It took decades for the authorities to solve the disappearance and murder of Janet Kovacich. But throughout, it seemed like only one suspect existed — her husband, Paul Kovacich Jr. This story is featured as one of two cases on Investigation Discovery’s ‘Deadly Sins: No Forgiveness: Kill Me, Kill Me Not.’ The show chronicles Paul and Janet’s marriage and how it crumbled over the years, leading to a fatal conclusion. So, if you’re wondering what happened, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Paul Kovacich Jr.?
During the early 1970s, Paul Kovacich Jr. put himself through the police academy by working as a ski patrolman in Lake Tahoe, California. He met Janet during his work as a patrolman, and the couple married in 1973 after living together for a while despite Janet’s parents’ reservations. Eventually, they settled in Auburn, California, and had a son and a daughter: Kristi and John. At the time of the incident, Paul worked for the Placer County Sheriff’s Department in California.
On September 11, 1982, Paul filed a missing person report saying his wife was nowhere to be seen. He claimed she was last seen on September 8 and had told his Sergeant about it the following day but held off filing a report. Paul told the police that on September 8, he and Janet had a conversation about getting a divorce and discussed things like custody, visitation, and the division of property. At the time, Paul claimed to agree with everything, even changing their kids’ school.
According to Paul, Janet made two calls to the new school, one at 9 am and another an hour later. Paul claimed to have offered her a ride to the school, but she refused. He assumed Janet’s mother was taking her there and left home to run a few errands. However, Janet never showed up to her scheduled appointment at 11:15 am. Paul was then seen at his gym at around 11:30 am and sometime later, at the jail, where he stopped to check for mail.
After a few hours, when Janet didn’t return, he made several phone calls to find her whereabouts but was unsuccessful, eventually talking to his sergeant. Once the police got involved, they noticed that Paul didn’t help with the search and seemed cold and aloof. He and the children didn’t even miss work and school. At one point, he even told the sergeant that Janet might have committed suicide and later admitted to cheating on Janet.
The authorities then looked into Paul and Janet’s marriage. They learned that the couple had plenty of discord. It was alleged that Paul was verbally and physically abusive and often criticized her appearance. She was seen with bruises, and Paul was accused of hitting her in front of a friend at one point. His controlling and abusive nature eventually pushed Janet to think about leaving him, and in December 1981, she talked to her brother about it.
Not just that, a friend talked about seeing the abusive behavior during a trip to the movies. Janet had also spoken to some loved ones about divorcing Paul, especially after he admitted to kicking the family dog repeatedly in August 1982; the pet eventually died. In the time leading up to Janet’s disappearance, she seemed to have made up her mind. Apart from talking about enrolling the kids in a different school, she had enrolled herself in pre-nursing courses at college.
But suddenly, after September 8, 1982, Janet was nowhere to be seen. There was no activity on her bank accounts, and all of her things were still at home. Paul was the last person to have seen her, and his behavior only raised more suspicion. However, without any other clues, the case went cold. In 1995, a piece of a human skull was found in Rollins Lake, California, about 18 miles from Auburn. It wasn’t until 2007 that it was identified as Janet’s. The skull had what appeared to be a bullet hole, and by then, Paul was already indicted on murder charges.
Where is Paul Kovacich Jr. Today?
By the time Paul stood trial for Janet’s death, he had lived as a free man for over two decades and had retired from the force. The prosecution put forward a strong but circumstantial case, stating that Paul drove her to a secluded area under the pretext of giving her a ride to the school on that fateful day, shooting her there. The authorities believed that he was upset after Janet brought up divorcing him.
In January 2009, Paul was convicted of first-degree murder with the personal use of a firearm. A few months later, he was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison. Paul claimed to be innocent and said, “The bottom line, your honor, is I don’t know what or who to believe. I do know that I love my wife, and I would never harm her.” The kids, Kristi and John, also said that their father had never been violent. Now 72, Paul remains incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino, San Bernardino County. He will be eligible for parole in 2027.
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