of a firearm in the Sept. 8, 1982 death and disappearance of his wife, Janet Kovacich. His trial began in October 2008. Klemencic said he met a “smiley” Janet and her brother, Gary, when he was between 13 and 15 years old. They were all part of a large group that spent time together near Folsom Lake. Eventually, the teens went to separate schools and maintained “marginal contact” as they grew up. He said about four days before Janet Kovacich’s disappearance, he ran into her in the Baker’s Square restaurant parking lot in Auburn. Upon answering questions from defense attorney John Spurling, Klemencic said both were excited to see each other. The tone, Klemencic said, was even “possibly a little flirty” on both sides. While referring to a 1982 interview between an Auburn police investigator and Klemencic, Klemencic discussed how Janet Kovacich had suggested the duo get together sometime. “Your response?” Spurling asked. Klemencic recalled saying, no, because of Janet Kovacich was married with children. “It had to do with the fact that she was married and what I had heard about her husband,” Klemencic said. When prosecutor Dave Tellman cross-examined Klemencic, he said Janet Kovacich had told him she was having a hard time and thinking of leaving her husband. “She said she had to get out,” Klemencic said. “It was abusive.” Klemencic was not allowed to elaborate on what he had heard about Paul Kovacich in the presence of the jury. When the jury left the courtroom for a scheduled break, Klemencic remained on the record. Tellman and Spurling argued the matter before Judge Mark Curry. Klemencic fully explained that he had heard through a few people that Janet Kovacich’s husband was a “loose cannon.” He said even if it were an innocent get together, he didn’t want to get involved. Spurling objected that using that information was hearsay. Tellman said giving the jury a “piecemeal” version of the conversation wasn’t accurate. Spurling countered that if hearsay could be allowed, the witness could testify that he heard Janet Kovacich had had an affair. Curry issued a ruling that the Klemencic’s testimony could be on the record as saying he declined Janet Kovacich’s offer to get together because she had a husband. Later, in front of the jury, Tellman cross-examined Klemencic and asked if the two had exchanged phone numbers. Klemencic said no. Spurling asked Klemencic to look through his past interview with Auburn police investigator Jerry Johnson. He asked if Klemencic could find anywhere in the transcript where he told Johnson that Janet was scared. Klemencic could not find the word. The Kovacich trial continues beginning at 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday in Dept. 33 at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.