Dog’s body exhumed in south county
An extensive search of a Lake of the Pines home on Tuesday yielded the remains of a pet dog, which Auburn police believe could offer evidence in their hunt for a woman who vanished two decades ago.
More than 22 years after her disappearance, Janet Kay Kovacich is still being sought by the Auburn Police Department, which joined the FBI Tuesday in searching the home of the woman’s parents-in-law, who police said are not suspects in the case.
However, Auburn Police Chief Nicholas Willick – who also was chief at the time of Kovacich’s disappearance – said investigators have a suspect in Placer County, although he declined to identify the suspect.
“The search was for a family pet that died just previous to Janet’s disappearance,” Willick said. “There may be evidence in the death of the dog that may be connected in the disappearance.”
The importance of the dog’s remains was not made clear Wednesday, but Willick said the pet died shortly before the Auburn woman’s disappearance.
Nevada County author Jordan Fisher Smith, who wrote about the case in his recent book “Nature Noir,” said that the dog – a German shepherd named Fuzz – was fatally beaten by Janet Kovacich’s husband, Paul Kovacich, because it got into the garbage. He cited the missing woman’s mother, who is now deceased, as the source of his information about the dog.
Smith was a park ranger at the Auburn State Recreation Area, where he took part in the search for Janet Kovacich. He admits in the book that his role in the investigation was never “anything more than peripheral,” although he independently researched the disappearance.
Since Janet Kovacich’s disappearance, the police department has opened the case several times, coming up dry. However, the case was reopened a year and a half ago after modern forensic technology offered a new chance at solving the mystery, police said.
“Even though the case is 22 years old, it has not reached its conclusion,” said Willick. “This is something that has been a high priority for us.”
Kovacich disappeared on Sept. 8, 1982. Her husband, Paul Kovacich, was a Placer County Sheriff’s deputy at the time and reported her missing.
“We don’t really know how she left her house,” Auburn Police Sgt. Chris Reams said. “We believe she is dead.”
At the time of the disappearance, the two spouses had been fighting, according to several law enforcement officers.
“She wanted to move her children to Forest Lake Christian School (in southern Nevada County),” Willick said. “Her husband didn’t.
“She had set up an appointment to meet school officials and never showed up.”
It was Paul Kovacich’s parents’ home, on the 12000 block of Torrey Pines Drive, that was searched Tuesday.
Paul Kovacich is currently not a suspect in the disappearance, Auburn police spokeswoman Dorcas Reilly said. His parents were in no way connected to her disappearance, Willick said.
Auburn police said they are planning on conducting several more searches in the near future, but none are planned in Nevada County.
For now, the investigation will continue, and Willick said another announcement may come as early as today. The police chief said he is looking forward to bringing closure to the case that has spanned two decades.
“We plan to re-interview the witnesses and re-interpret all evidence,” he said.
“Of course this weighs on you. I want to reach a conclusion, not just for myself, but for her family members.”
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