December 22, 2006

Family Pools Real Estate in a Bid to Post Bail

By Art Campos, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Dec. 22--The family and girlfriend of a former Placer County sheriff's sergeant charged with murdering his wife have pooled their real estate holdings in an effort to get him out of jail on bail.

Together, they are putting up $2.14 million from their purported home values on behalf of Paul R. Kovacich Jr., whose bail has been set at $1 million in a case in which his wife, Janet, has been missing for 24 years.

Kovacich, 56, was arrested Sept. 7 after the Placer County grand jury indicted him on a charge of murdering his wife, who was 27 when she vanished in 1982.

On Thursday, Kovacich's lawyers submitted a motion about meeting bail to Placer Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, who scheduled a hearing for Jan. 16 to determine whether the stated value of the petitioners' properties is accurate.

In cases in which a defendant is unable or unwilling to pay cash to meet bail or hire a bail bondsman, property can be put up for the bond. However, the property value is required to be twice the amount of the bail.

Auburn bail bondsman Frank Calabretta said the pooling of real estate properties to meet bail is infrequent in Placer County.

"It's uncommon because of the time it takes," he said. "The land must be appraised, the court has to verify it, and a title company goes through a timely process.

"The question is do you want to sit in jail while all that time is going by? Most people would rather go through a bondsman and get out of jail quickly."

If a person hires a bail bondsman, he usually pays 10 percent of the established bail. In the case of Kovacich, that would amount to $100,000.

"The person loses that (10 percent payment), and he doesn't get it back," Calabretta said. "If he uses property and doesn't flee, the people who put up their homes will get their properties back without any loss."

The people who have submitted promissory notes include Kovacich's parents, son and girlfriend.

The parents, John R. and Beulah Kovacich, both in their 90s, are putting up $700,000 from their Lake of the Pines residence in Nevada County and $500,000 from a home in Emigrant Gap.

The defendant's son, John Kovacich, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., is putting up $556,000 and $188,000 from his two homes there.

Paul Kovacich Jr.'s girlfriend, Dixie King, a former Placer County sheriff's officer and former investigator for the district attorney, has submitted a note for $198,000 on her Foresthill home.

If Kovacich, who worked for the Sheriff's Department from 1974 to 1992, is released and later flees, his parents, son and girlfriend would likely lose their properties.

Kovacich's wife, Janet, disappeared Sept. 8, 1982. Paul Kovacich acknowledged having argued with his wife that day but said he discovered her missing after returning home from an errand.

The Auburn Police Department investigated Kovacich but did not arrest him because of lack of evidence. In 2005, police reopened the case and submitted undisclosed evidence to the grand jury.


Copyright (c) 2006, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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