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Kovacich murder-case prosecutors receive prestigious Placer County honor

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A 26-year-old murder mystery. A former law enforcement officer as a prime suspect. A dogged investigation and a prosecution team dedicated to bringing a criminal to justice and lingering questions in a community to an end. That was the formula leading to the conviction of 59-year-old Paul R. Kovacich Jr. in the 1982 death of his wife, Janet. Placer County deputy district attorneys Suzanne Gazzaniga and David Tellman, keys to the January conviction of Kovacich, stepped up Tuesday to receive an award as their office’s prosecutors of the year. The two were awarded the honor by a vote of their colleagues. After they had picked up the California District Attorneys Association prosecutors of the year award in June, there was little, if any, surprise at the selection. District Attorney Brad Fenocchio made the presentations in front of the Board of Supervisors, describing Gazzaniga as “hardworking and dedicated” and Tellman as exuding quiet confidence because of detailed preparation. Fenocchio described many weekends and late nights of work went into a case that “reached back in time to prosecute someone who had escaped justice.” Tellman, a Colfax High School graduate who joined the Placer County DA’s office in 1994, said the Kovacich prosecution was a very difficult case that was the culmination of so many other people’s efforts. “We were the last two to get involved in a 20-plus-year investigation,” Tellman said. Gazzaniga, a Del Oro High School graduate who has been with Placer DA since 1996, singled out veteran prosecutor Tom Beattie for his efforts. “It was an honor and privilege to carry this case through,” she said. The award is presented annually in honor of Ann-Marie Bourgeois, a promising Placer County prosecutor who died in a 1994 Roseville house fire.