Skull linked to missing woman |

Skull linked to missing woman

AUBURN ˜ A partial skull found nearly 12 years ago is believed to be that of a woman who has been missing for nearly 25 years.

The remains are at the center of a debate over the murder allegations against the woman‚s husband, a former Placer County sheriff‚s sergeant, according to court documents.

The documents filed last month in Placer County Superior Court are the first public clues in the case against Paul R. Kovacich Jr., 58, who was arraigned on a murder charge in September 2006. They also are the first indication that a portion of Janet Kovacich‚s body may have been found.

The documents show that DNA testing indicates the skull found at the bottom of Rollins Reservoir, north of Colfax, is likely that of Janet Kovacich. The Auburn woman disappeared on Sept. 8, 1982, at age 27.

The cause of death, however, is still being disputed.

The Placer County Coroner‚s Office contends that a hole behind the right ear at the top of the skull was caused by a gunshot. That prompted prosecutors to file an indictment on March 22 alleging murder with special circumstances. Those circumstances would be kidnapping and use of a firearm, which makes Kovacich eligible for the death penalty.

His defense attorneys are challenging that allegation. They have filed a motion noting one forensic pathologist‚s conclusion that the cause of death was undetermined and his uncertainty over whether the hole was caused by a bullet or some other form of blunt trauma.

A response discloses for the first time the prosecution‚s theory on how and why Kovacich murdered his wife.

Janet Kovacich reportedly was preparing to end the couple‚s rocky marriage and confronted her husband about a divorce on the morning she vanished. Prosecutors allege that Paul Kovacich offered to drive his wife to an appointment, but instead took her to the reservoir and killed her.

Judge Robert P. McElhany is expected to make a ruling on the dismissal motion Tuesday. Kovacich is being held in the Placer County Jail without bail. A judge imposed a gag order in the case.

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