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Looking behind the Scenes: Auburn Police opening up more cold case files

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Sometimes, writing a column is a lot like jumping into the car taking a trip. Many times, you know exactly where you’re headed, but on a few fortunate occasions, you capriciously opt for a side street and get a look at the unexpected. Case in point concerns the Auburn Police Department’s new Citizens Awareness Academy. That weekly gathering is a fascinating program, one that gives citizens a nearly complete look behind the scenes of our local cop shop. At first, I planned to devote today’s column to the program, but serendipity struck when APD Investigator Adam Cline was giving us the inside story of how the minuscule detective squad operates. As is the case for most public safety employees, Cline’s workload is huge, and the task gets tougher because Auburn’s police force is not immune to fiscal restraints. Still, he admits that in that rather spare moment or two, he doesn’t kick back. Instead, he grabs what TV-fed police fans call “the cold-case file.” That prompted a question from my wife (Millie), herself an ex-cop. She wanted to know if anybody was taking a fresh look at the Mary Lloyd case. Lloyd was the 68-year- old woman kidnapped from the old Safeway (currently The Grocery Outlet) parking lot in June of 1985. Her body was later discovered dumped near Applegate, and about 12 days after that, her 1984 Mercury Cougar was found along North Hollywood’s Victory Boulevard. Case files show Lloyd never really had a chance. Witnesses described the assailant as large (about 200 pounds), while Lloyd was just four-feet, eight inches. There were also reports that he was armed with a gun.  Auburn PD, especially Nick Willick, Jim Wheldon and Scott Burns, worked the case day and night. Despite those efforts, the case remains unsolved. Even the FBI was called in, but to no avail. Well, it turns out that the Lloyd case is specifically getting a look from Cline and, apparently, just at the right time. According to APD Captain John Ruffcorn, the department is “starting to look at all of our cold cases as time permits.” Ruffcorn admits there is no new information on the Lloyd case “but forensics — especially DNA — have made quantum leaps forward during the past few years, as have data bases all over the country.” He added that technological advances also help out in such cases “most notably in what an investigator can find just by firing up a computer. There is an overwhelming amount of computer access to information these days.” Ruffcorn said that reserve officer Jerry Johnson is also looking at cold cases, which is good news, seeing as how he was the lead in getting a second peek at a cold case involving Paul Kovacich. In 1982, Kovacich was a Placer County Sheriff’s deputy whose wife (Janet) disappeared. Nothing was ever proved back then, and the case went cold and forgotten until Johnson kept trying to reopen it. Most of you know the story had a successful outcome, and if you don’t, then contact Paul Kovacich in state prison. He has plenty of time to talk. So the new looks at very old crimes is good news, indeed. Especially for Willick. After devoting countless hours in what proved to be a futile effort, the former APD chief not only has professional reasons for wanting to see this crime solved, there are also personal reasons. Willick was a schoolmate of one of Lloyd’s sons, and for several years was a next-door neighbor to the family. “Mary was this incredible, wonderful person who went to church every day. In fact, she was on her way home to Bowman when she stopped at Safeway to pick up a quart of milk,” Willick recalls. “That crime really shook up this community. Not only was it a horrible incident, it was also so shocking that it was committed here,” he added. Willick admits that he still gives considerable thought to the crime, adding that he’s “very pleased it’s getting another look. She deserves some answers.”